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California State Auditor Slams Montebello Unified for Waste and Abuse

Thursday Nov. 2, 2017, 11:44 a.m.

By Brian Hews

The California State Auditor released its audit of the Montebello Unified School District today, calling on the County Superintendent to intervene to address MUSD’s week financial management and governance.

The audit was a result of an exclusive HMG-CN exposé on MUSD finances and Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas, who was fired after HMG-CN published the exposé.

The audit outlines findings regarding MUSD’s financial practices, performance, and related issues concluding that an intervention is necessary by the County Superintendent.

The report stated that the MUSD Board “failed to take appropriate action to contain increasing costs in the face of declining enrollment and continually ignored warnings from its oversight agency that repeatedly urged the district to curtail deficit spending.”

The report also slammed MUSD for failing to consistently follow its hiring processes and by employing individuals to extraneous high-paying positions.

“MUSD failed to follow its processes for advertising job postings and conducting performance reviews for eight of the ten individuals the audit reviewed, most of them occupying high-ranking positions.”

The audit also faulted MUSD for hiring employees into positions for which they did not meet the minimum qualifications, including one high-ranking position, Rojas, responsible for overseeing MUSD’s $300 million budget.

The audit also called out MUSD for improper oversight of millions of dollars in bonds funds.

“The district also failed to ensure that it’s employees did not have conflicts of interest when they approved expenditures and contracts related to the bond funds,” accusing the MUSD of wasting public resources.”

The report calls for significant change if MUSD is to avoid financial insolvency.

“The Los Angeles County Superintendent should take immediate actions to reverse MUSD’s current trajectory, such as helping MUSD justify its work force size and costs compared to its enrollment projections.”

It also called for MUSD to get its financial house in order and stop wasting public resources.

One of the instances of wasting public resources will have MUSD parents up in arms.

In May 2016, Montebello purchased 200 computers. The auditors could not locate 13 computers, 162 computers were unopened in a warehouse for more than a year, and the remaining 25 computers were unboxed in a classroom not being used.

The audit reviewed credit card purchases where employees failed to provide the required receipts for their charges, including payments to PayPal, Domino’s Pizza, Target, and Amazon.

The audit stated that overtime payments more than doubled from physical 2013-14 through 2015-16 because the district failed to monitor employee overtime.

One Montebello employee received $84,000 in overtime, essentially doubling their salary.

The audit called for corrective actions to include MUSD submitting a corrective action plan, revising its physical stabilization plan, and change hiring policies.

It was also recommended that the bond oversight committee should meet more than once per year.

 

In a statement, State Senator Tony Mendoza siad, “The Report provides disturbing information about the District’s fiscal mismanagement, control of cash, misuse of expensive computer equipment, faulty executive hiring processes, duplicative high-salary executives, uncertain student attendance records, possible misuse of school construction bond funds – among the many issues that the Report states will result in the District facing fiscal insolvency in the next two years.”

“I assure Montebello District students, parents, teachers, staff, Board and the community at large, who have been extremely concerned about the situation at the District, that I will work with them to monitor the development and implementation of the required actions.”

 

See audit click here.

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