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By Brian Hews
For the past eighteen months, the Montebello Unified School District has seen its share of corruption from the top echelons of the district including accusations that board members participated in a scheme to fire top management, replace them with their cronies, and begin procuring contracts that would line their pocketbooks.
Several exclusive HMG-CN articles presented evidence that outlined the corruption and led to the firing of Chief Business Officer Rueben Rojas while also triggering a district wide audit by the state of California.
But during that time, certain MUSD Board members, along with their appointed cronies, were pulling up a chair and feeding from the public trough.
HMG-CN has obtained documents that show that the MUSD, through Assistant Superintendent Anthony Martinez, used monies earmarked for books and supplies and secretly purchased canopies and tables exclusively for MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy’s Farmer’s Market as part of her “Gardens Initiative.”
The documents show that then-CBO Ruben Rojas approved the purchases.
And in what appears to be a pay-to-play scheme, Martinez managed to budget payments to Cupchoy’s mother, Eva Cupchoy, and Eva Cupchoy’s long-time boyfriend John Garza “to maintain and expand the Garden grounds.”
Martinez budgeted $1,500 per month for Cupchoy and Garza, for a total of $3,000 per month “plus expenses” for what was basically landscape maintenance.
Document showing Lani Cuchoy’s mother, Eva Cupchoy, and her long-time boyfriend John Garza paid $1,500 per month each “plus expenses” for maintaining the gardens grounds.
The expenditures for the canopies and tables totaled over $16,600, with over $10,500 spent on thirty-two canopies and $6,100 allocated for the purchase of seventy tables.
Sources told HMG-CN that the canopies and tables were to be used exclusively for the Farmer’s Markets, which is part of Cupchoy’s Gardens initiative.
The District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which was board approved in September of 2016, showed that the $16,600 was actually budgeted for “books and supplies.”
But the documents show that canopies and table were purchased, not books and supplies as approved by the board, through the LCAP funds.
Even more alarming, the purchase orders obtained by HMG-CN clearly indicated that the canopies and tables were shipped to the Office of the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services.
Anthony Martinez was in that position at the time the purchase orders were issued.
The LCAP report also shows that Martinez budgeted an additional $52,702 in salaries and benefits for the “maintenance of the Gardens.”
Furthermore, another $51,250 was set aside for an obscure account labeled Services and Other Operating Expenses, monies that could be spent without scrutiny.
LCAP document showing the $16,800 was actually for books and supplies not canopies and tables for the Farmer’s Market. Also shown is $52,702 in additional “salaries and benefits” and $51,250 for an obscure account labeled Services and Other Operating Expenses. Click on image to view larger document.
HMG-CN previously reported that Martinez had been complicit in covering up concerns expressed by the accounting firm of Vasquez and Company LLP.
After the article published, the state announced it would conduct an audit of the entire district.
A high level MUSD official who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by President Lani Cupchoy told HMG-CN, “Cupchoy was instrumental in bringing in (Anthony) Martinez, who had no previous Superintendent experience and is currently being paid the salary of a very experienced Superintendent at well over $200,000 plus benefits. And it was not only Ruben Rojas who was part of the problem but the failure of the majority of the board to replace an experienced Superintendent with a crony or Lani’s puppet which has added to the problems of MUSD.”
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