For those of you who've missed the last week here: LEAP is a charter that just lost its non-profit status because of "bad advice." I contend that the only advice LEAP received that matters would have come from NJDOE, which has the sole responsibility to oversee New Jersey's charters.An employee of LEAP Academy University Charter School claims in a lawsuit that he was ordered to make repeated repairs to the home of the school’s founder, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago.Mark Paoli, who was facilities manager at the Camden school for more than a decade, contends Bonilla-Santiago “routinely demanded that he perform work on her home while on LEAP Academy time and using LEAP Academy tools, equipment and supplies.”The suit contends Paoli was demoted after complaining about his alleged treatment to a LEAP administrator. It also asserts that Paoli, who is white, was replaced by a less-qualified minority, said Alan Richardson, a Woodbury attorney for the LEAP worker.[...]Among other claims, the lawsuit asserts Bonilla-Santiago in June 2006 allegedly ordered Paoli to repair columns in front of her house, a job that required the hiring of a laborer. Bonilla-Santiago allegedly paid for the labor and supplies “with a check drawn on the Alfred Santiago Scholarship Endowment,” the suit alleges.According to the suit, Paoli “knew it was unlawful” to make personal repairs while being paid by LEAP. The Audubon man allegedly complained about Bonilla-Santiago’s conduct “on several occasions but was told to keep his complaints to himself or Bonilla-Santiago would fire him,” the suit says.
Does NJDOE conduct forensic audits on all of New Jersey's charters? Do they bring in people with the expertise to spot anomalies like this? Or is a lack fiscal oversight part of the "freedom" that charters enjoy in this state?
Even if the allegation turns out to be false, it's clear that LEAP did not handle its financials properly; if they did, they wouldn't have lost their non-profit status. These continuing problems with this school are a failure not just of school leadership, but of oversight.
NJDOE ought to be asking themselves how they have allowed things to devolve this badly at LEAP.
Accountability begins at home.