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John Collins is facing five felony charges for allegedly misusing public money, vacation, sick and leave time while superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, according to a complaint filed by the San Diego County district attorney’s office on Friday.
If convicted on all charges, Collins could spend up to seven years, eight months in prison, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said Monday.
Specifically, the complaint alleges three felony counts of misappropriation of public money, one felony count of misuse of public money, and one felony count of filing a false economic interest disclosure, known as a Form 700.
The Poway school board took the rare step of terminating Collins for cause last July after forensic auditors said Collins took as much as $345,000 in excess pay he was not afforded in his employment contract, which had a base salary of $300,000 a year. Auditors also found other problems with Collins’ district credit card charges and time spent away from the office that was not logged, among other things.
Collins, who led the 36,000-student district from July 2010 to July 2016, is also fighting a civil lawsuit filed against him by the school district to recover the money.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing stripped Collins’ teaching and administrator credentials “because of misconduct” late last month, a move that prevents him from overseeing or teaching at public schools in the state for at least a year.
Collins, 63, is scheduled for arraignment on the felony charges Thursday afternoon at the downtown courthouse.
“The District Attorney’s Office is not able to discuss the facts or evidence in this case at this time,” office spokesman Steve Walker wrote in an email.
Requests for comment sent to Collins and his attorney Paul Pfingst were not immediately answered, nor was a request sent to Poway’s school board president Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Dr. Collins let it get to this point,” said Poway school board member Charles Sellers. “The board was willing to work with him, to try to work out an amicable solution for his departure from the district and the repayment of the funds that he misappropriated, but at every step when we made those overtures, he belligerently declined them.”
Sellers said the district has also attempted to resolve the civil case against Collins without success.
Collins enjoyed a close relationship with the teacher’s union during his tenure as superintendent, which was credited for helping to avoid a strike and layoffs during difficult economic times. The district was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when news emerged about a costly $1 billion capital appreciation bond deal struck on Collins’ watch in 2011, and Collins faced criticism locally during his last year on the job for, among other things, edits made to a consultant report and so-called “me-too” clauses in Collins’ contract that allowed him to benefit from teacher and manager pay negotiations.