District’s handling of money questioned

Valencia resident says Hart district plans to misspend construction bond money

By Tammy Marashlian
Signal Assistant City Editor
661-259-1234 x525
February 2, 2011

A Valencia resident has asked the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to look into concerns over how the Hart district wants to spend its voter-approved bond money.

The William S. Hart Union High School District denies any wrongdoing, saying that none of the money from the $300 million Measure SA bond has been spent on anything beyond what voters approved the dollars for.

Local voters passed Measure SA in 2008 to pay for projects like a long-awaited Castaic high school, performing arts centers at local high schools and much-needed upgrades to aging classrooms and school buildings.

Michele Lecrivain alleges that the Hart district has turned to using money from the Measure SA funds to pay for projects that weren’t voter-approved.

“You can’t raid this protected money to pay for what you don’t have money for,” Lecrivain said. “Once that money is gone, there’s no way to repay it this time.”

However, Hart district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said that only the idea of borrowing Measure SA funds has been brought up.

“The district sought legal advice regarding such a contingency and, based on this advice, the district determined that the preferred approach would be not to undertake such a transaction, even in a crisis scenario,” Pinsker said in a statement.
“Accordingly, the district has not made any such transaction.”

Lecrivain recently penned her concerns to the Los Angeles District Attorney Public Integrity Division asking for the office to look into the Hart district’s spending habits.

In the letter, Lecrivain outlines four months of challenges in getting information regarding the Hart district’s spending of Measure SA funds.

“District staff has assumed the position of stonewalling,” she wrote in the Jan. 25 letter. “There is no way for the public to discover if they have or are misusing these monies again when request after request (is) simply ignored.”

Pinsker said that the information requested wouldn’t necessarily be made public.

“In terms of the legal advice received by the district, such correspondence is privileged under the attorney-client privilege and is exempt from public disclosure,” Pinsker said in the statement.

She added that independent, performance audits of its construction bond measures, including Measure SA, will be presented to the board in March.

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