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Six charged with diverting $15 million from San Francisco schools

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SAN FRANCISCO — Prosecutors on Tuesday announced felony charges against six former and current school district employees, including a one-time associate superintendent, alleging that they had diverted $15 million into slush fund accounts and misappropriated some of it for personal use.

San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said the scheme was carried out over a decade. According to charges, the San Francisco Unified School District funds were diverted to accounts at private nonprofit organizations during a time of budget austerity. The money was allegedly spent on bonuses for other district staff members and salaries and benefits for off-the-books personnel, among other things.

Former Associate Supt. Trish Bascom also is accused of transferring $500,000 to an account held by an organization that was considering hiring her after her retirement from the school district. Prosecutors contend she later unsuccessfully attempted to transfer another $1.5 million. She retired in June 2010.

In addition to Bascom, also facing charges are two of the district’s former senior executive directors, a former principal administrative analyst, a former assistant principal and a current senior clerk typist.

“The public places a great deal of trust in our public schools and its administrators to ensure that students always come first,” Gascon said in a statement. “Unfortunately, during times when the school district faced historic budget cuts, these defendants were misusing public money for their own personal advancement.”

Supt. Richard A. Carranza commended prosecutors and said district officials had brought concerns to law enforcement and “have put in place several measures to prevent any similar wrongdoing in the future.”

Prosecutors contend the funds were disbursed at the direction of Bascom and her executive team without the knowledge of district administrators. According to the charges, the group submitted fraudulent documents to the district in order to divert grant funds to accounts controlled by three nonprofit community organizations.

About $250,000 allegedly went for personal use by the defendants.

Bascom's attorney, Stuart Hanlon, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he hadn't seen the charges against his client, but that there had been a longstanding practice in the district of transferring grant funds to community organizations to ensure leftover funds wouldn't have to be returned to the government.

"They're putting out stuff that is not true," he told the Chronicle. "If she pocketed money, I'm not aware of that."

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