Covering government can feel like a perpetual merry go round. And when it comes to the Mora school district, we’re getting awfully dizzy.
The district has suffered much embarrassment this year. First, the Optic revealed that the schools spent thousands on leather jackets, beef jerky and other refreshments and meals for our area state lawmakers. Then after that, the state auditor revealed that the district improperly diverted tens of thousands in federal and other funds into a discretionary account, which turned out to be a slush fund for top school officials.
Last week, the district placed its superintendent, Dora Romero, on paid administrative leave, probably for her role in connection with this spending spree.
So what does the board do next? It starts to negotiate with a former Mora superintendent, Leroy “Huero” Sanchez, to serve as interim superintendent.
Now we’re sure he is capable of running a district. But if the board wants to pick someone who will start cleaning up the mess, it shouldn’t be assigning the task to Sanchez. He is a practitioner of politics-as-usual and has demonstrated a poor track record when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.
This newspaper has done story after story about Sanchez’s questionable spending while he was president of Luna Community College. We found, and reported, that Sanchez, along with other Luna officials, enjoyed an $89-a-person meal at one of Seattle’s finest restaurants; went by train with a sleeper car to Chicago, which cost hundreds of dollars more than flying; got an expensive Yukon and added satellite radio and top-of-the-line speakers; diverted $1,000 from Luna’s educational foundation to a political campaign, contrary to federal tax law; and chose to give himself $8,000 from a federal grant for a program in which he admitted that he had no real involvement. Then, after all that, he abruptly left Luna under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations.
Sanchez’s defenders would probably assert that all of his expenditures were perfectly legal, that Luna passed its audits with flying colors and that no one ever conducted a criminal investigation into the president’ actions.
And all such arguments are probably true.
But what about ethical tests? Was the aforementioned spending right or wrong? We’ll bet that most readers would agree with us that it was egregious. And you don’t need a $100,000 salary to figure that out. You just need a moral compass.
Sanchez showed poor judgment in his spending decisions at Luna — not just once, but repeatedly. As such, the Mora school district can ill afford to hire Sanchez at such a critical time. The auditor has expressed his unhappiness about the district’s finances, and he has referred the matter to state and federal investigators.
The board’s chairman, Joseph Griego, seems to be legitimately outraged with the state of finances in the district. With only nine months on the board, he brings a fresh perspective that some of his colleagues don’t have.
We hope he convinces the others to chart a new direction, and that means not hiring Sanchez.