Stockton Unified is being investigated by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office following two scathing grand jury reports and a state audit that found evidence of fraud in the school district’s financial dealings.
District Attorney Ron Freitas made the announcement at a swift, four-minute press conference Monday morning on the steps of the old court house in downtown Stockton.
“Our children are our most important resource. Their education and the environment in which they learn is one of my most pressing priorities,” Freitas said. “Make no mistake, any attempt to commit fraud on the backs of our children will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
After reading from a prepared statement, Freitas took no questions and promptly ended the press conference.
The press conference marked the DA’s first public statements since the release of the findings from a Financial Crisis & Management Assistance Team extraordinary audit that concluded earlier this year illegal activity had occurred within the district. The audit report on SUSD was released Feb. 14 and presented to the school board that same day.
Two days later on Feb. 16, Freitas gave a statement to Stocktonia investigative columnist Michael Fitzgerald that closely echoed the DA’s statement at the press conference Monday.
About 30 minutes after Freitas concluded his remarks, Stockton Unified Superintendent Traci Miller held a separate press conference in front of the school district’s headquarters just down the road near the Stockton waterfront, pledging cooperation with any outside investigations being conducted.
“We welcome the opportunity and we are happy to have them come in and do an outside investigation.” Miller said. “If there are issues inside this organization that need to be dealt with, if there are adults in this organization that are doing something on the backs of our children, they need to we need to deal with that.”
This FCMAT report comes on the heels of more than two years of controversy for the county’s largest school district, including two scathing grand jury reports, accusations of financial mismanagement, looming deficit and outrage from the public of the district’s handling of certain issues.
The report states that investigators found “sufficient evidence to demonstrate that fraud, misappropriation of funds and/or assets, or other illegal fiscal practices may have occurred.”
The state audit, known formerly as an “Assembly Bill (AB) 139 Extraordinary Audit,” began in February 2022 at the request of San Joaquin County Education Superintendent Troy Brown Brown said in a formal letter to district trustees and interim Superintendent Traci Miller that reports from Stockton Unified employees “regarding procurement process irregularities and the unusual circumstances surrounding the award of a contract with IAQ Distribution INC., including federal funds,” prompted the investigation.
Stockton Unified trustees awarded IAQ a contract worth millions of dollars at a meeting in August 2021 following what was described as a flawed if not illegal process to provide ultraviolet light air purification units to the district to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 using federal money. IAQ provided the lowest ranked bid of the five companies presented to the board for consideration.
The report recommended that State Controller Malia Cohen, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Freitas be notified of the report’s findings.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office encourages members of the public to come forward with tips by contacting the Public Integrity Unit at SJGov.org/DA or by calling 209-468-2400.