sweetwater union high school district

SUHSD Superintendent Terminated Following Lengthy Financial Audit

The former superintendent was terminated more than two months after she was placed on paid administrative leave at the conclusion of a financial audit

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Forced leave for the Sweetwater Union High School District's superintendent ended Monday when the board voted 4-1 in favor of her termination, sources confirmed to NBC 7.

Former superintendent Dr. Karen Janney was placed on paid leave June 24 at the conclusion of a lengthy financial audit that found evidence of fraud involving her and other current or former employees.

“There is significant evidence to indicate there was fraud; misappropriation of funds or assets may have occurred by current or former employees,” County Superintendent of Schools Doctor Paul Gorthold said in June, summarizing the audit's findings.

San Diego County contracted the state's Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) for the audit to address its concerns about fiscal mismanagement within the district, which has been digging itself out of a $40 million budget hole since 2016.

FCMAT said the district administration, including Janney, a former chief financial officer, the director of fiscal services and the district’s bond-program financial adviser “prepared, reviewed and/or presented financial information to the governing board” that had deficiencies that resulted in "violations of board policy, government code, education code and securities laws.”

For 18 months, FCMAT investigated a two-year period of the school's finances running from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018. FCMAT determined that the district borrowed money from Mello-Roos funds -- which are supposed to pay for school facilities -- and did not pay the money back as required; and that the district delayed or omitted negative budget entries, like payroll, making it look like its budget was balanced. According to the audit’s findings, the district then used that inaccurate information to give employee raises it could not afford and to support the sale of bonds, misleading potential and actual investors.

The board turned the report over to the San Diego District Attorney’s office, per FCMAT's recommendation.

A statement from the district sent Tuesday thanked Janney for her service.

"The Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees provided Dr. Janney a 90-day notice to end her employment agreement, pursuant to Article 17b of that agreement. On behalf of the entire Sweetwater community, we want to thank Dr. Janney for her many years of service and dedication to the district, its board, and our students," the statement read.

A personal statement from Janney, also sent Tuesday, read in part:

"I am grateful I had the opportunity to return to Sweetwater as the superintendent for the past five years. When I was hired, I knew I was an at-will employee and could be let go by the Board, at any time, without cause. I have worked with Sweetwater for close to 40 years where I have, and always will, wish the best, for the students, staff and community."

Dr. Moises Aguirre, the Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations, was appointed acting superintendent in June and is still serving that role.

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