Top Managers in L.A. Disciplined for Budget Errors

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The Los Angeles superintendent of schools has taken the unprecedented step of disciplining several top fiscal managers for errors that contributed to the district's $130-million mid-year budget shortfall.

William A. Anton sent letters of reprimand to between 20 and 30 district employees, some of whom will be suspended without pay for two to five days, according to a spokesman for the district.

Mr. Anton himself will take a five-day suspension. Robert Booker, the district's chief financial officer, and three other top fiscal analysts have also reportedly been suspended.

In a letter to the employees, Mr. Anton praised their qualifications but said they could not "escape the embarrassment that our budget shortfall has brought down on our district."

The budget gap, announced in January, was discovered after the district conducted a mid-year review. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1992.)

An audit conducted by the firm Ernst & Young concluded that the shortfall was partly the result of budgeting errors, particularly in the area of health-care costs, and partly the result of failures in communication between district offices.

The disclosure came on top of a $275-million shortfall that was closed by, among other measures, laying off employees and increasing class size.

To address the new deficit, the board of education was forced to withhold contributions to its employee-benefits programs, tap its reserve fund, and freeze purchases of supplies. Some teachers also were reassigned.

"It's nice to know somebody is held accountable, other than teachers, around this system," said Helen Bernstein, the president of United Teachers of Los Angeles.

The disciplinary action sets a "good precedent," she added. "The point of getting in trouble is so you won't do it again, and you revamp your procedures so they're more effective."

Mr. Anton's action, which he took last month after a private meeting with school-board members, was criticized by Los Angeles civil-rights leaders. Three of the top financial officers who were reprimanded are black.

John Mack, the president of the Los Angeles Urban League, told the Los Angeles Times that the three were being used as "scapegoats" for the school board's "poor decisionmaking."

Vol. 11, Issue 25, Page 9

Published in Print: March 11, 1992, as Top Managers in L.A. Disciplined for Budget Errors
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