San Diego

Audit Reveals Possible Criminal Acts at San Ysidro Elementary School District

New district leadership says past administrations are responsible for wrongdoing and pledges to carry out reforms suggested by state auditors.

A state audit contains new evidence of fraud, theft and other illegal acts by past administrations and board members at the San Ysidro Elementary School District.

In response to those findings, the County Office of Education announced Friday that it will share those “very serious findings” with the state controller, state superintendent of instruction and the District Attorney’s Office. 

The county will also ask state and local prosecutors to look into the district's finances for potential fraud.

Among the findings in the 105-page audit is the conclusion that bad fiscal decisions by past school district leadership have caused San Ysidro families to pay the highest school bond taxes of any school district in San Diego County.

The San Ysidro Elementary School District has a history of financial scandal, and years of turmoil. It has cycled through 10 superintendents and interim superintendents in just 12 years.

The audit was requested in May 2016 following a County Grand Jury report suggesting the San Diego Office of Education take a more active role in the oversight of the district's finances.

The district was also criticized for its lack of oversight of bond revenue and virtual absence of direction to staff by board members.

In 2013, a "pay-to-play" public corruption case was uncovered involving officials in three school districts including San Ysidro.

Former Superintendent Manuel Paul was indicted and sentenced to two months in jail in the scandal.

The new audit found that the district paid too much for public financing and repeatedly failed to properly manage contracts and purchases.

Auditors said their findings “should be of great concern to the San Ysidro Elementary School District and the San Diego County Office of Education and require immediate intervention to limit the risk of fraud, mismanagement and/or misappropriation of assets, or other illegal fiscal activities in the future."

School district officials issued a written statement but would not consent to an on-camera interview. In her written statement, Superintendent Gina Potter said her district “appreciates the efforts by the County Office of Education, FCMAT and the District Attorney’s office who have investigated and are helping to protect us from outside entities and individuals that in the past may have taken advantage of the schools and students that we serve.”

Board Vice-President Humberto Gurmilan also declined a request for an interview, but talked about the audit results in English and Spanish on Facebook.

"It happened prior to 2018, and those administrators -- those people that were in charge when all this stuff was happening -- are not here anymore, and we're happy about that. It's a new day in San Ysidro."

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