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INVESTIGATION: Montebello Unified Syphoning Thousands to the Montebello Teachers Association

BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained financial documents that show the Montebello Unified School District funneling thousands to the Montebello Teachers Association under a one-page lease agreement for a conference and meeting center in Montebello.

The lease does not specify what the MUSD will be using the room for, only stating “for the use of the premises.”

According to property records, the MTA owns the building which is located at 920 W. Whittier Blvd., on the corner of Whittier and 10thSt.,  in Montebello.

The lease agreement was signed by MTA President Doug Patzkowski, Executive Director Kathy Schlotz and MUSD Superintendent Anthony Martinez.

The lease is valued at $3,330 per month for the 10,000 square foot building with the MTA also charging the MUSD $179 per month for use of the building’s Wi-Fi network.

The MUSD also agreed to pay for custodians to clean the building after use.

Total charge to MUSD tax-payers is over $42,000 per year, with MUSD’s Board approving the questionable expense at its June meetings.

The conflicts of interest for the MTA are numerous.

Online document show that the MTA’s projected 2018 revenue was $410,000, making the lease 10% of the organization’s revenue.

And the organization’s 2017 tax returns, also known as 990’s, showed that the organization lost $3,000 that year.

This loss came as the MTA’s Executive Director Kathy Schlotz, who signed the lease, takes in over $262,000 per year, which is 64% of the organization’s budget.

Critics are alleging pay-to-play and money laundering as it is unknown why the MUSD is leasing the building, given the fact there are several rooms the district could use among their many schools, including the new ATC high school conference room and cafeteria that can seat hundreds and includes a Wi-Fi network.

Similar to the MTA, the conflicts of interest for the MUSD Board are numerous.

The lease was signed in June 2018 just five months before the November election that saw three non-incumbents, Marisol Uribe, Jennifer Gutierrez and  Alejandro Ramirez win seats, joining incumbents Edgar Cisneros and Joanna Flores.

All three winners were endorsed by the MTA and quickly moved up the ladder after they were elected; Uribe is now President of the Board, Gutierrez is vice-president, and Ramirez is clerk.

The officer appointments lead to many other committee appointments that pay $200 each in monthly stipends to attend one committee meeting.

And federal authorities might once again investigate the MUSD similar to the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that saw the agency charge Ruben Rojas with fraud and charge Superintendent Martinez with signing misleading bond offering documents.

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HMG-LCCN has learned that during the election season, while MUSD was paying the thousands in rent, the MTA was using the building for election purposes, including phone banking and candidate interviews, which could be a violation of the Hatch Act.

One elected local school board member, who preferred to remain anonymous, told HMG-LCCN, “I am shocked, our Superintendent would never consider a lease like this, it sets up, among other things, a massive conflict of interest.” 

“President Uribe, Vice President Gutierrez and  Clerk Ramirez were endorsed by the MTA, and then they sign a lease syphoning thousands to the organization? They should have, at the very least, disclosed that to the public.”

“This blurs the line and should alarm all the front line teachers. Is the board negotiating in the best interest of the teachers when they’re giving thousands using a questionable lease to the very association they are negotiating with?” 

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