San Ysidro school board members listen to a presentation on June 14, 2018, by Paul Gothold, the San Diego County schools superintendent, as he discusses the findings of a state audit that found possible financial fraud and misuse of district funds. (Megan Wood/inewsource)
San Ysidro school board members listen to a presentation on June 14, 2018, by Paul Gothold, the San Diego County schools superintendent, as he discusses the findings of a state audit.(Megan Wood/inewsource)

As promised last week, a scathing state audit of the San Ysidro School District that found two former top administrators were overpaid almost $324,000 has been delivered to the District Attorney’s Office.

Why this matters

The San Ysidro School District, which serves some of the poorest students in San Diego County, has been roiled in scandal and controversy in recent years. It has faced bankruptcy and the federal court conviction of a former superintendent in a pay-to-play scheme.

The audit said former Superintendent Julio Fonseca and his deputy, Jose Arturo Sanchez-Macias, engaged in possible fraud and misuse of funds, including overpayments for life insurance and vacation days.

The District Attorney’s Office rarely confirms an investigation, but a spokesman for District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement to inewsource the office “welcomes any information about suspected public corruption” and “is committed to holding individuals accountable who would misuse public funds intended to support the education of children in San Diego County.”

The San Ysidro School District is one of the poorest in San Diego County. It has the highest share of homeless students in the county, with 36 percent classified as homeless.

County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold, who requested the audit and presented it to the San Ysidro school board last week, has also signed a contract with the state to conduct a second investigation of the district that will focus on contracts and payments to vendors connected to school construction and modernization.

The second audit will cost $42,200, but the county Office of Education can seek reimbursement from the state.

The first audit found that besides the overpayments, Fonseca and Sanchez-Macias used petty cash or funds intended for an “urgent need” to circumvent the district’s fiscal controls. The auditors also reviewed 78 payments and reimbursements connected to both administrators, and all but one had a problem.

In an email Wednesday to inewsource, Fonseca’s attorney John D. Martin said the audit findings were wrong. Martin said he is confident that once the facts are presented Fonseca will be “completely exonerated and it will become clear that he is innocent of all the allegations.”

In an interview last week with inewsource, Sanchez-Macias disputed some of the findings and vowed to defend himself against the allegations. He also said none of the state auditors interviewed him during their investigation.

In addition to giving the audit to the district attorney, Gothold also provided copies to the state superintendent of public instruction and the state controller, as required by law.

A California Department of Education spokeswoman said in an email the agency is monitoring what has unfolded in San Ysidro and will support the San Diego County Office of Education as needed. A spokeswoman for the controller said the agency’s own auditing team is reviewing the findings.

San Ysidro’s new superintendent, Gina Potter, who started last month, said she is working to improve internal fiscal controls.

In a statement Wednesday to inewsource, Potter said: “As the newly appointed superintendent, I am committed to providing the highest level of leadership, and developing a robust administrative and governance structure. Our District is committed to leading with integrity and a high standard of ethics that is focused on the success of our students.”

More in our San Ysidro investigation…

Ex-San Ysidro school superintendent’s compensation makes him highest paid in county, second highest in state
October 19, 2017

Public reacts to ex-San Ysidro school superintendent’s pay — and it’s not positive
October 21, 2017

County superintendent asks state to investigate San Ysidro School District finances
November 10, 2017

‘Extraordinary audit’ of San Ysidro School District moving forward
November 20, 2017

Budget error means San Ysidro School District owes state $5.1 million
December 15, 2017

Ex-San Ysidro superintendents received hefty payouts for vacation and leave days
February 9, 2018


We’ll let you know when big things happen.

Leonardo Castañeda was a reporter and economic analyst for inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email leocastaneda [at] inewsource [dot] org.