Supporters of fired Margarita Middle School Principal Karen Hayes released findings of a report by a 20-year FBI veteran that alleges more improprieties and wrongdoings by the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board. The accusations were aired during the public comments portion of a TVUSD school board meeting held at the district offices on Tuesday night.
“Our quest for answers began after the release of Karen Hayes as the Margarita Middle School principal,” said Craig Johns, who spoke on behalf of the group www.saveHayes.com. “Though we have not received the answers and open communication, which we requested, our experience with TVUSD over the last month has opened our eyes to the dysfunction that exists here.
“Term extensions, the Snodgrass case, the whisperings of collusion and corruption were everywhere. Our concern was so great that the expertise of a 20-year veteran of the FBI was recruited to help us uncover the information we sought,” he said. “Systemic problems and breeches in policies and procedures by the board and district office were only part of our findings. We hope the results of our independent investigation that we will share a portion of with you tonight are the catalyst that will turn this district around, back to a crown jewel of our valley.”
The Snodgrass case refers to the alleged framing of then 17-year-old Jesse Snodgrass, a Chaparral High School student, targeted in the school’s undercover drug sting known as Operation Glass House. Jesse, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, and his parents are suing the district for negligence in the 2012 incident, that left Jesse expelled from school and facing drug charges that were eventually dismissed. Eventually Jesse was allowed to return to school and graduate with his classmates. The case, asking for an unspecified amount in damages, is ongoing.
According to Johns, the district became in breech of its own policies by hiring Lindsey Jean Ritter, daughter of TVUSD Superintendent Timothy Ritter, during a board meeting held on October 1, 2013. The group claims that the district created the position of Instructional Services and Assessment Reporting Secretary in August of 2012 with little discussion other than to say it was a “result of the recent reclassification process and the current needs of the educational support services division.”
“We found this odd, based on the fiscal climate of the district in 2012,” Johns said. “When cross referencing transparentcalifornia.com, we noticed TVUSD was the only district in the entire state of California with this job classification. This position requires only a high school diploma and the recommended high-end salary range could reach $4,165 per month, before benefits.”
Johns said that the position was the only one created during the August 7, 2012 special meeting and that it remained vacant until Oct. 16 of that same year when Debra Jilek, then a new hire, was placed into the position. In December of 2013, the board promoted Jilek to an executive assistant position where she would serve directly under Ritter.
“According to board minute records, nobody replaces Jilek in the Instructional Services Assessment Secretary position until Lindsey Ritter is promoted to that position on June 3, 2014,” Johns said, adding that the group believes she never should have been hired by the district due to a criminal record.
Johns went on to say that through the investigation the group discovered Lindsey Ritter has convictions including a “plea of guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) and/or a finding of guilty by a judge or a jury.”
“Court records confirm that Lindsey Ritter was charged with penal code 487 1-3,” Johns said. “Pertaining to one of two felonies with which she was charged which is grand theft. On January 17, 2012 Miss Ritter was sentenced without going to trial for … felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Sentencing included the repayment of $18,676 worth of restitution to the San Diego court system and probation. We believe this condition was overlooked because of Mr. Ritter’s influence over this board, and more specifically, board President Allen Pulsipher.”
A search of San Diego County court records performed by Valley News Wednesday morning shows that a criminal case was filed against Lindsey Ritter in February of 2011, though the file was not available for viewing online.
“We have received numerous anonymous tips that Henry Voros, Assistant Superintendent of HRD at the time, did not want to hire her because of her record, but Mr. Ritter overrode his decision and hired her anyway,” Johns said. “We ask for your clarification on this. Is it true? We feel this hiring exposed every taxpayer in our district. Also, based on the severity of the charges, it also exposed every single family that has personal records at TVUSD.”
Members of the board do not respond during public comments at any board meeting and as such, did not comment on the allegations.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.