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Beverly Hills principal did not report $40,000, report says

Religion and BeliefEthicsCalifornia Public Records Act

The principal of Beverly Hills High School did not report more than $40,000 he received from a for-profit summer sports camp he ran for the school's athletes — a possible violation of conflict-of-interest and ethics policies, according to a report on the program reviewed by The Times.

The draft review, which was conducted by a law firm hired by the Beverly Hills Unified School District, came in response to an article in The Times last year. It found that the Beverly Hills Sports Academy, which was held on campus, was operated by Principal Carter Paysinger and two school employees. The Board of Education requested the review to help understand the sports program after parents raised concerns.

The Times article revealed that none of the camp's fees — which range from $200 to $385 for the monthlong training session — was used for the athletic teams at Beverly Hills High. The camp brings in $60,000 to $70,000 each summer, according to the review.

Since he became principal in 2010, Paysinger had $40,205.97 in checks from the academy deposited into his personal bank account, according to the report. Paysinger told the investigators that the checks were actually meant for his brother, who is the school's athletic director, and were transferred to him in more than 80 transactions over three years.

But the review found that there was no way to tell if these payments were made. Documents provided by Paysinger and his attorney listed them as cash withdrawals, or checks without a specified payee — not enough evidence to show that the money wasn't used for another purpose, the report said.

"As a result, we are unable to verify that the cash withdrawn was in fact given to Vonzie Paysinger [the principal's brother] as opposed to used for some other purpose," the report said.

The arrangement "reasonably raises issues" under the district's conflict-of-interest policies, the report said

Paysinger's attorney, Reed Aljian, said Monday that Carter Paysinger was simply asked by his brother to collect his summer compensation and pay him over the course of the year. Carter Paysinger agreed and has paid him in full, Aljian said. "There is nothing improper or unlawful about the arrangement," he said.

"Carter Paysinger has not received any income from the academy since becoming principal," Aljian said. "Carter has not engaged in any conflicts of interest, he has not violated any district policies, and has properly prepared all disclosure forms."

Beverly Hills Unified schools Supt. Gary Woods declined to comment, saying in an email: "This matter is of a confidential nature and it is receiving appropriate attention."

The district refused to release the report under a California Public Records Act request, citing attorney-client confidentiality. Aljian said the district refused to provide him with a copy.

After Paysinger became principal, he was required to fill out economic conflict-of-interest statements. In those statements — for 2010 to 2013 — he declared no possible conflicts, according to the documents provided by the district and in the report. The review concluded that the compensation, no matter who eventually received the funds, raises the possibility of ethics violations by Paysinger.

Parents say they were led to believe that the academy was a mandatory, school-sanctioned camp for athletes and that fees would help fund sports teams. Others say that they were strongly encouraged by the principal and other administrators to enroll their children to give them a better chance of making the teams.

Parents also contend that it is a conflict of interest for public school officials to operate a business catering solely to their students.

In 1997, the district asked Paysinger to run a summer sports program at the school — which had previously been operated by a local university.

That year, Paysinger registered the business name Beverly Hills Sports Academy, and listed himself as owner as recently as 2012. Once Paysinger became an administrator, he gave up day-to-day involvement, Aljian said.

Paysinger initially told investigators he did not receive any money related to the camp, but subsequently provided documents showing that he had received compensation, the review said.

The review also found that since its inception, the sports camp operated with "the knowledge, involvement, and consent of district administration" and made "good-faith efforts" to address issues and concerns from Beverly Hills officials.

The academy does not have a policy or practice of telling prospective participants that the camp is not required for athletes, but the directors of the academy provided evidence that they have clarified the misconception when asked, the report said.

The review said that "although the academy was ostensibly operated by a separate entity, from the perspective of students, parents and other community members, it was closely aligned with the district's athletic department."

The camp brochure and other materials did not make the separation clear, the report said: "…we cannot rule out that a student or parent could have reasonably believed it was required."

The report recommended that the district be more transparent about the separation between the camp and the school district. It also recommended that the district make it clear to families that participation is not required to play sports.

"Of course, a student who participates may obtain a legitimate advantage over a non-participating student by an improvement in his or her requisite skills, techniques and experience," the report said. "However, a coach should not view a participating student more favorably than a non-participating student simply because the student participated in the camp."

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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