The San Francisco Unified School District appears to be the latest district to be hit by an internal financial scandal. The Bay Citizen reported that it obtained records under a California Public Records Act request showing high-level officials used community-based organizations over which they had control, to routinely funnel back tens of thousands of dollars to supplement their district salaries.
At the center of the investigation are Associate Superintendent Trish Bascom, the former head of Student Support Services, and four of her coworkers. Until her retirement in June 2010, Bascom had control over a $20 million annual budget which was used to hire community organizations which provided services to the school district.
Documents show that Bascom had authorized payments from various community organizations to herself and four individuals that were Student Support Services administrators. In one example, Linda Lovelace, a former administrative analyst, received payments of $26,126 during the 2009-2010 school year from Bay Area Community Resources, an outfit that runs after-school programs for the district. The unauthorized payment was on top of her $83,000 annual salary.
Last May, Lovelace also received a check for $40,000 from Edgewood Center for Children and Families, a San Francisco non-profit agency that provides mental health, violence prevention and teacher coaching services to the district. According to her termination letter, Lovelace also falsified time records claiming she had regularly worked 12 hour days, and routinely signed documents and submitted claims without official authorization.
Bascom’s lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, acknowledged that the payments were authorized by Bascom, but characterized them as bonuses. “If they want to call it stealing, they can,” he said. “I would call the district incompetent. It wasn’t stealing. It was paying people bonuses for hard work.”