Jury blasts school district

The Associated Press
Wednesday July 25, 2001

OAKLAND — The Alameda County grand jury has recommended that the county board of education be eliminated or run by a financial expert after officials in one school district mishandled money. 

In its annual report released Monday, the 20-member panel said the Emeryville Unified School District’s former superintendent, J.L. Handy, should have been stopped sooner by the board after they discovered he charged nearly $65,000 in personal airline tickets, hotel rooms and other gifts on the district’s credit card. 

Handy resigned last fall and pleaded guilty last month to charges of felony public theft and conflict of interest. 

The panel criticized the school board for continuing to loan money to the district after discovering the credit card expenses. 

County’s schools superintendent, Sheila Jordan, said she thought the panel’s assessment was unfair. 

“I really think the grand jury didn’t do their homework,” Jordan said. “As soon as it became evident there was potential fraud in Emeryville, we brought in the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team. But until that point, I can’t go in and fire someone based on allegations.” 

The grand jury has recommended that the state legislature eliminate the Alameda County Board of Education or require that the board elect a county superintendent who’s a fiscal and management expert.