July 19, 2016

State Auditor: Charter school exec paid for cleaning with public funds

Andy Lyman

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference.

A review by the State Auditor found an Albuquerque charter school’s executive altered a receipt to receive a reimbursement from the school for cleaning services performed on her home.

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference. Photo by Andy Lyman

Andy Lyman

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference. Photo by Andy Lyman

The investigation prompted a referral to prosecutors for multiple potential crimes.

The State Auditor looked into the allegations, first raised in the media earlier this year, over the actions of Analee Maestas, the Executive Director of La Promesa Charter School.

Maestas also is the Vice President of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education.

“The timeline of events indicate that the Executive Director used school funds to pay for work completed at her home,” State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. “Efforts to use funds that belong in our classrooms for personal expenses, in any amount, raises serious concerns of public trust.”

Maestas paid $342.40 for a cleaner to clean air ducts at her home and requested reimbursement from the charter school, which the school provided. These facts came from the investigation by the State Auditor.

The apparently-doctored version of the receipt, provided to PED, said 16 vents and carpets were cleaned on July 31, 2015. The owner’s copy of the receipt only lists air duct cleaning.

The owner’s original copy lists Maestas’ name and address, while the altered copies show the school’s address.

The receipt itself “was included in the packet as a supporting document but was not specifically submitted for reimbursement” to the Public Education Department according to the risk review from the Auditor’s office.

PED noted the receipt “appeared to have been altered by someone writing the name and address of the School over the name of the Executive Director and her address.”

PED is also conducting an investigation, which the State Auditor’s office says “may have a broader scope than this risk review.”

The owner of the carpet cleaner company confirmed the charges were for cleaning services at the residence, and not the school.

More of Maestas’ story did not hold up. She claimed that she paid out of pocket for services at the school because the school’s business officers were in attendance at a conference. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference took place more than a month before the cleaning took place.

Maestas provided photos of rooms in her house, saying none had carpets. When asked by investigators about other rooms in her house, she said that some, indeed, had carpets.

The carpets at the school were actually replaced in late August 2015, weeks after Maestas said the carpets were cleaned.

The company also signed a statement that the cleaning services took place at the personal residence, not the school.

Maestas eventually repaid the $342.50 to the school.

The State Auditor’s Office provided the findings to the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office “for further investigation regarding whether the Executive Director’s actions amount to criminal violations” according to the risk review.

A release by the State Auditor’s Office says there are potential violations of the “Government Conduct Act, Public School Finance Act, Paying or Receiving Public Money for Services Not Rendered, and Making or Permitting False Public Voucher.”

The release’s wording also leaves the door open for other potential violations of the law.

7-19-2016 La Promesa Risk Review by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd