Some former, top employees at the Blue Oak Charter School in Chico may soon be facing jail time after an audit found evidence of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and illegal activity that may have occurred.
The extensive, almost 50 page report concluded that the previous superintendent and other administrators opened numerous credit cards in the school's name and used them for personal expenses, ranging from buying weapons and tactical gear, to sutures and a stomach stapler, to even the expenses of becoming a bee keeper.
Blue oak charter school is a Waldorf-inspired elementary school in Chico. It's been there for 19 years, and focuses on practical, hands-on activities, creative play, and empathetic understanding, thereby encouraging cooperation rather than competition.
But in the fall of 2015, school board members felt like something was off, so they started taking stock of inventory, which led them to eventually hiring an auditor and reporting the situation to the Chico Unified School District and to the Butte County Office of Education.
“It was hard at first, when people were first learning about it, and it's pretty emotional and difficult for the teachers and so forth because they feel betrayed,” said current executive director Susan Domenighini.
She was just hired in January so she wasn't around when this happened and she, along with the rest of the school, learned the full extent of this problem just a couple of weeks ago when the audit came out.
The almost 50 page report concluded that the then executive director, Nathan Rose, along with other administrators, likely opened numerous credit cards in the school's name, and used them for personal expenses amounting to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The school was already going through financial struggles for years.
“It's all pretty interrelated. You have to realize that those who are responsible for that financial piece are also the same people,” she said.
The audit concluded there is sufficient evidence to indicate that fraud, misappropriation of funds, and other illegal activities may have occurred.
District attorney Mike Ramsey said they will be meeting next week to talk about the details of this audit.
If you'd like to read the audit: click here.