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Did Rio Hondo College President Reyes Violate the Ed. Code and Commit Fraud?

BY BRIAN HEWS • July 8, 2020

Under the California Education Code, superintendents and other administrators work 245 days per year, which is the normal 260 workday year minus 15 vacation days which are unpaid and earned on a monthly basis; some have more vacation days, some have less.

Under a Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) interpretation, administrators can have less workdays than 260, but they cannot earn vacation, much like other ten-month positions at the college.

But Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Arturo Reyes wanted it both ways, working less days and earning vacation, all while giving himself a chance to take more money.

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained documents that show Reyes violating the Education Code, unilaterally lowering the annual workdays in his employment contract to 217 and giving himself the ability to take extra compensation for any days over 217, amounting to over $50,000.

And according to one Rio Hondo Board Member who wanted to remain anonymous until they could take action, Reyes did it without the Rio Hondo College Board’s approval.

The revelation could trigger the resignation of Reyes as Superintendent/President for the college.

In an email obtained by HMG and dated August 26, 2019, the sender wrote, “attached you will find a copy of the superintendent’s contract. President Dr. Reyes’ annual salary shall be payable in 12 equal monthly installments, his contract was negotiated based on 217 days not 242. Can you [sic] advice how we can go by and create a 217 days calendar in the HRS system.”

 

An email requesting the change from 242 days to 217 days.

 

“He did not negotiate anything with us,” stated the board member, “this is fraud.”

The sender of the email was redacted, but it was clear that Reyes’ contract was changed, with a employee forwarding the bogus contract to LACOE.

Within two hours, LACOE Systems Specialist Steven Mansell immediately objected to the contract writing, “Since the president is a certified employee, he is a per diem employee that is paid an annual salary for working all the required work days of his contract. His contract states that his 12 month work year is 242 days of which 25 days can be taken as vacation. A vacation day by definition is a paid work day that you don’t show up and therefore must be included in the paid work days on the HRS work calendar of 242 days.”

 

LACOE Systems Specialist Steven Mansell objecting to the 217 day contract.

 

 

But Shawn Smith, then-Executive Director of Human Resources for Rio Hondo, overrode Mansell’s objections.

Nine days later, Smith approved Reyes’ days, “I support the president’s days in which he is required to be at work to be 217. Please have this reflected in his payroll record.”

 

 

 

 

The approval by Smith caused LACOE to create a special payroll calendar for Reyes and his 217 day contract – one in which LACOE highly discouraged – all other employees are paid based on 242 days.

Smith’s loyalty was not repaid, in May of this year Reyes fired him, calling him “incompetent.”

 

 

 

Payroll calendar showing Reyes work days set at 217.

 

 

The move by Reyes is similar to what Centinela Valley Superintendent Jose Fernandez pulled in 2010, using a 215 day calendar.

Fernandez eventually resigned and was ordered to stand trial on corruption charges.

Fernandez was able to enjoy travelling without touching his allotted vacation days, then cashing out the unused vacation hours at the end of each year.

The 215-day calendar also gave Fernandez a big raise, due to “extra work days,” anything over 215 he would earn extra money, over $1,200 per day, $50,000 total.

Reyes gave himself the same ability to work extra days and earn over $1,150 per day.

The board member stated, “Superintendent President Reyes changed the terms of his employment contract on his own, without consulting the board thus committing fraud. He changed his contract working days from 242 to 217 without authorization,  which is a violation of the Education Code.”

Texts to Reyes were not returned.

 

 

 

 

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