- Reporters Desk
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
The embattled Port of Los Angeles High School Executive Director Jim Cross was placed on paid leave again following a closed meeting on Feb. 11, after renewed allegations of financial impropriety.
A few months ago, the highly touted charter school was in turmoil following the popular Principal Tom Scotti’s resignation. At the time, students and parents believed he was forced out by Cross and that the board of trustees did little to keep him.
Lack of financial transparency, teacher input on school site spending and the appearance of cronyism were the dominant issues. Four months later, it appeared that the board had begun rectifying some of those issues.On Jan. 21, the board announced it had hired Mary Gant, a consultant on Brown Act compliance issues. Gant, a mother of a POLAHS teacher, was among the more critical voices against the board in November.
Gant, a Wilmington resident, had 20 years of corporate and consulting experience in state and federal health care compliance.
Diana Chavez-Feipel, a thorn in the board of trustees’ side since November, got access to the documents she’d been requesting since the spring of 2014. The documents include the school’s bank and credit card statements, and profit and loss statements, — particularly as they relate to Cross’ expenditures.
Among the questionable charges Feipel found were Royal Caribbean Cruise and airline tickets for Cross and family members; postage for Cross’ business, Cross America; multiple flower purchases; a trip to Sweden, Dodger tickets; Terranea Resort and more.
“What I’m doing right now is breaking up every single charge and all the paperwork into charts year-by-year so that it’s simple to see,” explained Feipel during the public comment period of the Feb. 11 board meeting. “And then I’m going to present it to the parents.”
Feipel beseeched the board to report Cross to the police for theft.
“I want you guys to take care of it first,” she said. ‘I don’t want to go to the parents. I don’t want to go to the paper. I don’t want this school to be in a negative light.”
Feipel noted that Cross was still getting paid.
“You all know that Jim Cross is still getting paid. He should not be getting paid. He’s not even doing anything here,” Feipel said. “In fact, he has done a lot of things that are illegal… when other people do that, they’re taken to the police station so that they can investigate him.”
Cross was on medical leave during the campus turmoil in November, board of trustee member Sandra Bradley said. She explained that Cross was asked to work from home when he returned from leave.
After the public comment period, the board went into closed session. When members emerged, they announced they were going to conduct an internal investigation of Cross’ expenditures.
Board President Jayme Wilson said he would not comment prior to the investigation’s completion.