Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grand jury clears Modesto City Schools board, brass of any wrongdoing

The Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury "did not find any evidence of actionable wrongdoing" by the Modesto City Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Arturo Flores or Deputy Superintendent Chris Flesuras.

The six-page report released today reviewed tension between district employees and Flores since his hire date in 2007.

The discord boiled over in 2009 when then-Deputy Superintendent of business Debbe Bailey's employment contract was bought out a year before it expired. Bailey is seen as a supporter for Flores' predecessor, Jim Enochs, who was superintendent for 20 years.

A complaint was filed with the jury in September 2009 that alleged illegal hiring practice, a hostile working environment at the district office, personal use of district resources, exorbitant expenditure of district funds on consultants and lawyers and a lack of board oversight of Flores.

The report says the complaints mostly stemmed from decisions that the administrators are entitled to make. It said the trustees could have done a better job making the transition from Enochs to Flores.

Other pieces of the report:

- The grand jury spent three months reviewing thousands of pages of documents and interviewed 11 witnesses, including Flores, Flesuras, Bailey, present and former trustees, present and former employees and representatives of the Modesto Teachers Association.

- The grand jury found no evidence that trustees violated the Brown Act, a state law that requires most district business to be discussed in public meetings.

- The report states that trustees' "decision to quickly implement sweeping changes districtwide" contributed to the bumpy transition to Flores' tenure.

- Jury recommendations include continuously educating trustees on the Brown Act; giving new leaders more time to study the culture of the district; and adopting a "whistleblower policy" to protect employees who come forward with possible information about wrongdoing. Bailey said she was punished for bringing her financial concerns to Flores' attention.

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