K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
Fish Got Away in Corruption Scandal
State officials in the education shadows…
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 7/6/04
ago in Los Angeles, a federal court found Michael Guzman and
Robert Guzman of the Templo Calvario Legalization
and Education Center guilty of stealing more than $650,000
from an education program administered by the state Department
of Education. This longstanding corruption scandal provides
valuable lessons for educators, legislators, taxpayers, and
The action was the
only successful prosecution in a five-year probe. There should
have been more, given the corruption and
the money at stake – more than $20 million.
During the 1990s a
number of "Community Based Organizations" were
getting federal funds intended for English-language instruction
of immigrants. Much got used for such items as Mercedes-Benz
automobiles, and to prop up insolvent organizations. Auditors
found fake attendance figures, with bogus teachers and students.
One school turned out to be an open field.
When the auditors revealed the corruption, state education bosses
made life very difficult for the whistleblowers. These included
Robert Cervantes, who managed the department's adult education
program until 1996. Cervantes was also on the receiving end of
threats from the late Bert Corona, leader of Hermandad Mexicana
Nacional, the organization that got most of the money. But the
problems could not remain hidden.
Cervantes and another
whistleblower filed suit over their demotion. The press caught
wind of the story and a grand jury in Los Angeles
indicted Hermandad Mexicana Nacional Legal Center in 2001. But
as one report said, the prosecution has "stalled." This
is something of a mystery.
That organization's many problems were an open book, whereas
Templo Calvario was more obscure. However, Bert Corona was a
friend of Bill Clinton, who invited him to the White House. Robert
Guzman, on the other hand, was a Republican who ran for the state
Senate and lost four bids for Congress.
Corona knew where most of the money went, likely into his own
pocket. He died in 2000 but other issues remain accessible. As
for the state politicians who wanted the funding to continue,
the press has been reluctant to name names.
Perhaps current state superintendent Jack O'Connell will look
into this case. Taxpayers, meanwhile, can be assured that a lot
of their money was ripped off and will never be recovered. And
the Department of Education is not exactly accountable.
The Guzman brothers will be sentenced in November but one can
sympathize on some level. The entire structure of education in
California, not just one program, functions as a vast system
of patronage. And the Guzmans are not the only ones who had teachers
who didn't really teach. CRO
2004 Pacific Research Institute