Major D.C. Charter School Fraud
By Lee Russ
Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 08:50 PM
As WTW discussed not that long ago, Charter Schools seem ripe for the defrauding. Now the District of Columbia's former chief of the Office of Charter School Oversight has pled guilty to almost exactly the kind of fraud I was hypothesizing:
The former schools executive revealed numerous instances of the system's supervisors failing to catch on to what she was doing -- even as she was forging signatures, fabricating invoices and depositing taxpayer money into her bank account.This won't be the last major fraud story about Charters. If nothing else, the people running these schools need to understand a basic principle of financial control: the person doing the oversight should not be the same person awarding or negotiating or even approving contracts. You need to separate the contracting and oversight functions in order to get a real check on the system.
[Brenda] Belton, 61, admitted to U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina that she steered about $446,000 in seven no-bid contracts to friends and a cousin and stole $203,000 by paying school funds to a fictitious company she controlled. At the same time, she received $180,000 in illegal payments and kickbacks from friends she helped with school business. The crimes took place from March 2003 to May 2006, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Belton's crimes grew more brazen as the Board of Education and public school system dozed.
The crimes began almost immediately after Belton became chief executive of the board's Office of Charter School Oversight in March 2003. Previously a D.C. schools grant writer and consultant, she was hired to oversee 17 charter schools under the Board of Education's auspices. The Public Charter School Board supervised 34 other charter schools.
There has been fraud going on in the Charter Schools since the very beginning. At the New School, etc the secretary (JH) or administrator as she liked to be called, was involved in very unscrupulous behavior. She then purchased real estate, vehicles, etc. with her ill-gotten gains. She quickly shifted her employment to a public school and shortly after that moved to SC. She needs to be dealt with because a lot of her behavior contributed to that school's closing.