The Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Bellflower Unified School District have agreed to have a legal dispute over the BUSD’s fiscal independence moved from Los Angeles County to ensure the case is heard in a neutral forum.
LACOE filed a lawsuit June 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging Bellflower Unified has refused to comply with the state Superintendent Office’s June 2019 decision to revoke Bellflower Unified’s fiscal independence effective July 1, 2019. Since that time, the district has illegally used public funds with blatant disregard for the County’s oversight authority, the suit alleges.
The suit names as defendants the Bellflower Unified School District, Superintendent Tracy McSparren and current board members Renita Armstrong, Jerry Cleveland, Debbie Cuadros, Richard Downing and Laura Sanchez-Ramirez.
Lawyers for the district have denied any wrongdoing on the part of their clients.
“BUSD had been granted fiscal independence by the state superintendent effective July 1, 2016 and BUSD has successfully operated as a fiscally independent district since that time,” the BUSD lawyers state in their court papers. “The fiscal independence has been recommended by the county superintendent and was approved by the state superintendent over four years ago.”
Since LACOE and the BUSD are both located in Los Angeles County, both sides agreed in August to have the lawsuit transferred to San Diego Superior Court to ensure it is heard in a neutral forum. The decision was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern.
According to the LACOE suit, the BUSD has “blatantly and defiantly refused to comply with the order of the state superintendent.”
BUSD, its school board members and its superintendent have continued to “unlawfully spend public funds while refusing to submit to the oversight of the county,” the suit states.
None of BUSD’s spending warrants have been transmitted through or been approved by the county superintendent since the state superintendent revoked BUSD’s fiscal independence, according to the suit.
Rather than seek a remedy through lawful means, the district has “simply disregarded the Education Code and the constitutional authority of the state superintendent and county superintendent” and the BUSD continues to spend public monies without submitting to county oversight, according to the suit.
The county superintendent’s staff attended a BUSD board meeting on March 25 and gave notice they were violating the Education Code, the suit states, but the district alleged their fiscal independence had never been revoked.