LAWNDALE (CBSLA.com) — A beleaguered Southland schools chief was reportedly fired Tuesday night over allegations of excessive pay.
Superintendent Jose Fernandez, who made three times the salary of California Governor Jerry Brown, was fired shortly after 8 p.m. after the board voted unanimously to begin termination proceedings.
“After receiving advice from legal council regarding the issue, the board gave unanimous direction to legal council to implement the administrative procedures outlined under 7-D of Superintendent Fernandez’ employment agreement regarding termination for cause,” School Board President Hugo Rojas stated. “This motion was voted on, and passed 5-0 regarding termination for cause.”
KNX 1070’s Jon Baird had earlier reported that the Centinela Valley School Board was considering firing Fernandez, who reportedly made over $663,000 last year.
Fernandez, who was not present at the board meeting, had been on leave since March pending an investigation by district officials after a report by the Daily Breeze in February that highlighted Fernandez’s lofty paycheck and an employment contract that granted him a 9 percent annual raise.a
The 54-year-old Fernandez also took out a $910,000 low-interest loan from the district for the purpose of purchasing a home, The Breeze reported.
In March, Fernandez offered to voluntarily return some benefits back to the district, including his annual raise for 2013 and a management incentive payment and post-graduate bonus, which were worth about $14,500 last year.
Under an agreement (PDF) signed in 2008, the Centinela Valley district could be liable for $500,000 in severance if the district fails to fire him for cause.
Those in attendance Tuesday night aimed their statements at the board members, who had approved some or all of Fernandez’ pay plan.
“Thank you very much for finally doing what you should have done, and should have never done in the first place,” community member George Brazetti said to applause. “You should have never hired that joker.”
Other community members touched on how much the school district has suffered financially, laying off teachers and cutting back heavily on school supplies, while funding Fernandez’ payment plan.
“As a community, we have really suffered, and our students have suffered,” Marion Thomas said. “And you’re correcting something that you did, but I still think that you need to step down.”
“It strikes me that there is a lot still needing to be done to clean up the mess that was voted on and approved, by the majority of you, that brought so much tension to this school district in a very negative way,” Diane Sambrano said.
The case has been investigated by both the FBI and the Los Angeles County School District and are reportedly probing whether any criminal laws were broken.
While his district suffered financially, Fernandez earned $700,000 in compensation in 2013 alone, in addition to the district investing nearly $100,000 in a whole-life policy, which he was able to cash out. Further, Fernandez took out a $900,000 low-interest loan from the district in order to buy a lavish home.
The school district services a total of 6,000 students.