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Beverly Hills businessman quits air board after Times charter school investigation

Beverly Hills businessman quits air board after Times charter school investigation
Beverly Hills businessman Clark Parker has resigned his position on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, following a Los Angeles Times investigation into charter schools he founded with his wife. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Beverly Hills businessman Clark Parker has resigned from Southern California’s air quality board following a Los Angeles Times investigation into charter schools he founded with his wife.

The Times report last month found that the couple made millions off charter schools that offered little to their mostly low-income students.

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After publication of the story, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins wrote Parker on April 2 requesting his “immediate resignation” from the South Coast Air Quality Management District board. Parker replied a week later with his resignation, effective April 30.

As the founders of Today’s Fresh Start charter school network, Parker and his wife, Jeanette, cast themselves as philanthropists, but the Times found the schools paid the Parkers about $800,000 in annual rent. They also contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and hired Clark Parker for $575,000 to manage a school construction project.

Current and former teachers at the schools, which served mostly low-income children of color, described working out of aging, cockroach-infested classrooms where students often didn’t have access to basic supplies or enough textbooks.

The Parkers did not respond to requests for comment from The Times, including an email Friday regarding his resignation from the air board.

In a letter sent to the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday, Clark Parker wrote that “the reason for my resignation is during the next two to three years I have a business opportunity regarding developing a large piece of real estate that I have recently received approval from the local approval agencies to proceed.”

In past statements to county and state officials, the Parkers have denied wrongdoing and said they are being unfairly targeted by charter school opponents.

The state Department of Education is suing Clark Parker to recover more than $19 million in public funds it says he misspent while running a collection of day-care centers in South L.A.

Parker was appointed to the 13-member South Coast air board in 2012 and has most recently served as vice chairman. The powerful agency is responsible for reducing some of the nation’s worst air pollution. It is made up of three state appointees picked by the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate leaders, and 10 local elected officials from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Parker’s resignation creates a second vacancy on the panel. Gov. Gavin Newsom last month did not reappoint Joseph Lyou, who heads the Coalition for Clean Air and was first named to the board in 2007 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Newsom has not named a replacement.

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