School Board Member Amends Financial Forms But More Questions Linger
By Eduardo Rueda: Investigative Reporter
A San Ysidro School Board member amended an economic interest form to report her income after a La Prensa San Diego article last week reported she had failed to claim any income for the past two years.
School Board Member Luciana Corrales filed an amended disclosure form on October 27th in response to an October 23rd article highlighting her failure to report her income on forms filed in July 2014 and again in December 2014.
On the amended form, Ms. Corrales now claims income received from Circulate San Diego, a non-profit organization. Her income range is stated between $10,001 and $100,000 during the period of 2013/2014 when she was a candidate for the school board. Ms. Corrales also disclosed that her husband, David Corrales, works as a Building Inspector for the City of San Diego. Filers are not required to disclose income from governmental entities, so it is not clear why Ms. Corrales included her husband’s employer unless he conducts inspections within the District or for contractors doing business with the District.
Under state law, candidates for office are required to disclose all income received from sources located within the school district or doing business with the district. On her original forms, Ms. Corrales did not disclose any employer or income information for herself or her husband.
Community members raised concerns as far back as February, claiming Ms. Corrales and her employer organization were using office space within the District’s administration complex without paying rent.
Circulate San Diego is the contractor in an agreement with the City of San Diego to implement the San Ysidro Walks and Wheels to School projects. The program is funded by a $494,690 grant from the State of California. The agreement requires the organization to “initiate and guide the Safe Routes to School programming at seven school within the San Ysidro School District.”
The District voted to authorize the grant application in February 2011, and the agreement between the City and Circulate San Diego was subsequently negotiated and signed in September 2012 under Superintendent Manuel Paul.
Ms. Corrales was selected to serve as the program coordinator sometime after November 2012. District administrators then allowed her to begin using office space with computer and telephone access. The organization also used District copy machines to run thousands of copies for reports. No records exist of any Board action to allow the use of the District’s resources under a reimbursement agreement.
In April 2014, then-Board member Yolanda Hernandez resigned her position on the Board after pleading guilty to failing to report gifts from a contractor. Ms. Corrales applied to fill the vacant and she was selected by the three remaining Board members on June 26, 2014. She was immediately sworn in and took a seat on the Board. At the time, Dr. George Cameron was serving as Interim Superintendent.
Ms. Corrales continued to work with Circulate San Diego after her appointment to the Board and it was at that time she filed her first economic disclosure form without any reference to her employer or income. Then-Superintendent George Cameron and County Assistant Superintendent Lora Duzyk, who at the time was the fiscal overseer of the District, continued her use of the office space without reimbursement to the District.
Ms. Corrales ran for election to a full 4-year term in November 2014. She was one of 5 candidates seeking to fill 3 open seats. She garnered 1,158 votes to secure third place. As a newly elected member, she filed a new economic disclosure form in December 2014 and again did not include any information for her employer or income.
In January 2015, when the Board considered replacing Interim Superintendent George Cameron with Edward Velasquez, Ms. Corrales spoke up in defense of Dr. Cameron, saying it was a mistake to change leaders and that Dr. Cameron had done a fine job during his 9-month tenure. She voted not to hire Mr. Velasquez on a 3-2 vote to approve his contract.
In the following few months, Mr. Velasquez led the District back into financial solvency when he discovered several million dollars had been mischaracterized in the past budgets. District staff later indicated that both Dr. Cameron and Ms. Duzyk knew the budget numbers were doctored to threaten bankruptcy and make the case for drastic teacher pay cuts. The friction led to a teacher strike in October 2014.
By May 2015, the District was back on stable ground and the Board turned to find a permanent Superintendent. In June, the Board selected Dr. Julio Fonseca, Ed.D., from among dozens of applicants. He began his new position on July 1st.
When Superintendent Fonseca reviewed the status of the organization’s use of office space upon his arrival at the District in July, he quickly confirmed that the Board had never voted to approve any rent or facilities use agreement with Circulate San Diego. Dr. Fonseca immediately terminated the organization’s use of the office space.
Under state law and the State Constitution, it is an illegal gift of public funds for a governmental agency to give away monies or resources to any individual, company, organization, or other government entity.
In reviewing any past payments from Circulate San Diego to the District, it appears that reimbursements for facilities use and copies were made for the period of January through May of 2015 for a total of $985.31. The invoices do not reflect any payment for office rent at all for any period from 2012 when the contract was executed to the end of the use of the space in August.
In an email to a District official this week, the City of San Diego’s contract administrator assigned to this grant confirmed that Ms. Corrales has been and continues to be an employee of Circulate San Diego as the grant liaison and coordinator in conjunction with the Safe Routes to School program at San Ysidro schools.
La Prensa San Diego has asked the District if Ms. Corrales’ dual roles as a Board member and also an employee of an organization using District resources violates the District’s Conflict of Interest policy in its By-Laws. The policy, Board Bylaw 9270(a) revised in September 2014 when Ms. Corrales was already on the Board, describes prohibited employment by Board members when it involves the use of “District time, facilities, equipment and supplies”. The policy states that “Board members who violate this section may be subject to censure.”
The District has not yet responded to our request.
The issue of the Circulate San Diego grant will be on the agenda for the next Board meeting scheduled for November 12th.