State education officials released a report Thursday describing Compton Community College as an instution where turf battles are rife, financial controls are lacking and the faculty works in a climate of fear and intimidation.
The state findings come on the heels of a U.S. Department of Education report revealing that nearly $500,000 in federal funds were misspent at the school over a three-year period. In some cases, clothing and carpeting were purchased with money earmarked for low-income students.
The California Community Colleges chancellor's office responded to the federal report, which uncovered widespread fiscal problems on the campus, with its own inquiry in March. During that investigation, state officials found similar instances of inappropriate expenditures of state funds allocated to three programs for disabled and low-income students, according to the report.
In one case, state officials discovered that $3,600 in state money was used to pay for storage of African artifacts on the campus. The money was intended to pay tutors and counselors, officials said. Federal education officials have said that the college, which has 6,000 students, will be required to repay some of the misspent money, but state officials said they will only require the college to reimburse the programs out of its general fund.
State officials also found what they described as a general disregard for established fiscal and personnel procedures in the business office, said analyst Steve Nakamura, one of three financial analysts who examined the college in March.
In fact, Nakamura said in the report that he found evidence that faculty and staff were encouraged by top administrators to "circumvent or ignore" established financial guidelines because of a "lack of action by the former president (Warren A. Washington) to hold them accountable."
In one instance, Washington ordered the business office to pay for a shipment of computers that were purchased improperly and had been shipped without being routed through the shipping and receiving department, according to the report. Nakamura warned that the practice could "result in the diversion of public dollars," and "weakens (the college's) internal controls."
Washington, who was fired as president in March, could not be reached for comment.
State officials also found that because the college lacked "sound leadership," there were "internal strife, turf battles and a general decline in morale" among the faculty and staff. They recommended that the college board "require integrity as the primary qualification for a high-level position."
In addition, college administrators were encouraged by the state to take legal action against Associate Dean Velta Jones, who was named in the federal report for practicing "blatant nepotism." Jones hired two relatives for jobs they were not qualified for and paid them almost three times the recommended salary, federal officials said.
Jones has denied the allegation.
College officials could not be reached to comment on the state report, but are required to respond to its findings by mid-June.