Monday, February 7, 2011
District Attorney's Office looking into China trips sponsored by Hacienda-La Puente Unified 美媒体揭徐乃星腐败案
Fox News on Hacienda La Puente School District "Confucius Classroom" 福克斯新闻报道“孔子课堂”
Norman Hsu （Hacienda La Puente School Board Member) 徐乃星（哈崗学委）
District Attorney's Office looking into China trips sponsored by Hacienda-La Puente Unified
By J.D. Velasco, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/06/2011 07:02:23 AM PST
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office has opened an inquiry into allegations that a member of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Board of Education has been using district employees and resources to organize private trips to China, officials said.
Dave Demerjian, head of the Division of Public Integrity, could not provide any specifics about the inquiry, but Kai Chen, the anti-Chinese government activist who made the complaint, alleges that longtime board member Norman Hsu has for 15 years been using district time and resources to organize the trips.
"The tours he organized using school facilities had nothing to do with education," Chen said.
According to district documents, of nine people who took a trip to Tibet last year, only three worked in education. The other six included a pharmacist, court employee, cosmetologist and a ballet instructor.
"(They're) using public facilities, staff and resources to run a private enterprise," Chen said.
Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka disagreed, saying that the trips allow community members to learn about Chinese culture - an important thing in a district with many students of Chinese descent.
"Our attorneys have advised us that these trips do have a legitimacy," Nakaoka said. "They do not amount to a gift of public funds."
Hsu said he organizes the trips for the public because they are "good for the community and good for the people of the community."
While Nakaoka believes the use of district resources was justified, she has decided the trips will no longer be organized on district time to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing.
She declined to specify when the decision was made, only saying it was done after "quite a bit of thought."
Chen made the complaint after a district employee gave him a copy of an e-mail regarding the trips.
The e-mail was sent by district secretary Patti Lampassi to district employees and reads, in part:
"Regarding any future Spring Tours that are being arranged by Mr. Hsu, please share the following information with your family and friends who are interested. I will no longer be sending information or answering inquiries, collecting money, or collecting passports for the Spring tours."
Through a public records request, Chen obtained an additional 300 pages of documents related to trips organized by the district and Hsu.
Chen said the documents "are solid evidence that (Hsu) violated the law."
The district is in murky waters, said Kirk Hanson served as the first chairman of the Santa Clara County Ethics Commission and is now executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
Travel programs present a special challenge for school districts and universities.
"Travel like this has bedeviled many institutions, including educational institutions," he said. "There can be fraut with the potential for self-interest and the diversion of funds."
Hanson said school districts must walk a fine line when allowing members of the general public the go on educational trips.
"At a certain point, this becomes a private travel business," he said. "If the non-district employees are added for any other reason than rounding out the size of the group, then the program has lost its way and outlived its usefulness."
District personnel have been organizing the trips since the early `90s, but former superintendent John Kramar said back then, they were strictly for educational purposes.
"Those trips were arranged for school district personnel," he said. "At that time, to my knowledge, there was nothing else going on."
Documents show that participants were asked to write checks to either Hsu or Chinese Americans for Education (CAFED), a group controlled by Hsu, according to Kramar. Hsu would then book the group tours using those funds.
"Everything's handled through some special account that he has," Kramar said.
Hsu said he handles the money because he has experience booking trips to China and can get better prices.
"I'm the one who has the knowledge," he said. "I owned a travel agency before I came to the states."
Nakaoka said district officials have been very careful about how the trips have been handles and believes the inquiry will exonerate them.
"I strongly believe we have been forthright and upright about what we've done," she said. "It never serves our district any good to be hiding anything or doing anything dishonest."
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