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Compton Investigates School Administrator : Audit: Purchasing director apparently authorized the acquisition of at least $7,300 of supplies from his own company, officials say.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Compton school district administrator has been placed on leave pending an investigation into alleged irregularities in purchasing school supplies.

District documents show that the school system’s purchasing director, Charles Monk, apparently authorized the purchase of at least $7,300 of supplies from a company that he owns. The company, Custom Office Products, lists a Torrance address, but has no business license in the city, Torrance officials said.

The owner of a printing shop at the Torrance address said that Monk only rents a mailbox at the site.

Monk was placed on paid leave Jan. 20 by Jerome Harris, the state administrator who runs the Compton Unified School District. Monk, who is paid $43,673 a year, declined to comment.

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The district has hired an independent auditor to examine all supply purchases since Monk joined the district in May, said the district’s attorney, Melanie E. Lomax. She said auditors will be checking to see whether Monk was ordering supplies with businesses that he owned--which would be a violation of state and district conflict-of-interest codes--as well as whether the district received the supplies for which it paid.

If the district concludes that improprieties occurred, it can demand reimbursement and refer the matter to the district attorney for criminal prosecution, she said.

Monk had been purchasing director for the Pasadena Unified School District from 1985 to 1989. He resigned after pleading guilty to perjury in connection with his 1987 testimony before an Atlanta federal grand jury regarding a nationwide scheme to sell outdated prescription drugs to pharmacies, hospitals and individuals.

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Monk was sentenced in 1989 to six months in a halfway house for convicted felons and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Harris said Compton school officials were aware of Monk’s prior record but decided to hire him because he was highly recommended by previous employers and others who have worked with him.

In his memo to school board members in April, Harris wrote: “I have reviewed (Monk’s) record and his ability to do the job extensively. I am convinced that, in spite of his past, he is the best person for this important job.”

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Compton school board member Amen Rahh charged that Monk’s hiring showed poor judgment by Harris and is indicative of his administration’s failure to cope with the district’s problems.

Harris was appointed by the state to head the financially strapped school district last February. The state took over the district after providing an emergency loan.

Harris said the purchasing investigation has been blown out of proportion by his critics.

“The board hasn’t accepted the state’s presence very gracefully and Mr. Rahh has led the campaign to try and undermine the state’s authority,” Harris said.

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