No ethics forms filed from group that watches $5 billion in public money

SDUSD's bond oversight committee doesn't file

SAN DIEGO - The committee watching how the San Diego Unified School District spends nearly $5 billion in public money has not filed statements of economic interest in the last two years.

An employee in the legal department attributed the lapse to "a transition in membership" even though some members are not new and are experienced in bond oversight.

The bylaws of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC) state each member will fill out a Form 700. The forms are declarations of financial holdings and are meant to be a transparent way to ensure members do not have any conflicts of interest.

ICOC members are supposed to make sure the district spends bond money as voters intended. For example, bond money should be spent on upgrading buildings and not salaries.

Members are volunteers and they are not paid.

Team 10 asked SDUSD's legal department to review the records because ICOC bylaws state Form 700s should be kept with the legal department (Item 6, section F).

Team 10 received this response: "Please be advised that due to transitions in our office, Form 700s have not been requested from ICOC members since 2012 – over the past two years, there has been a transition in membership so the only current members who have Form 700s on file are Andy Berg and Kimberly Schoettle."

Andy Berg, the SDUSD ICOC chair, previously served on a bond oversight committee in Poway. His form, from 2012, said he had nothing to declare.

Schoettle's form, from 2012, was several pages long and did not appear to have any conflicts of interest.

Seven other members have not filed. The committee has 13 seats, with four current vacancies.

"It's not the spirit of the intent of how it's supposed to be," said Jay Wierenga, communications director for the Fair Political Practices Commission.

"We don't comment on specific cases, but in general, if people don't file, the agency or entity they file to should be keeping track of that," Wierenga said.

Failure to file a statement can result in a penalty of up to $5,000, Wierenga said.

"If it's oversight, or lack of resources and staffing, that's something we would take under consideration," he added.

Team 10 pressed the district on who was responsible for the missing ethics forms, and received an email response from an employee in the legal department.

"The committee members are (or should be) aware that they need to file a Form 700 as stated in their Bylaws - as a courtesy, our office sends out an annual reminder, usually during the summer, and we will be doing so shortly," the employee wrote.

Wierenga said there has never been a complaint filed against the district or against the ICOC. He declined to say if either was under any current examination by the FPPC.

In addition to Berg and Schoettle, the members are David Akers, William Ponder, Miles Durfee, Barbara Flannery, Matt Kriz, Mike Magallanes and Tashonda Taylor, who was recently appointed.

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