Thursday, June 28, 2012

(Sacramento) Grand Jury alleges corruption in Twin Rivers Unified School District

By Melody Gutierrez
Published: Thursday, Jun. 28, 2012 - 11:45 am

Missing weapons, widespread corruption and a myriad of illegal actions are alleged in a grand jury report released today about the Twin Rivers Unified School District and its police force.

The Bee obtained advanced copies of the report from separate sources. The Grand Jury put its report online at noon.

The grand jury calls for the newly elected school board to consider replacing (retired) Superintendent Frank Porter, Deputy Superintendent Ziggy Robeson, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Patty Smart, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Services Alan Colombo and district spokeswoman Trinette Marquis.

The names of the individuals are not used in the report, although their titles make it evident about whom the grand jury is referring.

Porter retired earlier this month and Robeson is on paid administrative leave.

The report states that district leaders actively destroyed the careers of individuals who reported unlawful acts, violated the rights of employees and police officers, abused their fiduciary responsibilities and misled the public with erroneous information.

The school district has 90 days to respond to the report. This is the second consecutive grand jury report on Twin Rivers Unified. The school district largely dismissed the first, which alleged financial mismanagement, racial tension and ongoing feuds since the district was created in 2007.

The most recent grand jury report includes allegations the district's outside legal counsel took Police Chief Christopher Breck's computer and the district's server, despite subpoenas issued during that time ordering that emails, documents and voice mails be produced.

Other allegations include:

• A citizen asked Breck to take four guns from a home in Carmichael. Breck assigned a detective to retrieve the weapons, including a semi-automatic uzi. The weapons were not originally in the evidence room of the police department until a second inspection by the grand jury.

In an attempt to find out which officer returned the weapons, the grand jury discovered that the security tape was missing or erased and had been removed from the IT server.

A detective told the grand jury he believed money is missing from the evidence room and narcotics may have also been stolen.

• At least 11 officers had taken home vehicles, which were driven to their homes on a daily basis. The Bee has learned some were driven to homes in Vacaville and Rancho Murieta. The report said this policy has generated unnecessary vehicle mileage and inflates fuel, repair and maintenance costs.

During testimony, the chief said he allowed officers with take-home vehicles to use them for personal use, according to the report.

In addition, the department has no procedures or controls to account for the amount of fuel used or miles driven by each officer, according to the report.

• Porter and the police department mishandled a citizen complaint alleging harassment and police misconduct at a local housing complex, where four officers are alleged to have handcuffed an innocent man twice and threatened a woman who took photos.

The property manager of the housing complex who attempted to find out information about the incident was met with dismissive and crude remarks, the report states.

• The two issues that initially put the police force under scrutiny - excessive car tows and responding to calls outside their jurisdiction - were also covered in the report.

When a teacher - who is the daughter of Porter's administrative assistant - had her car towed, the grand jury found Porter told Breck's administrative assistant to refund the teacher's $200 towing fee.

That teacherhad allowed an unlicensed 17-year-old student to drive her car. The teacher and student were investigated by the Twin Rivers Police Department and the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, according to the report.

The grand jury wanted to interview the teacher, but was told she now lives and teaches in another state.

• The school district routinely violated the Police Officers Bill of Rights when putting officers on leave, according to the report. The grand jury was critical of Smart, the Twin Rivers associate superintendent of human resources, who the report said did not understand or have knowledge of the rights and protections given to officers.

• The grand jury was especially critical of Breck. An officer testified that Breck asked him on several occasions to do personal tasks, such as making repairs to Breck's home or buying him cigars.

The officer said on many occasions he was instructed to be a driver for Breck and his wife, Twin Rivers officer Margueritte Dias-Breck, for special events.

The grand jury report said Robeson, the deputy superintendent, approved sending additional police officers to accompany Breck and his wife to community or political events. The grand jury report said Breck "wanted it to appear that he had an entourage who supported him."

• In the report, three board members, including board president Roger Westrup, said they were unaware of nearly all matters relating to the police force, including that the district police armory at one time had unregistered weapons in it and money and guns had been reported missing from the evidence room.

Westrup testified that the information the grand jury told him should have been brought to the board's attention by the superintendent, according to the report.

• The grand jury report says unauthorized non-compliant modifications were made under the direction of Colombo to the parking lot at Smythe Academy prior to a young boy being struck and killed by a car in 2009.

• The report says Colombo, the assistant superintendent of facilities services, bragged about receiving a 2 percent kickback on a $20 million contract with a solar consultant. The grand jury says Go Green was paid $60,000, but no work was ever done.

When asked about Go Green at Tuesday's school board meeting, Twin Rivers' Interim Superintendent Rob Ball said the only money paid was $4,400 to Timothy M. Cary and Associates to review the Go Green contract.

Ball said the district has since decided to put out a public bidding for a solar provider.

"We didn't pay Go Green anything," Ball said Tuesday.

• The grand jury said a no-bid contract was awarded to a construction company recently for $546,000 to start work on the East Natomas Education Complex.

• The grand jury criticizes Marquis, the district spokeswoman, for making erroneous statements to the community and media on several occasions.

In one instance, parents voiced concerns in 2010 when an adult school was moved on to the same campus with Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy, a middle school. Parents asked about the potential for a sex offender to be in the adult school population.

Marquis told The Bee and other media outlets at the time that the district confirmed there were no sex offenders in the adult school program.

The grand jury said witnesses testified that wasn't true. There were sex offenders in the adult education program on the middle school campus, the report said.

• The grand jury turned over information to local authorities for a criminal investigation into whether officers conducted hundreds of illegal background checks on students as young as 12-years-old, according to the report.

Read more here:

No comments: