There’s evidence that officials at the Sweetwater Union High School District attempted to cover up financial wrongdoing, according to state auditors.
Officials at the district, which serves 40,000 students in the South Bay, have described their overspending as an accident since problems first came to light this fall. But Michael Fine, the head of the state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team, came to town Monday to say there’s evidence of fraud.
Fine told elected school board members that several hundred entries in the district’s accounting system were doctored to create the impression the district had more money than it really did. “That my friends and colleagues, is a cover-up,” he said, according to our Will Huntsberry, who first broke the story of problems at Sweetwater.
Fine said the current crisis is the result of years and maybe decades of mismanagement and poor leadership. He noted the only person in the room with clean hands was the current chief financial officer, who took the helm days before the budget crisis was discovered.
Responsibility for the district “rests with you and no one else,” Fine said, chastising the board.
Sweetwater’s superintendent Karen Janney refused to comment when Huntsberry asked her about the suggestion of fraud.
The district has also been borrowing money it doesn’t have a way to bay pack.
If the district can’t pay the money back, and can’t make payroll, then it will ultimately be taken over the state. Only 10 school districts in the state have ever been taken over.
More bad news came Tuesday: County officials sent a letter to Sweetwater Tuesday saying they’ll conduct an “extraordinary audit” of the district to determine whether or not fraud occurred.
Can an Outdated Printing Machine Keep More Artists in San Diego?
Over the years, we’ve heard many stories from the arts community about artists decamping to other cities with more vibrant arts scenes.
In this week’s Culture Report, Julia Dixon Evans talked with the couple behind Burn All Books about their ambitious goal to keep more print-based artists in San Diego.
Burn All Books is a printing service that uses a risograph, a precursor to the laser printer that has made a resurgence as a tool for artists.
“We wanted to help people stay here and produce work, rather than sometimes moving [to Los Angeles] so that they could be closer to a printer or press,” said Amanda Bernal, who runs Burns All Books with her husband, Nick Bernal.
Also in this week’s Culture Report: a call for short films that lift up migrants’ voices, the San Diego History Museum is doing a rare presentation of a living artist’s work and more.
Analysis: 80,000 Buildings in Fire-Prone Areas
A new analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that there are 80,000 structures in parts of San Diego at the highest risk for wildfires. That’s the second most of any community next to Los Angeles, which is predictable enough perhaps since San Diego is the second largest city.
These are structures – which can mean not just houses and offices but also outbuildings – that already exist. County officials have approved thousands more units in fire-prone areas even as the state’s outgoing fire chief suggested someone needs to stop allowing such developments.
Rick Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute, which argues against building in fire-prone areas, told the Times, “Now that they’ve got these areas mapped out, what’s going to happen? It’s so frustrating. Everybody sees the information, and they sit on their thumbs and talk.”
98-Year-Old Woman Fights Eviction
A hearing to see whether a landlord can evict a 98-year-old woman from her Ocean Beach apartment of 30 years was postponed this week. 10News reported on the heart-wrenching story of Betty Morse, who is about to turn 99 and could lose her home because her landlord wants to upgrade the building and is planning to stop accepting federal housing subsidies, which Morse relies on.
Ryan Clumpner, a prominent conservative political consultant, tweeted that he used to be Morse’s neighbor. “I used to sit with her on the stoop in the evenings,” he said. “It’s important to upgrade that property, but not as important as treating Betty with dignity & respect. Hope the landlord does the right thing.”
A new city ordinance bans landlords from discriminating based on who received Section 8 federal housing subsidies, but the law doesn’t take effect until next year. People who received the subsidies, known as vouchers, get the federal government’s help paying rent to landlords who still get their asking price.
In Other News
- Plans for a bike and pedestrian path that will facilitate access to the Chula Vista waterfront are moving forward. (Union-Tribune)
- VOSD’s Sara Libby talked about our Voice of the Year list with KPBS.
- Reminder: The minimum wage in San Diego will rise to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, thanks to a deal approved in 2016. (NBC San Dieg0)
- Once again, a federal judge in San Diego has rebuked the Trump administration over its zero tolerance policy at the border. (It’s definitely not the first time.) (Associated Press)
The Morning Report was written by Ry Rivard, and edited by Sara Libby.