The Sweetwater Union High School District building in Chula Vista / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the Nov. 20 Morning Report. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox.

Dueling letters between government agencies … It is not exactly the high drama of Alexander Hamilton’s day, but it’s what we have, San Diego.

Sweetwater Union High School District and the San Diego County Office of Education have been engaged in a bitter back-and-forth for months over the state of the South Bay district’s troubled finances.

The County Office of Education says it wants Sweetwater to get its books in order. Sweetwater says the County Office of Education is making onerous demands.

This week — in yet another portentous epistle — the state weighed in. And it sided with the County Office of Education.

At issue: a $3.8 million placeholder in savings which Sweetwater has been banking on, but unable to deliver, and another $3 million in wishful thinking, according to the County Office of Education, about its spending for the year.

The County Office of Education ultimately demanded that Sweetwater fix these perceived errors. Sweetwater appealed to the state Department of Education … and lost.

Sweetwater found itself in the middle of a fiscal crisis at the beginning of last school year, caused by $30 million in overspending. The district’s books, during the previous year, had not reflected the actual spending that was taking place.

Sweetwater is currently being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to that overspending and has been accused of a financial “cover-up” by state investigators.

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego. He can be reached by email or phone at

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