The former head of a nonprofit that serves as the advocacy arm for all the school districts in Riverside County — from which he stole thousands of dollars in addition to pilfering funds from a school booster club — is slated to be sentenced Thursday to a year in jail and three years felony probation.
William Clarence Newberry, 62, ex-president of the Riverside County School Boards Association, pleaded guilty in November to embezzlement and grand theft. In exchange for his admissions, the District Attorney’s Office dropped two related felony counts.
“Criminal conduct that violates the public trust, that involves a breach of duty from a supposed public servant, is so corrosive to a community that it must be addressed harshly,” according to a sentencing brief filed by the prosecution.
The DA’s Office is insisting that Newberry, who has remained free on bond since his arrest in June 2019, do at least a year in jail for his offenses. The defendant has contended that he cannot endure time behind bars because he requires a “special diet that is high in fiber,” and he needs to continue working to support his family, according to the brief.
“If such excuses were valid reasons to avoid custody, few people would ever serve time in the county jail as a result of their criminal conduct,” the county brief stated. “A custodial sentence sends a clear message to the defendant and the community that he will not benefit for the years-long violations of the duties he owed the public.”
According to court papers, DA’s investigators were alerted in November 2018 to illicit use of funds belonging to the RCSBA, along with the Eleanor Roosevelt High School Climate Booster Club in Eastvale.
The RCSBA represents the county’s 23 school districts, providing assistance with promotional campaigns and lobbying on behalf of the districts to oppose or support legislation.
Former RCSBA Treasurer Tom Hunt brought his findings to the DA’s Office not long after he was appointed to his position, culminating in an investigation that uncovered numerous instances between December 2013 and February 2017 when Newberry used the organization’s debit cards to pay his bills and amortize other debts, prosecutors said.
The theft of members’ dues payments totaled $15,114, according to prosecutors.
“The defendant, over the course of several years, effortlessly spent public funds on personal bills, groceries and goods for himself and his family that in no way advanced, benefited or supported the organizations the monies were to serve,” according to the brief. “For example, the defendant used booster club funds to pay his family’s AT&T bill for several years, to include 2-4 phone lines at times, amounting to well over $10,000 in charges.”
According to the government, Newberry siphoned $19,885 from the club.
“The defendant had access to (both organizations’) financial accounts and … took advantage of lax bookkeeping practices of the organizations and, at least in the case of RCSBA, appears to have avoided scrutiny over personal expenditures of public funds based on a few friendships he enjoyed with other members.”
Newberry is a prior member of the Corona-Norco Unified School District Board of Education.
He had no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions.