|Two former local school administrators have been cleared of fraud allegations after the state concluded a year-long audit of the elementary school district's financial policies and procedures.
Mountain View Whisman School District administrators requested the audit in November 2006 from the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) after it received an anonymous letter alleging that two high-level staff members had inflated their salaries to receive more retirement benefits.
As a result, CalSTRS, the state agency which oversees retirement systems for teachers and certified administrators, investigated earnings, compensations and other records to determine the district's compliance with retirement law.
Former Superintendent Eleanor Yick, former Assistant Superintendent Modrite Archibeque and the district were cleared of all charges on March 5 by CalSTRS. In a letter to district Superintendent Maurice Ghysels, the agency's audit services department concluded that "the district reported information to CalSTRS in compliance with the Teacher's Retirement Law."
After reviewing the audit, the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office also said it will not press charges.
In a press release, Ghysels stated that "The district has been looking forward to a resolution to this lengthy process and remains committed to operating with integrity, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency."
As part of the investigation, CalSTRS employees visited the school district to review records, processes and procedures, and they interviewed administrators. The audits vary in length, said agency spokesperson Sherry Reser, especially since the agency reconstructed its policies this year. It is not unusual that the district's audit lasted over a year, she added.
"We want to keep going in a timely fashion," Reser said, "but we are very careful and it can take" some time.
The accusatory letter, signed by "an Anonymous and Concerned Mountain View Whisman School District Staff Member," charged Yick and Archibeque of "spiking" their salary or including their health benefits and reimbursable expenses to inflate the salaries reported to the agency. Retirement benefits are calculated by considering several components, including yearly salary, sick leave and other service credit.
The letter said that although Yick's contract salary with the district during her final year was $167,200, she reported her salary as $177,524 to CalSTRS. She used health benefits and mileage and phone reimbursement to inflate her salary, the letter alleged.
The anonymous letter also said director of administrative services Stephanie Totter was "compliant when it comes to inflating and spiking administrative salaries" for Yick and Archibeque. Totter did not return calls from the Voice this week.
By the time the district, government agencies and the media received the letter, Yick was already retired and Archibeque had started a new job. Neither were immediately available for comment.
The agency released 33 other audits and drafted 11 from July 2007 through March 2008, according to Reser. While some audits are conducted after CalSTRS receives allegations, others are standard procedure, she said.
"We are always thorough," she said. "We go through the same process each time."
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