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Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:25 AM

Financial officer of 10 NY Brighter Choice charter management charged with embezzling $202,837.

Brighter Choice finance officer, with felony history, charged with embezzlement

Can you imagine a school management company hiring a financial officer with a recent history of bank theft?

Maybe these schools do need some oversight.


The Brighter Choice Charter Middle Schools in Albany Friday Jan. 25, 2013. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union)

ALBANY — The former chief financial officer for the Brighter Choice Foundation, which provides funding and support to 10 public charter schools in Albany, has been charged with embezzling $202,837 from the organization.

The arrest Wednesday of Ronald A. Racela marks the second time in four years that Racela has been charged with grand larceny. Two years ago, Racela admitted stealing $53,931 from KeyBank in Albany, where he was employed as a manager in the Community Development Lending Group, court records show.

..."M. Christian Bender, executive director of Brighter Choice Foundation, said Brighter Choice officials were not aware of Racela's criminal history when he was hired as financial director of Brighter Choice Charter Schools in June 2010. Bender said Racela described his separation from KeyBank as "tense" but did not disclose he had been arrested for embezzlement eight months before he was hired by Brighter Choice.

"I knew that it had not been a smooth separation, but obviously I had no idea that it involved criminal activity on his part," Bender said Friday.


He did not know? I am sorry, but that is inexcusable. I don't know about other states, but in Florida to even walk into a classroom or work as an aide on campus a person is fingerprinted.

Racela is still on probation from his bank theft.

The district is required to pay the charter school $14,000 of public money for each student sent their way from the public school system.

They are not handling that money responsibly. That angers me.



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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:33 AM

1. Did They Not do a Background Check? How Could they not?

How could you not do a background check on someone you're hiring to be your CFO? His arrest and probation would have shown up on a background check. Furthermore, I bet if they had even bothered to google him they would likely have found a news story about him stealing from the bank - even it was only a local story.

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Response to dballance (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:36 AM

2. I know, it just doesn't seem possible.

A lot of the charter school leadership give each other a boost now and then even if undeserved.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:37 AM

3. He stole approximately 54,000 dollars and he was

 

out of prison in less then four years!

Wtf!!

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Response to Arctic Dave (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 12:59 AM

4. And still on probation when hired by the charter school company. It's pathetic.

It really is.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 01:09 AM

5. More about Racela from 2011...payments not made to retirement funds.

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Money-woes-at-charter-school-1700580.php

"ALBANY -- Serious financial trouble has prevented the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls from paying some employee benefits.

The school had such a hard time meeting payroll that it did not pay the retirement benefits of some employees for several months, according to an internal email obtained by the Times Union. The school is under "tremendous fiscal pressure," Ronald Racela, director of finance and operations for Brighter Choice Charter Schools, wrote to employees to explain why no contributions had been made to their 403(b) retirement plan. He blamed the financial conditions on the Albany school district's withholding of funds, which were finally repaid last week.

"No 'funny business' has occurred with the school's cash and ... we are victims of lack of cash flow due to our biggest funding source (the ACSD) not making good on their responsibility," he wrote.

However, a financial audit on file with the state Education Department indicates the school has suffered financially for years.

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Money-woes-at-charter-school-1700580.php#ixzz2JFQKGfxD

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:13 AM

6. Some background from DKos poster on how this was kept pretty quiet.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/26/1182406/-Felon-scams-charter-school-scammers

" October 2009: Ronald Racela arrested on a larceny charge from KeyBank

June 2010: Racela hired as finance director of Brighter Choice Charter Schools

January 2011: Racela pleads guilty to grand larceny

August 2011: Racela named chief operating officer of the Brighter Choice Foundation

March 2012: State Education Department denies employment clearance for Racela

January 2013: Racela charged with stealing $202,837 from Brighter Choice Foundation

Racela's KeyCorp arrest and conviction were not publicized, as far as I and the Brighter Choice gang know. Presumably that was a favor Mayor Jerry Jennings did for his friends at KeyCorp.

Even his current arrest was kept quiet, until reporter Brendan Lyons found out about it"

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:16 AM

7. Why was he not in prison in the first place??

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Response to Angry Dragon (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:42 AM

8. Very good question.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 06:17 AM

9. Holy cr@p.

 

If this were a public school teacher doing this, it would be a national scandal.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #9)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:45 AM

10. It would be all over the media if it were a public school. You are right.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:49 AM

11. See, the solution to this problem in my mind is he didn't steal quite enough...

Now, if this had been a seven or eight-figure amount; this would hardly blip on the radar and this individual would be exhalted by his judicial peers and roundly reprimanded with a stern talking to and a bit of time out at one of several overseas properties.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:50 AM

12. Hey! GOP! You can't fix our problems by throwing money at them!

Another failed Conservative ideal.

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Response to randome (Reply #12)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:15 PM

14. Yeh, but it would help if they quit giving taxpayer money to schools like this.

Would go a ways toward restoring resources to public schools.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:08 PM

13. Not the first problem for Brighter Choice. Warned before. This is stunning.

http://nyaltnews.com/2013/01/albany-charter-school-group-hotbed-fraud-embezzlement/47036/

"In the Brighter Choice scandal, Rancela is alleged to have doctored business records and created false payroll entries that financially benefited him.

This is not the first time Brighter Choice has been plagued by scandal, in fact the organization is rife with it. Back in 2011, the Albany Times Union found that the charter school network was behind a series of anonymous fliers and a push poll which urged voters to reject an Albany Public School’s budget. The budget’s defeat would have been to the financial benefit of Brighter Choice. The newspaper’s investigation revealed that Carroll paid for the mailings under the guise of an organization called “School Performance.” Both Carroll and Bender have served on the board of School Performance, Inc.

Those that follow education issues in New York should be familiar with Carroll. He has been one of the most outspoken advocates of a corporate-run schools and busting teachers unions. Carroll also led the conservative group, CHANGE-NY, that helped elect George Pataki governor in 1994. Carroll and Pataki later worked together to get the state to authorize charter schools. Carroll is also president of the Empire Foundation a far-right-of-center group that masks conservative ideology as financial prudence".


There is more:

Carroll is also behind an effort to deny special-needs children access to charter schools. Back in 2010, education reformers tried to make sure that charter schools would be true public schools, thus providing an education to any child who needed one. But Carroll had other ideas, calling the idea a poison pill and saying it would force charter schools to adopt admissions quotas.

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Response to madfloridian (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 02:35 PM

15. Corporate terrorism strikes again!

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Response to Initech (Reply #15)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 06:09 PM

16. And remember, this is bipartisan policy.

I find that hard to accept. Both parties pushing charter schools, knowing it is truly privatization.

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