School Board Member Failed to Disclose Financial Information
By ALBERTO GARCIA
A San Ysidro School Board member has failed to disclose her employment and personal income as required by state law.
Luciana Corrales, who was first appointed to the board in June 2014 and then elected to a full 4-year term in November 2014, filed Economic Interest disclosures in July and December 2014. The forms are blank as to her employer and amount of income earned between June 2013 and December 2014.
The forms, officially referred to as Form 700, are required under state law to be filed by all elected officials. The disclosures should include all income, assets, and liabilities with only few exceptions. For instance, income from government entities or a person’s primary residence are not required to be disclosed.
Ms. Corrales works for Circulate San Diego, a local program involved in land use planning and design. The organizations website lists Ms. Corrales as a Community Engagement Coordinator who “is responsible for conducting public outreach.”
In February, community members complained that Ms. Corrales was doing her work from an office within the San Ysidro School District’s main office complex. District officials then confirmed that Circulate San Diego was using an office space, telephones, a computer, and making photocopies without reimbursing the District for those costs. The office space had been used since early 2013.
“Mrs. Corrales and her employer organization directly benefited by using District resources at taxpayer expense,” claims Martin Galante, a San Ysidro teacher. “Any dollars used in this way were an illegal gift of public funds,” Galante added.
Under California Government Code Section 8314 and the State Constitution, no government agency can give away taxpayer dollars for purposes not directly related to a public benefit, and especially not without approval of their respective governing board. No vote was ever taken by the San Ysidro district board to authorize the use of the office space, and no formal agreement or lease was ever executed. The limitation includes gifts to individuals, companies, nonprofits, and even other government agencies.
This past February, after District officials reviewed the use of the office space by Ms. Corrales, her employer remitted payments to the District for January through May 2015 for a total of $985.31. The reimbursements for photocopies were calculated at a rate of 3.5 cents per page instead of the district’s usual 10 cents per page. No reimbursements were made for the period from 2013 and 2014. District officials estimate that as many as 80,000 pages of copies were made and not reimbursed, as well as no reimbursements for phone use and office space.
In August, the District ended her use of the office space and Ms. Corrales emptied the office.
Non-disclose of income has led to investigations and fines at other districts. Earlier this year, Arthur Palkowitz, a member of the Solana Beach School Board from 2004 to 2012, was fined $5,000 for failing to disclose his income and employer information while on the Board. In that case, Mr. Palkowitz, a lawyer, worked for Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, that district’s lawyers, while serving on the Board. He failed to disclose his income on several annual reports. After the discovery of his failure to report, Mr. Palkowitz did not seek re-election in 2012.
Mr. Palkowitz’s law firm was also recently sued by the San Ysidro School District for malpractice. The law firm last month agreed to settle that case for more than $1.8 million.
A complaint has been filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state watchdog agency responsible for enforcement of Form 700 filings.