Editor's note: On Wednesday, Patch will post an article examining the financial interest forms filed by the other Capistrano Unified School District board of trustees.
Citing a desire to avoid an “appearance of impropriety,” Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Lynn Hatton resigned her position on the governing board Tuesday.
The ROP provides career-oriented classes for high school students both in the Capistrano and school districts. Both districts appoint two of their school board members to serve on the ROP’s governing board.
Hatton owns two educational-service companies, one of which has had at least $9,000 in business with Laguna Beach Unified in the past 1½ years.
Hatton told Patch she didn't believe she had a conflict of interest because her work at was a "onetime contract."
“It is with regret that I submit my resignation from the Capistrano-Laguna Beach ROP Board, effective immediately,” Hatton wrote in a letter Tuesday to Capo Superintendent Joseph Farley and ROP Superintendent Kim Thomason.
“Although we have received legal counsel from the [Orange County Department of Education] attorney that I have absolutely no conflict of interest, I have chosen to resign to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety,” Hatton wrote.
On financial interest forms that Hatton filed in March with the county, she disclosed her two companies but did not reveal business relationships she has with several Orange County school districts, including Laguna Beach Unified. The forms required disclosure of individual income sources totaling more than $10,000.
"We did go over it with my accountant, and nothing was billed more than $10,000," Hatton said.
The mandatory statements, which list the wealth and personal investments of all California elected officials, must be filed yearly to show potential conflicts of interest.
When asked to state single sources of income of $10,000 or more for each business, Hatton said InnovateED, which provides consulting and professional services to school districts, generates “no income in Orange County.”
In the last 1½ years, however, the company has had at least three different projects with the , which shares a contiguous border with Capistrano Unified.
In February, the seaside district’s board of education approved a $4,500 check for InnovateEd for instructional training sessions held Oct. 15, 2010, and Nov. 15, 2010. Additionally, the company has partnered with Laguna Beach High School to host a three-day college and career readiness conference in August.
On Monday, Laguna Beach schools Superintendent Sherine Smith said the district is going to cancel the three-day seminar, however, because of lack of interest.
Additionally, on InnovateED’s website, the company lists Laguna Beach High School as a partner in helping the school achieve re-accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school’s current accreditation runs through 2012.
A brief paragraph on the company website states: “InnovateED is providing support and services in connection with WASC, which has allowed LBHS to redefine at-risk students, implement systematic student support and create authentic, performance-based assessments of college and career readiness.”
According to documents Smith provided Patch, Laguna Beach Unified has paid Hatton’s company $4,500 for workshops InnovateED offered Aug. 24 and Aug. 30, 2010, at Laguna Beach High School.
According to the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, Hatton’s role on the ROP governing board did not represent a conflict of interest unless she voted on a matter that would benefit her financially. Tara Stock, a spokeswoman for the commission, said no one has filed a complaint against Hatton.
“Generally, if a violation of the Political Reform Act (PRA) is found, a fine of up to $5,000 may be assessed,” Stock said of any inaccurate or misleading form 700 that elected officials file. “Potential PRA violations may be referred to the FPPC or the [local] district attorney.”
Hatton’s forms were late. While the annual filings for all elected officials are due April 1 each year, newly elected officials must file what is called an “assuming office” form within one month from being sworn in.
Hatton, along with Trustee John Alpay and Vice President Gary Pritchard, took office Dec. 7, 2010. But she filed her form 700 on March 24, according to Sonia Acuna, deputy clerk of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Although an official can be fined $10 for each day the form is late—up to $100—the county did not fine Hatton. Alpay and Pritchard filed their statements on time.
"For now, it's an oversight because our system is brand new," Acuna said of the county's electronic filing system, which is still considered a pilot program.
Capistrano Unified’s that the previous ROP representatives, Trustees Ellen Addonizio and Sue Palazzo, called “mean-spirited.”
Just the meeting before, , fearing participation would entangle them in yet .
At the time, Pritchard said he wanted “stronger leaders” on the ROP board. Supporters of Addonizio and Palazzo saw the move as payback for actions taken at the prior meeting. Trustee Anna Bryson is the alternate member for the ROP board. The next ROP board meeting is Thursday.
While Hatton’s second company, Adelante Educational Services, does not appear to have any contracts with Laguna Beach Unified, Hatton’s financial statements list only Buena Park Unified as a client that nets her $10,000 or more. Adelante provides tutoring to underserved communities.
Many of the company's client school districts are on “program improvement,” which means they are falling short of federal performance standards. They hire Adelante and similar firms on yearly contracts to provide free-to-the-students tutoring.
According to her website and other records, Adelante has or had ongoing contracts with the Santa Ana Unified, Anaheim Union and Garden Grove Unified school districts in the last year.
Hatton said none of those contracts brought in more than $10,000. "People don't understand SES [Supplemental Educational Services] contracts," she said. While the contracts are open-ended typically with language that says "not to exceed" a certain amount, her company only bills and receives payment when they provide tutoring for each student.
Besides the disclosed relationship Adelante has with Buena Park Unified, it also has current contracts with Anaheim Union and Santa Ana. In addition, it had a contract in the 2009-10 school year with Garden Grove but is not on this year’s list of available tutoring services.
Alan Trudell, a spokesman for Garden Grove schools, said Adelante withdrew as a supplemental services provider in 2010-11. The company received $1,362.81 for services provided to one student in the district in 2009-10, he said.
Adelante’s current contract with Santa Ana Unified was approved by that school board at its Sept. 28 meeting. The staff report said the contract’s “amount to start” was $20,000.
The Anaheim Union board of trustees approved Adelante’s current contract at its Nov. 4, 2010, meeting “at a total cost not to exceed $20,000.”