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Education

Poway School Board Fires Superintendent, Claims $320K In Questionable Payments

Attendees listen during a Poway Unified School District Board of Education meeting, May 31, 2016.
10News
Attendees listen during a Poway Unified School District Board of Education meeting, May 31, 2016.

Report On John Collins Forensic Accounting
This audit from Poway Unified School District found $320,769 in what the district called “overpayments and unauthorized payments” to John Collins.
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The Poway Unified school board fired Superintendent John Collins in a closed-door meeting Sunday night after an audit showed $320,769 in what the district called “overpayments and unauthorized payments” to Collins and an additional $24,494 in other transactions that violated policies.

Collins had been on administrative leave since April 26. Since then, Mel Robertson, the Poway Unified School District's associate superintendent of learning support services, has served as interim superintendent.

In an email Monday, the district said the vote was unanimous and came after attempts to negotiate an early release of Collins. The district also intends sue Collins to recover money it says it is owed.

Here is the statement from school board President Michelle O’Connor Ratcliff:

"Last night, the Poway Unified Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate Superintendent John Collins’ employment with the District, effective immediately. The Board recognizes the many positive contributions Dr. Collins has made to the District over many years of service, and we did not take this action lightly, nor come to the decision precipitously.

"For the past seven months, the Board has repeatedly attempted to work out a mutually acceptable early release from Dr. Collins' contract through informal talks as well as formal negotiations. In order to responsibly negotiate, the Board determined the need for an independent evaluation of the Superintendent’s compensation. To that end, the Board initiated an audit, and after being informed of potential irregularities, placed Dr. Collins on administrative leave for the duration of a more comprehensive investigation. Although that audit took longer than anticipated, the Board was trying to be as thorough as possible.

"The Board was dismayed when the final audit report identified $320,769 in 'overpayments and unauthorized payments' made to Dr. Collins, and an additional $24,494 in other transactions that 'violated District policies.' The severity of the findings justified terminating the Superintendent's contract for cause, so in accordance to the procedure outlined in his employment contract, Dr. Collins and his attorney took part last night in a Closed Session conference with the Board. The Board was prepared to listen to any additional information or explanation Dr. Collins and his attorney wished to offer. Following the conference, the Board unanimously rendered the difficult decision to terminate his employment with the District.

"The Board will continue working closely with Acting Superintendent Robertson until August and with Interim Superintendent Velasquez thereafter on a smooth transition into the 2016-17 school year. As we begin the process of finding our next Superintendent, the Board looks forward to focusing on our students and working with parents, teachers, staff, and community members to ensure the continued excellence of PUSD in the next generation of leadership."
In 2011, with Collins as superintendent, the board approved a controversial $105 million capital appreciation bond to renovate its aging schools. By the time the loan is paid back, the interest accrued will be $877 million. The total payback will be just under one $1 billion, roughly 10 times the amount borrowed.