Principal agrees to pay back misappropriated monies

December 7, 2009

AHSschool_FrontBy KAREN VELIE

Atascadero High School Principal EJ Rossi agreed to return $32,000 to the San Ardo School District (SASD) bringing to the forefront questions of why officials in Atascadero hired Rossi knowing he was accused of misappropriating school funds.

Last month, Rossi signed a settlement and release agreement to avoid legal action. Even though he did not admit to any wrong doing, he agreed to pay the San Ardo School District $32,000 of the alleged $54,000 in missing monies, according to the settlement.

“Because of the state’s financial situation, those funds could have been used for student activities, teacher’s salaries, or even painting the school,” said current SASD Superintendent Carlos Vega.

In the summer of 2007, shortly after Rossi left his position as superintendent of the SASD to serve as the assistant principal of Atascadero High School, an audit uncovered a mountain of financial discrepancies.

According to the June 2007 audit, 19 financial irregularities were unveiled that involved Rossi and the San Ardo School District’s former business manager Julie Trescony (now Julie Diggs). Sources contend Rossi and Trescony had a cozy personal and professional relationship that facilitated the alleged misappropriation of school funds.

The audit found that Rossi and Trescony had overridden internal controls that should have required purchase invoices, stopped duplicate payments and prohibited non-school related expenditures.

Both Rossi and Trescony carried two school credit cards each with limits of between $45,000 and $75,000 per card. According to school credit card records, Rossi and Trescony purchased personal items, charged for gas even though they were reimbursed for mileage and returned items charged to the cards.

In addition, the audit concludes that Rossi and Trescony approved pay overages “through possible collusion.”

“The previous superintendent (Rossi) was paid $109,148 during the fiscal year, but his contract amount was $88,000… In addition, the business manager (Trescony) calculated, approved and paid herself $1,454 for a perceived underpayment of wages throughout the year even though she was paid more than her contract amount.”

Parents at both Atascadero High School and San Ardo School have accused Rossi of misappropriating fundraising monies slated to support student activities.

Parents of Atascadero High School cheerleaders say Rossi refused to refund payments made for items the students never received, transferred the students’ previously individual recorded cheerleader accounts into a general unrestricted student body account and refused to account for missing fundraising monies.

Parents have asked Rossi to refund some monies, such as the $25 paid to cover the required makeup kit they never received. While he paid a few parents back, he has refused to reimburse the majority of families.

Rossi told CalCoastNews that he would not be refunding any more monies to parents.

According to sources in San Ardo, the $54,000 found in the audit report does not include fundraising monies Rossi was entrusted to handle that are allegedly missing.

One parent, who has asked to remain unnamed to protect themselves against future retaliation, said that of $433 a parent raised selling tamales, only $120 was deposited into the Associated Student Body (ASB) account.”

According to the audit, the ASB account, while under the supervision of Rossi and Trescony, was not properly monitored and that student funds were used to cover general school expenses.

The auditor recommends that in the future, “ASB should have its own separate account for ASB activities only. General fund transactions should never be paid from ASB funds or from a bank account that is not on the books. Processing transactions outside the accounting system offers easy opportunity for fraud, abuse, and misappropriation of cash.”

District officials responded to the recommendation: “The superintendent and business manager terminated employment with the district in July 2007 and were replaced by the current superintendent and business manager. Current administration has already determined that a separate cash account will be used for ASB activities.”

After a group of outraged San Ardo parents learned that Rossi was up for the principal position in Atascadero, one parent mailed copies of the audit report to Atascadero Unified School District board members and hand delivered copies to Superintendent John Rogers and former Atascadero High School Principal Kim Spinks.

Rogers, Spinks, and Rossi did not return requests for comment.

When asked if he forewarned Atascadero Unified School District officials of the alleged financial discrepancies, current SASD Superintendent Carlos Vega said he called the board members to help explain the audit prior to their vote to promote Rossi to the Atascadero High School principal position.

However, no one from the board returned Vega’s call. Spinks called as part of the background check.

“She (Spinks) said she got a copy of the audit but it didn’t mention Rossi by name,” Vega said. “I said you know full well who that is. It’s as if you want to stick your head in the sand.”

In 2008, Rossi was promoted to principal of Atascadero High and Spinks became the district’s director of human resources.

After Trescony terminated her employment with SASD, she was hired as the business manager of San Lucas School District, also in Monterey County. When asked why the district hired a business manager who had been accused of misappropriating funds, San Lucas School District Superintendent Catherine Reimer said that the Monterey District Attorney’s office had cleared Trescony of any criminal wrongdoing.

However, Monterey County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Husley said that though they did not have sufficient evidence to prove criminal acts without reasonable doubt, they did not conclude that there had been no criminal wrongdoing and had suggested that the district pursue civil action.


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sam

The Atacadero Unified School Board has once again failed to do its job. This same hiring practice occurred in 1996-1997 with the hiring of Dr. Dodds. He turned out to be a liar and a cheat which may be just the type of moral value the Board upholds. Its time for the Board to change its hiring practices.


Booty JuJu

North County children are now just two years away from maximum thickness, according to the latest exam statistics. SAT results show that 78% are now technically dense, while the remaining 22% should be stupid enough to join APD and PRPD by 2011.


Experts said the figures were in line with the local population of thick people rutting like monkeys and called on KFC to include contraceptives in its secret recipe. Meanwhile the educated middle classes have been urged to put down their knitting needles and have some sex. Knit one, pearl one.


During the last round of SATs almost a third of students had to be stopped from eating the test paper, while more than half were unable to hold a pen, and of those who could, 74% instantly stabbed themselves in the ear. Children who until very recently would have been kept in a dungeon will soon be respected members of the community, including the school board and city council.


One teacher was heard to mumble: “It’s got to the point where I can’t even be bovvered to have another nervous breakdown.”


Vagabond

Ah Bootymister, Please don’t interfere with the genetic experiments that comprise the population of fair Mud Hole.

Leave them be! Where else can you observe genuine Appalachian pedigrees?

Truly, this site can serve as a portal of succor for all those that have family trees with no branches.

And as soon as the literacy level gets up there, this site will go hillbilly viral.

Don’t judge, lest you be commanded to be responsible for the education of the spawn of Atascadero!


OsborneCox

I don’t know whether EJ is guilty of these allegations or not, but I do know nobody from San Ardo or anywhere else mailed AUSD board members copies of the audit report, nor did Mr. Vega leave any messages with board members. Effing liar.


LensCleaner

OK Osborne whats your agenda? damage control? If so thats pathetic. Let me remind you of your post and response to another reader’s comment on the original story which suggested the Atascadero Cheerleaders were being taken advantage of.

——


OsborneCox – Posted on 11/19/2009 at 10:26 am

To begin with, this is old news. Atascadero High School red-tagged its former cheerleading coach last spring. She is a dear, sweet, talented girl who was and remains highly thought of by the people who felt they had no choice but to let her go after a series of mistakes and judgment lapses. The decision was probably harder on them than it was on her. I can tell you from experience of having worked with school district boards of trustees and high school administrations throughout the county that Atascadero is at least as well-led as any high school on the Central Coast and I have confidence that if anything pertaining to this situation still has to be resolved, priority will go to the best interests of the students. Secondly, I would have hoped that this blog’s new editor would have guarded against shoddy reporting, but apparently that’s not the case. The quote from a school district spokesman, for example, is an complete fabrication and I’d wager it derived from a cheerleading parent rather than the actual source.


Longtimelocal – Posted on 11/19/2009 at 6:52 pm

So what are they going to do about Rossi??


OsborneCox – Posted on 11/19/2009 at 7:35 pm

Nothing. Rossi isn’t the problem here. This is all about a disgruntled parent and bored blogger. Move along, folks.


OsborneCox

No agenda here, LensCleaner, and I’ll stand by my posts knowing I’m better informed about these situations than anyone who has reported or commented on them here. The cheerleader story was a hunk o’ crud from start to finish. I seriously think the reporter got her notes mixed up because quotes were attributed to the wrong people, sequences were incorrect, etc. In this newer story, I’m not claiming Rossi’s guilt or innocence…. only that there are falsehoods in the assertions that AUSD trustees had been informed of the report.


CitizenB

It is so easy to claim better information. Cite your source or define your position that gives you this inside information. If this article is wrong, and I hope it is (I would like to trust the school board), we need to know the truth of the matter beyond a reasonable doubt. Right now, Karen has a lot of data, and all be have from you is a claim that you know different. Well, what exactly do you know, and how do you know it?


zaphod

“I’m better informed about these situations than anyone who has reported or commented on them here.”


Behold the omnipotent all seeing Oz


cheseburger

Hey wizard of oz, I am Alice in wonderland’s father and if she were a cheerleader at that school she would be cheering for his and your demise. Nope don’t like him or you or your views, sorry!


sam

how do you know this OsborneCox?


Cindy

Atascadero has reached an all time low. Misappropriating proceeds from teenagers fund raising efforts is paramount to child abuse. This weasel should never be allowed to step foot in a school facility again let alone run one. I believe it’s up to the parents to see to it that he is replaced immediately. Looks like a few folks on the school board dropped the ball or were bouncing it with there buddy? It’s time for an overhaul in more public segments than just city hall.


Greyhound Mama

Regarding this post, “This weasel should never be allowed to step foot in a school facility again let alone run one. I believe it’s up to the parents to see to it that he is replaced immediately. ” What a grievious thing to say. Taking something as truth just because you read it online, you are ready to say horrible things about him. Do you know Mr. Rossi at all or is all your information from the media? I wish somehow we could overhaul comments that are meant just to tear people down.


LensCleaner

Mama: In reference your comment above…


” I wish somehow we could overhaul comments that are meant just to tear people down.”


Don’t you think your being a bit hypocritical, in view of your other post …


“It is scary to think that a small group of angry parents from San Ardo can have such influence.”


Your trying to demean the San Ardo parents motives and that is the oldest damage control trick in the book.


Please don’t tell me you are in the education field, for that thought frightens me.


moderator

cheseburger said:


Chese agree’s with Cindy, she writes,”


Atascadero has reached an all time low. Misappropriating proceeds from teenagers fund raising efforts is paramount to child abuse. This weasel should never be allowed to step foot in a school facility again let alone run one. I believe it’s up to the parents to see to it that he is replaced immediately. Looks like a few folks on the school board dropped the ball or were bouncing it with there buddy? It’s time for an overhaul in more public segments than just city hall.” she put it lightly, but these guys need to fry like fish on the hot sand, they suck as bad as the EFI and Hurst crooks what’s the dam difference, Chesebuger say’s kill one man you are a murderer, kill a million, they make you a con-corer! What they did is fraud and from a town that used to “Hang people”, they sure go light on their own, but don’t get caught speeding there, of course if you have an unregistered stolen gun, they possibly might let you go, fact is proof!


Dave

Karen Velie will discuss this and other recent CalCoast News stories tonight at 5:05 on 920 KVEC AM radio. Tune in! Call in!


LensCleaner

Sadly this shouldn’t surprize anyone. After all, it is Atascadero where crooks and corruption reign supreme. Just look at the stories about City Government, Gearhart, FEMA fraud etc. If none of the A Town citizens give a damn then they deserve what they get. … a classic case of reaping what you sow.


sam

This is not the first time that the Atascadero Unified School Board did not do their homework. Just as they hired Dr. Dodds, a liar and a cheat, they have perpetuated this moral value in none other than EJ Rossi.


Scarlet

What a shame. I hope the school board realizes that it’s time to clean house. Is John Rogers asleep at the wheel? Superintendent Vega sounds like one in a million. Perhaps after Rossi leaves (which had better be very soon), Mr. Vega would consider applying for his position.


Bluebird

I predict the school board will decide in closed session to take no action, as did the Monterrey DA, and Rossi will be able to move onto another school district and continue looting tax payer dollars and student’s hard earned funds. Why wasn’t this discovered by an external audit when Rossi was principal in the San Ardo school district?

It appears there is as much white collar crime in the public sector as there is in the private sector and no one wants to deal with it because in one way or another they all fraternize.


Scarlet

Unfortunately, Bluebird, I have to agree with you. But shouldn’t Atascadero parents demand he be removed? I mean, this is the head of a high school. The compass for the school and an individual who should be respected by parents, students, teachers and staff. Rossi did not admit to being a crook, but why else would he agree to pay such a large amount if he wasn’t. I would want better for my child.


BeenThereDoneThat

The headstone of current times should read,


“Morals and values, Lived from the begining of time till recent. R.I.P.”


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