Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tax Group Fighting Back

The ranks of taxpayer activists continues to grow. A round of applause for our friends in Will and Dupage Counties.

Tax group fighting back
Will DuPage alliance says its levy figures came right from District 203

By Melissa Jenco
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, December 02, 2005

The new Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance went on the defensive Thursday, saying its calculations regarding Naperville Unit School District 203’s finances are credible, having come from the district itself.

The group was responding to a comment by Superintendent Alan Leis in Thursday’s Daily Herald that the community would be hearing a “flurry of numbers, untruths, half-truths and innuendoes” from people asking for a lower tax levy.

“These are the numbers, 203 numbers,” said Dan Denys, a member of the group. “So should I be cute here and say that 203 numbers are half-truths, innuendo? That’s what I’m using. I’m not making up numbers. I’m not manufacturing numbers.”

Leis said his remarks — made to about 60 community and business leaders Wednesday — were not referring specifically to the Will DuPage Taxpayers Alliance, but he felt he needed to defend the district.

“Because I felt the school system was being attacked, individuals were being attacked for not being truthful, and I didn’t think that was fair,” Leis said.

Criticism of the district resurfaced when the school board approved a tentative 2006 tax levy of $169.4 million.

While this is at least $5 million less than it could have asked for, some residents believe it’s still too high because the district already took in at least $24 million more than taxpayers expected after approving a 2002 tax increase.

The alliance plans to ask the district to reduce its levy by roughly $6 million, which is the amount the district expects to have in surplus at the end of the school year.

Leis said in considering the proposal, the district will have to look at what it means for its future because collecting less this year will mean collecting less in subsequent years as well.

“The district has rightly been focused on five-year projections and out, and we have to be very careful of the (impact) it will have in the out years and not just in next year’s budget,” Leis said.

Members of the alliance said the district can sustain a lower levy if it makes cuts in spending, which they don’t believe will affect the quality of education.

“It just really bothers me that they take the coward’s way out and make the community feel that, in order to save any money, we have to hurt the children,” said resident Maureen Taylor, who attended the tax group’s news conference Thursday. “Or if we don’t give them additional money, it’s going to hurt the children.”

The group suggested outsourcing maintenance and transportation staffs to reduce expenses.

Ultimately though, members said their goal is to promote a better understanding among taxpayers.

“If taxpayers want to pay more taxes, that’s certainly a right that they have,” said group member Ari Rosenthal. “We just want to make sure there is an open discussion and all the facts are out on the table.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ex-principal charged with stealing funds

Bravo to our Friends at Citizens for Responsible Government and Rich Conley. Well done. A special thanks to Richard Bryan retired school teacher. We need to see more current and retired teachers coming out to expose the inappropriate use of our school funds.

Ex-principal charged with stealing funds
By Bob Susnjara
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, December 01, 2005

An investigation into Warren Township High School finances that spanned almost a year ended Wednesday with the indictment of a former principal accused of misspending activity fund money on theater tickets.

Philip Roffman, the ex-principal who most recently led Gurnee-based Warren District 121’s Almond Road upperclass campus, was charged with one felony theft count. A conviction can result in a sentence ranging from probation to five years behind bars.

Roffman, 57, remains free on a $25,000 bench warrant and is to plead guilty as part of a negotiated deal Dec. 15 before Circuit Judge Victoria Rossetti. He was a Warren principal for about 14 years until retiring in October 2004, shortly after the Daily Herald began investigating activity fund spending.

At issue was convenience accounts that draw money from District 121’s activity fund. Convenience account spending by adult school employees is required to have a student connection, such as pizzas for a sports team.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney George Strickland said Roffman illegally spent public money on Steppenwolf Theatre Co. tickets for friends and family in 2003. Roffman received a $400 reimbursement after submitting an activity fund form that falsely stated “theater tickets for teacher/staff.”

Roffman was not charged on other spending the state’s attorney’s office confirmed would have violated the law, said Strickland, who declined to elaborate. Those expenditures were detailed in a report filed in December 2004 by special investigator Daniel Field, an attorney who was hired by Warren after the activity fund questions surfaced.

Field wrote Roffman’s use of school money to purchase 17 handcrafted silk ties for $1,186.50 from Lee Allison Co. should be considered “illegal and improper.”

Roffman bought the ties Oct. 25, 2001, documents show. The purchase went unnoticed until it was discovered in documents obtained by the Daily Herald through Freedom of Information Act requests and confirmed by Lee Allison.

To justify having a check sent to Lee Allison, Roffman wrote “healthy communication supplies for fund-raiser” on a District 121 form.

Neither Roffman nor his lawyer, Patrick Tuite, returned calls Wednesday.

Field also found Roffman improperly used Warren activity funds to pay for calls to a telephone-sex line and an Internet sex-partner swapping club membership.

In a statement issued Wednesday, District 121 Superintendent Phil Sobocinski said he was saddened, but not surprised, by Roffman’s indictment. Warren provided documents going back at least 10 years to the state’s attorney’s office.

“It is important the Warren community understand the school district does not condone the behavior alleged in the indictment,” Sobocinski said.

“From the moment the board initiated its own investigation, we were on the record that the district would pursue all legal avenues to obtain restitution from any individuals convicted of misusing any school district funds.”

Working from Field’s report, state’s attorney’s office investigator Lou Archbold spent about 10 months combing through more than just Roffman’s activity fund spending at District 121.

Archbold also explored previous activity fund expenditures by retired Associate Principal Ron Shelton, ex-Athletic Director Lenny Chimino and others who were cited in Field’s report. Criminal charges only were leveled against Roffman.

“We examined all issues that were brought up in the Field report,” Strickland said. “We brought criminal charges that can be supported and are within the statute of limitations.”

Retired Warren High teacher Richard Bryan and Citizens for Responsible Government members in Gurnee were among those who brought concerns about activity fund spending to the attention of Warren officials.

Citizens for Responsible Government member Richard Conley expressed satisfaction after learning about Roffman’s indictment.

“As a citizen and as a member of the (tax watchdogs), I am just happy that the state’s attorney took our concerns seriously and investigated them fully,” Conley said.

Strickland credited District 121 officials for their cooperation in the investigation and said the Roffman indictment means the case is closed.

Four boxes of District 121 property were returned by Roffman last year, officials said. The haul included stereo speakers, compact-disk player, digital camera and a Dixie Chicks video.

Roffman has repaid Warren for some items, but will be asked to make further restitution for unauthorized expenditures, Strickland said.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No Child Left Behind is better than nothing in education

This great article is written by a retired school teacher. It is great to see that she understands the problems of our public education system which include the teachers' unions and lack of accountability. Bravo Johanna Haver.

No Child Left Behind is better than nothing in education

Nov. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
Some highly reputable Valley teachers have complained to me that the federal government has wreaked havoc upon their schools with its No Child Left Behind mandate.

To them, the time taken from the classroom for teacher training is counterproductive and the imposition of uniform teaching techniques on them destroys creativity. They told me of a case where an entire school that had been labeled "underperforming" was forced to make questionable changes when a problem existed in only one specific area.

Recently Superintendent John Baracy of the Scottsdale Unified School District remarked to me that the No Child Left Behind law "levels the playing field." As someone with years of experience running inner-city schools, Baracy has dealt with the challenges of educating "at-risk" students. He is well aware of the enormous achievement gap that exists between the children who come from middle-class to affluent homes and those from underprivileged backgrounds.

Like the teachers, Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, is not satisfied with the law, which he says contains "144 ways for schools to fail." He considers the state program, Arizona Learns, to be "more comprehensive and fair." He has made several requests to the federal authorities to have aspects of No Child Left Behind's adequate yearly progress requirements adjusted so they fit better with Arizona schools.

The federal government began its quest to solve the achievement problem with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. This provided a slew of programs for failing students and cost billions of dollars, but contained little oversight. Forty years later there is no evidence that these programs were even minimally successful. No Child Left Behind differs from the 1965 law in that it holds schools accountable.

Unfortunately, No Child Left Behind does not address other obstacles to school improvement. These include court decisions dating to 1969 that limit schools' disciplinary and dress policies, the teachers unions' protection of incompetent teachers and the education colleges' tendency to promote less-than-rigorous classroom instruction.

In the meantime, according to School Reform News (April 2005), an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that parochial schools are doing a better job than public ones in educating underprivileged students. Moreover, these schools spend considerably less money than public ones.

Parochial schools have some advantages: (1) broad authority over how students look and behave in school; (2) the freedom to hire and fire teachers according to merit rather than seniority; and (3) independence from the colleges of education.

It is a pipe dream to believe that the court decisions that have undermined discipline in our public schools will ever be reversed. The recent election in California indicates that even someone as powerful as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is no match against the teachers unions and, thus, they will continue to reign. Colleges of education will also survive due to the large revenues they bring into the universities from teachers who must take their courses to maintain their teaching certificates.

Whether teachers like it or not, due to default, No Child Left Behind is all we have left to improve unacceptable achievement rates in our public schools.

Johanna Haver is a retired Arizona teacher and author of the book "Structured English Immersion: A Step-by-Step Guide for K-6 Teachers and Administrators" (Corwin Press, 2003). She can be reached at

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Don't bully me

Bravo Marla Pfleger! Thank you for having the courage to speak out. Until more parents join people like Marla at speaking out and saying no more money, no more bullying and no more rejecting accountability, we will continue to see just that from the public education system. Bravo Marla! Thank you for setting such a great example for your children.

Don't bully me
[published on Mon, Nov 28, 2005]
To the Editor:

I am a parent with a student in District 15. The other day, he brought home a proposed elimination list if the March referendum fails.

I am appalled that the District 15 school board would actually think I would cave into its blatant ransom demands.

This is what will happen if the referendum fails:

– All children will get out an hour earlier, which means higher child-care costs.

– Eliminating key elements for the elementary and middle school children.

– No sports, after school activities or field trips, and no more recess.

I am disgusted with this school board and feel it is abusing our children.

To see the entire list of cuts our children look forward to, visit the district's Web site at

I, for one, will not be bullied into voting for the referendum. I would rather move.

Marla Pfleger


Monday, November 28, 2005

Another school official charged with corruption.

Note that she will only have to pay back half of her $3650 a month pension. Hmmm. How many of you take that home in your pension or social security?

Roslyn embezzlers now painted into costly corner


November 11, 2005

In one painting, a full moon lights up the sky while a tall ship pushes through choppy, turquoise waves. In another, a bronze ring creates a portal view of two bright blue dolphins swimming past each other.

The artwork once belonged to former Roslyn school business official Pamela Gluckin, who admits she spent district money to buy them. Now, it's in the possession of the civil forfeiture unit of the Nassau district attorney's office, which auctions the assets of people guilty of crimes and returns the revenue to the victims - in this case, the Roslyn schools.

When Gluckin and her niece, former school business clerk Debra Rigano, were first charged in the $11.2 million theft from Roslyn, they got Nassau Assistant District Attorney Robert Nigro's standard speech.

"I am not your friend," Nigro, chief of the office's forfeiture section, said he told them, "but think of me like a credit counselor."

Of course, the six people charged so far in the Roslyn case did not always use their ill-gotten gains to buy goods that can now be returned or sold. "A lot of the money has been spent," Nigro said. "It's gone to pay bills, credit cards."

Still, the accused Roslyn embezzlers bought a lot of expensive items that can be seized. Rigano, who pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing $780,000, has so far forfeited a pair of 1-karat diamond earrings and an 18-karat gold Rolex watch band that she admits buying with district funds. Those will also be auctioned off to repay the district.

A 1985 state law gives Nigro, a lawyer and former judge, the authority to seize people's assets by filing civil suits against them. In cases with no victims, a percentage goes back to the district attorney's office to maintain the unit and a percentage goes to drug and alcohol rehabilitation and police agencies. Last year alone, the office disbursed $857,787 to crime victims, various state and local agencies and the DA's office.

In this case, all proceeds - an expected $7 million - will go to the Roslyn school district.

Since Gluckin, Rigano and former superintendent Frank Tassone were arrested last year in the Roslyn case, members of Nigro's unit have been working with Farrell Fritz, a Uniondale law firm hired by the district, to freeze and sell off assets belonging to the former officials. They will also team up to liquidate the guilty parties' bank accounts and insurance policies.

Together, they oversaw the $1.1 million sale of Gluckin's waterfront Bellmore home, where prosecutors say mortgage payments were made with district money. The sale last month netted $319,000 for the district. They also handled the sale of a Gluckin house in West Islip, selling it for $1.3 million and netting $322,000 for the district after brokers' fees and unpaid taxes. Two personal watercraft belonging to Gluckin brought in $5,100, and her 18-foot boat is being sold.

Gluckin paid more than $44,000 for the 13 paintings - including the one depicting the dolphins - at Gallery Lassen in Maui in 1998 and 2000, receipts show, shipping at least two of them to herself at the school district. She surrendered them last week, carting them herself to Mineola in a pick-up truck.

The original painting and 12 numbered prints that Gluckin bought in Hawaii each cost between $1,025 and $10,000, according to receipts from the gallery.

In addition, more than $1 million from various bank accounts and properties in Gluckin and her husband's names have been frozen since May 2004. And when Gluckin goes to jail, half of her $3,650-a-month-pension will go back to the restitution fund.

Recouping the criminal proceeds in the case hasn't been easy for the district attorney's office and Farrell Fritz, the law firm. For one thing, assets are sometimes held jointly in the names of other, non-criminally charged spouses. In the case of one of the Gluckin homes seized and sold, a small percentage of the proceeds went to her husband, who had put money into it over the years.

Farrell Fritz has more leeway than the district attorney's office, however. For example, they have sued those who cost the district money by doing a poor job, such as auditors, former board members and district lawyers.

They plan to file more lawsuits and arrange the sale of more property and merchandise. They've already settled with the district's former auditing firm, Miller Lilly & Pearce, for $925,000.

"We use different tactics," said Nigro. "But we're both working toward the same goal."


The following items, surrendered by former Roslyn school officials Pamela Gluckin and Debra Rigano, have either been sold or will be auctioned off, to reimburse the district.


Dawn of New Era - $3,375

Moonlit Serenity - $3,375

Lords of Millennium - $3,150

Circle of Life - $2,000

New Hope II - $2,000

Moonlit Cove - $2,762

Circle Indigo Night - $5,500

Beyond the Reef - $3,375

Mother's Love popart- $10,000 (original)

Lahaina Symphony - $4,650

Lahaina Starlite II - $1,025

Island Romance - $1,695

Free Spirit - No receipt


2 Yamaha personal watercraft (Jet Skis) and floating dock sold for $5,100

2004 Monteray Pleasure Fiberglass 18-foot boat (sale pending)


1-Karat diamond earrings

18-Karat gold Rolex watch band


2850 Lee Place, Bellmore (sold for $1.1million)

1 Pansmith Lane, West Islip (sold for $1.3 million)

Copyright (c) 2005, Newsday, Inc.


This article originally appeared at:,0,1799461.story?coll=ny-linews-headlines

Visit Newsday online at

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Investigation that Nabbed a School Superintendent.

The article below appeared in the Daily Southtown. A big round of applause to all the district employees who finally spoke up. Bravo to the reporters Linda Lutton, Jonathan Lipman and Kati Phillips for all their great work. Let us hope other school employees, reporters and regular citizens will start to take a closer look at school finances in their districts. Illinois spends well over 20 billion dollars to educate over 2 million kids. We are sure that more than one school district out of the 850 plus school districts that exist are misusing their funds.

How the iron fist of Tom Ryan was smashed: behind the scenes of the investigation

Sunday, November 27, 2005

By Jonathan Lipman and Kati Phillips
Staff writers
When Hank Ribich showed up at Tom Ryan's door at 8:30 in the morning, Ryan was not at his best.

The superintendent of Sauk Village schools' hair was disheveled, his chin unshaved beneath his trademark bristly mustache.

Although Ryan's 6-foot-2-inch frame towered over the squat form of the state's attorney's investigator, it was Ryan who looked uneasy. His eyes were wide and his mouth open with surprise.

It was a school day, and Ribich had gone looking for Ryan at the district's headquarters first, before finding Ryan asleep at his Orland Park home. The former Chicago cop, who bears an equally imposing mustache, had come to deliver a grand jury subpoena. And with it, a message.

"We told him he should get an attorney," Ribich said. "He said he had an attorney, but it was a tax attorney. We told him ... you should get a criminal attorney."

It was the first subpoena in a criminal investigation into School District 168 that would ultimately end with the school board president indicted, hundreds of thousands of dollars of misdirected funds seized and Ryan imprisoned.

In an interview with the Daily Southtown, Ribich and Assistant State's Attorney Sandra Navarro explained how they investigated and eventually caught Ryan.

Ryan pleaded guilty last week to felony theft, admitting to stealing up to $100,000 from the district.

He was originally accused of stealing more than $100,000, intimidating and harassing witnesses, obstructing justice, bribery and official misconduct.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the district.

A scion of Chicago's powerful 19th Ward, Ryan had been the unquestioned leader of the district for 15 years and once treasurer of the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

Ribich was conducting his first full investigation since joining the special prosecution bureau of the Cook County state's attorney's office. Navarro had five years with the office.

Both had years of previous experience investigating financial crimes. But the pair had an additional advantage in this case. They already knew where to look.

In March, April and May, the Daily Southtown's Linda Lutton had written a series of stories detailing Ryan's illegal use of district funds to pay for his daughters' college education and gifts for family and friends.

Lutton "provided a blueprint, I think, for the investigation," Navarro said. "Before we even got involved."

The state's attorney's office began investigating after a phone call from the state schools superintendent, Randy Dunn. He had been prompted to action by the Daily Southtown stories.

First encounters

Navarro's boss, special prosecutions bureau chief Scott Cassidy, decided to go after Ryan first.

"We wanted to know who his lawyer was going to be. We didn't really need any statements from him. The evidence was really rapidly unfolding," Cassidy said. "We also knew people were being intimidated out there, so we figured let's move on this fairly quickly. We wanted him out of there."

Ryan was unintimidated before the grand jury.

"He has that attitude about himself, that Ditka attitude," Ribich said, referring to former Bears coach Mike Ditka.

"It's arrogance," Navarro said. "Sometimes (before a grand jury) you can see a nervousness, or emotions, people cry. ... Someone did cry at the grand jury in this case; it was very upsetting the things people talked about in this case."

But Ryan, she said, was "emotionless" as he took the Fifth Amendment and refused to talk.

After that, the pair went after records. They amassed more than a dozen full-sized file boxes.

The paper trail was critical, but just as important were the district employees who began stepping forward. Cassidy said the Southtown's stories had people believing it was possible to catch Ryan.

"We had to put a trust in them," Ribich said. "It was like, 'We're not going to stop all of a sudden and go another way. We're going to take this all the way through.' "

An informal network of Ryan-hating parents and district employees already existed. Quickly, that network started spreading the word that the state's attorney's office needed help, Ribich said.

"Various clerical people who were terrified of (Ryan) gave us information," Navarro said. "Those are the true heroes, those who had the courage to come forward and to provide us with that information while they're still living under the iron fist of Ryan."

First snags

The investigators knew Ryan was intimidating witnesses. He had the entire district scared.

"Some of the employees described meetings where they felt like they were with the Godfather," Navarro said. Or like Al Capone in the movie "The Untouchables," she said.

"I don't know if you remember that scene where (Capone) walked around with the baseball bat, around the table," Navarro said. The scene in the movie ends with Capone brutally beating a man to death.

"You never knew what was going to happen next," Navarro said. "One witness ... she needed the job, but his actions made her physically sick before she came to work in the morning."

Ryan wore metal "heel savers" on the bottom of his shoes, Ribich said. They announced his presence as he strode down the halls.

"You always knew when he was in the building because you heard his cleats," Ribich said. "He'd make it a point to walk hard."

When Ryan was heading to visit a school, secretaries would call ahead to warn their colleagues.

"They would put out the announcement, 'Ryan's coming, hide the petty cash!' " Navarro said.

Petty cash was used for student activities, but Ryan would routinely pocket it, usually while lecturing staff about inadequate security and financial control.

District 168 is the second-poorest district in the county, and its three schools have lacked basic activities like music class or sports.

Ryan was dubbed a "reverse Robin Hood" by prosecutors for stealing from poor children to enrich his friends and family.

Many people in the district knew exactly what was going on, the investigators believe. Ryan hand-delivered bonus checks, directly demanding kickbacks.

"He expected you to pay, and he would tell you the amount, too," Ribich said. "He'd hand you the check, saying, 'Here, I expect $50 back tomorrow.' And you had to get it over there ASAP. Cash."

Others, such as the three school principals, were still loyal to Ryan, who gave them their jobs and took care of their needs with gifts and perks, Navarro said.

"He always had two or three envelopes on his desk that had money in it," Ribich said. "He made it known. You could see that each envelope had cash in it."

Ryan himself was closely monitoring the investigation. He told people what to say if they were appearing before the grand jury. Employees said he would watch Ribich closely on security monitors every time the investigator came to the district administration building.

"He hated it when I went out to the school district," Ribich said. "He'd get furious."

Although investigators were getting boxes and boxes of documents, not everything was matching up with the audit findings.

"It was like a 500-piece puzzle," Ribich said. "You throw all the stuff on the desk, and you look at it."

The witnesses coming forward were telling Navarro not to trust the records they were getting via subpoena. Ryan was altering them.

"When we sent subpoenas to the school district, (Ryan) would review everything, and then he would send it to (attorney Anthony) Scariano before we would even get it," Navarro said. "So they were free to change or amend and to pick and choose what we were going to see."

Some of the clerical workers in the district had saved original copies of the records they were ordered to change, and they supplied those originals to Navarro.

One worker hid original files in the basement, among the boxes holding the district's Christmas decorations. They were only rediscovered in the past few weeks, and Ribich dutifully drove out to photograph them.

Tide turns

In all, the investigators talked to 52 people. They put 24 of them before the grand jury to give sworn testimony. Only Ryan remained silent.

Every time another story appeared in the Southtown about a step in the investigation, Navarro would get "a flurry of calls" from employees and parents with tips.

People began to believe that Ryan, who had scared away so many others, was caught. Some began changing their stories.

"Some had a moment of epiphany where they felt used," Navarro said.

On July 26, school board president Louise Morales turned herself in to authorities and was charged with theft and official misconduct.

Because her name was the final authorization on improper spending, her case was easiest to prove, investigators said. And it sent a message to the community that the investigation was serious.

On Aug. 16, investigators searched Ryan's home and the district administrative office. The documents found at the district wound up being key, the investigators said.

"Then we could see things we didn't have available through the subpoenas," Navarro said. "They were originals."

"That is the eureka moment," Ribich said. "All of a sudden, bingo, you got him."

They already knew from bank records that Ryan typically took out lots of cash whenever he made a deposit, which is called a "split deposit." Searching Ryan's home, they found where that cash went. He was hoarding it.

"It was all over," Ribich said. "It was in dresser drawers, the closet. The majority of it was in the basement."

Investigators removed the cash from the house in a laundry basket.

Ryan's paychecks also were often converted into cash, so it's not clear how much of the cash found at his home came from illegal sources, the investigators said.

But since he used district money to pay for things he should have paid for himself — like meals — it didn't really matter. At least some of that money rightfully belonged to the district, and investigators seized all of it. The final haul was $730,000.End of an era

The search warrant finally convinced Ryan he was going to go down. His attorney opened negotiations with prosecutors to turn himself in.

Cassidy said Ryan wanted to avoid a trial that would almost certainly include embarrassing facts that would damage his personal and professional reputation.

They made a "gentleman's agreement" that Ryan would turn himself in, not ask for bail and eventually plead guilty. Prosecutors, in turn, would not press for a public trial and would agree to keep certain facts out of the court record.

"That said a lot to us at the time," Cassidy said. "When he agreed to do that we figured ... there's a sense of remorse here."

The investigation didn't end there. Ed Bernacki, Ryan's friend and the district's building and grounds supervisor, was charged Nov. 20 with misconduct, bribery and theft. He allegedly stole more than $100,000 from the district through rigged contracts for his company and other tricks.

His case and Morales' are still pending.

Other officials didn't deserve criminal prosecution, investigators said. Associate Supt. George Kunkel lacked day-to-day control over finances and helped investigators with their probe. Other employees were scared into doing things that may have been illegal.

Besides Morales, the school board didn't know what was going on, Navarro said.

"They were like an ostrich with their head in the sand," Navarro said. "Maybe they didn't want to know."

Investigators were surprised by the lack of fiscal control at the school district. The district's audits — which first identified problems with their accounts — were reviewed only by the school board.

Although those audits are sent to the state through the regional office of education, no one else ever reviews them.

"We want people to learn from Tom Ryan's mistakes, what not to do," Navarro said. "I don't know what they were thinking out there."

Jonathan Lipman may be reached at or (708) 633-5979.