Morro Bay High School teacher accused of misusing funds

March 5, 2021

James Bueno

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The former auto shop teacher at Morro Bay High School allegedly sold vehicles repaired by students without depositing funds from the sales back into a school account. [Tribune]

Additionally, ex-automotive technology teacher James Bueno used school club funds to purchase car parts for personal use, regularly spent more out of the auto club account than was budgeted and gave his mother a car that was repaired using school funds, according to the findings of a private investigations firm.

Following a decade on the Morro Bay High campus that included six years as the school’s automotive technology teacher, as well as stints as a football and a volleyball coach, Bueno resigned with a $48,000 severance package. His resignation took effect Nov. 30, 2020.

Morro Bay High’s auto shop program functioned as a club, rather than a class. However, the club did not have any student officers, as required by school rules. Bueno was the sole officer.

School Principal Kyle Pruitt, who has been on paid leave since early December, approved Bueno’s misuse of funds and may have pressured Morro Bay High’s club accountant to “take care of Mr. Bueno,” investigative documents state. When the auto shop account would run out of funds, Pruitt would allegedly tell the accountant to take care of Bueno and transfer funds from the Associated Student Body general account in order to make ends meet.

The investigation into Bueno’s alleged misuse of funds spanned late September to early October. San Luis Coastal Unified School District attorneys hired The SmithGroup, a private investigations firm, to conduct the probe.

Among the findings in the investigation, it was determined a 2001 Volkswagen Beetle was donated to the school, repaired over the course of a year and then given to Bueno’s mother at no cost.

Bueno ultimately paid $2,000 out of his initially $50,000 severance package to compensate the school for the Beetle. Still, neither Bueno, nor the school district admitted to wrongdoing related to the alleged misuse of funds.

However, the San Luis Coastal school board requested the findings of the investigation be turned over to the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal prosecution would be appropriate. Officials have since referred the investigation to the Morro Bay Police Department.

In an interview, Bueno said he was never properly trained in how to do bookkeeping for the auto shop and all of the money he received from selling repaired cars went back into the program, even if the books did not indicate so. Bueno said he wholeheartedly believes everything he did put the children first, the community first and the school first.

Morro Bay High Principal Pruitt will return to his position briefly in March before transferring to a teaching position, beginning in July.


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Niles Q

Dr. Pruitt is no longer principal at MBHS. They plan to recruit for the position after the school year ends.


copperhead

Should we start polls on the next shoe to fall inmorro bay? Does the perpetual fog cloud one’s judgement?


obispan

Sounds like real education in the auto repair industry. Good candidates for Villa Automotive.


charger805

Forgive me if it’s stated somewhere but why is principal Kyle Pruitt on paid leave? If it’s punishment for something, why does he even get to come back on any level?


mullyman

Shows you how strong the Dems teachers unions are No real punishment for their own and they won’t go back to work until they get tons of money while no one else gets all that money Rip off


commonsenseguy

Where is the San Luis Coastal Unified School District in all of this? Aren’t they the overseers of all that’s happening here? They are there for a reason. These are taxpayer funds that go to all of these teachers, principles, and curriculum in these various districts that have been in the news recently. Where’s the accountability to all of us?


Recently the Paso Robles District after receiving a Grand Jury report on corruption by the former Superintendent and others within his administration, including board members, sent it to the D.A. to look at. Will they board for S.L.C.S.D. be willing to respect the taxpayers enough for this to also be looked into? It’s my hope the voters of this district will hold the board accountable as the citizens of Paso Robles did. If they don’t, then vote out the ones that protect this behavior just as Paso did. Send the same message in the next voting cycle and put people there that truly care about the students and the taxpayer funds.


OnlyinSLO

This reads like that article a few years back about the thief of San Luis Obispo who based upon documents at a scrap yard in Nipomo or thereabouts was disposing of various pieces of equipment for the City of San Luis Obispo and then reselling the supposedly non-operative equipment for massive profits for himself. Because of the dollar amount it was grand theft, however then City Manager Katie Litchig did nothing. Speculation was that Litchig and others were involved in the fleecing of City funds and assets for personal gain. I believe that thief was named Ron Faria. He was able to finish out his career at the City and now is a contract consultant to the City. A website refers to him as “Fleet Manager” – wow, only in slo.

Then there was the former police chief, not idiot Deanna Cantrell who was outed for not only losing her side arm, but for gross misuse of her position to cover up her screw up. I believe the embezzling chief of police was named Steve Gesell who was accused of misusing public funds for a lavish trip for he and has family. Both kept their jobs, got huge severance packages and moved on to fleece other agencies.


OnlyinSLO

It was Gesell and Johnson paid him a huge severance package to leave despite clear evidence of misuse and misappropriation of public funds.


jdchem

Tune in next week when we discuss the case of the stolen post it notes. I bet the investigation cost more than the losses.


MBvoter

As the Rock turns! First the swim coach, now the principal and auto shop tech. What’s next or is it who’s next at MBHS. Some punishment for the principals cover up. Paid admin. leave, really! And the auto shop teacher pleads ignorance and gets a severance package. This is what’ our school tax dollars are paying for. Pitiful.