A former assistant superintendent of the Santa Clara Unified School District has been charged with steering $77,000 in public funds for bookkeeping services to himself and staff members, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Jinfa “Jim” Luyau, 59, of Saratoga, is set to be arraigned Friday on two felony conflict of interest charges in Superior Court in San Jose, Deputy District Attorney July Lee said. Luyau, who faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted, allegedly signed two contracts to have the South Bay Area Schools Insurance Authority pay the district for bookkeeping services and collected $42,000 for himself and paid $35,000 to two members of his staff, Lee said.
He managed the scheme undetected from 2006 to 2012 while serving as assistant superintendent for business services for the Santa Clara school district in Santa Clara, Lee said. It is illegal for a government official to have a personal financial interest in a public contract, Lee said. “He himself profited from it,” Lee said. The two contracts, one for $67,500 and the other for $11,500, were negotiated and signed by Luyau to produce financial records for the insurance authority, a joint powers authority created to obtain the best insurance rates for school districts, according to Lee. In his position overseeing the school district’s business services, Luyau managed the authority’s contracts with the school district and had the checks for payments made out to him and his staffers, Lee said.
“Nobody is going to question what he is doing,” Lee said. “He is the one approving the checks.” In 2011, the county Office of Education first uncovered what Luyau was doing in a random audit of school district accounts, according to prosecutors. “They discovered a couple of checks to full-time salaried people” which was “very unusual,” Lee said. The Office of Education then hired an independent auditor and referred its findings to the district attorney’s office in late 2012, the same year that Luyau retired from the district, according to Lee. Luyau was arrested last week and released from county jail after posting a $20,000 bond, prosecutors reported.
His two staffers, one of whom has retired, will not be charged because there is no evidence they took part with Luyau in preparing the contracts with the district and the authority. The Santa Clara Unified School District oversees 26 public elementary, middle and high schools, preschools and adult education classes, for 15,300 students in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, according to district spokeswoman Jennifer Dericco. The school district is referring comments on the Luyau matter to the district attorney’s office, Dericco said.
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