An audit report has revealed potential misuse of $1.06 million in public funds at Ezequiel Tafoya Alvarado Academy, a charter school in Madera, California.
Driving the news: The report alleges various instances of misappropriation, including $38,000 spent to finance thehigher education expenses and the purchase of two Ford F-150 Raptors for the sons of ex-executive director Nicolas Retana, costing $80,000.
- The audit also found that $12,000 was spent on six “life coaching” sessions for eighth-graders, and there were allegations of nepotism and procedural issues within the school’s Board of Trustees.
- The audit report states, “There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that fraud, misappropriation of funds and/or assets, or other illegal fiscal activities may have occurred in the specific areas reviewed.”
- The school’s current executive director, John McClure, stated that he had filed a police report related to some of the findings three years ago and that the issues stopped when he took over.
- Retana, who was fired in January 2020 for allegations of physically abusing students, denied the audit report’s findings and claims that racism was behind the report.
The backstory: The audit report revealed that charter funds were used to make payments for the executive director’s daughter’s college education, gas expenses, and personal vehicle maintenance and repairs.
- The report also found questionable expenditures at stores in Los Banos using charter cards, with Retana justifying the purchases as necessary for school construction.
- Additionally, the audit report mentions payments to an “associate” for “life coaching workshops” and raises concerns about the individual’s credentials. The audit report questions the governance of the charter school, highlighting short board meetings and approvals of credit and debit card expenses without detailed discussion.
- McClure and the school’s Board of Trustees have called for law enforcement agencies to review the matter, and the county superintendent’s office has notified relevant authorities, including the Madera County District Attorney and the IRS.
- Retana has expressed doubt in the investigation and plans to sue for defamation, citing his past accomplishments and allegations of racism.