State audit finds evidence of fraud, conflicts of interest by Oakland charter school operator

Record Number: 
MURP001
Citation: 

Murphy, Kate. “State audit finds evidence of fraud, conflicts of interest by Oakland charter school operator.” San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, CA). June 13, 2012

Annotation: 

Ben Chavis and an Oakland charter school organization are now the focus of an investigation into allegations of operational fraud. The charter school had made national headlines for outstanding test scores from low-income students.

The state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team produced a scathing report after Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan asked them to investigate allegations of financial abuses, including a $100,000 salary Chavis took during his retirement.

Auditors have found evidence of the claims, and Chavis could be the subject of a criminal investigation. Between 2007 and 2011, the school paid Chavis, his wife and their estate around $3.8 million. Much of that was for construction work that never happened.

Chavis is a Lumbee Indian from North Carolina, and he served as the director of multiple schools in the charter organization. Throughout his tenure, he instilled a discipline system involving humiliation to motivate that brought notoriety to the schools.

Concerns were expressed again in 2012 when American Indian Public Charter School II applied for renewed charter, the charter office recommended the school board deny it. That did not happen, as a vote of 4-3 allowed the school to stay open.

Despite all of the controversy, school board member Chris Dobbins acknowledged that it may have been because it is hard to object to the extremely high test scores. 

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