DA’s office inquiring into embezzlement charge

Francisco Dominguez

Since embezzlement accusations were publicly leveled at Gilroy
Unified School Board trustee Francisco Dominguez in May, the Santa
Clara County District Attorney’s Office will review records before
deciding whether to launch a formal investigation, according to
John Chase, the Deputy District Attorney who heads up the Public
Integrity Unit.
Since embezzlement accusations were publicly leveled at Gilroy Unified School Board trustee Francisco Dominguez in May, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office will review records before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation, according to John Chase, the Deputy District Attorney who heads up the Public Integrity Unit.

In connection with what Dominguez described as a “billing dispute,” South County Collaborative Chairwoman Lynn Magruder said Wednesday that Dominguez has made two payments to the agency. The installments are coming in at “about $7,500” and are scheduled to be paid through November, she said.

All of this follows issues that arose after Dominguez’s company, DZ Consulting, was hired by the South County Collaborative in September 2008 to manage a five-year, $125,000-per-year federal Drug Free Communities grant that was renewable annually.

Fiscal discrepancies came to light in September 2010, when longtime Gilroy accountant John Blaettler, a veteran board member of the local philanthropic nonprofit Gilroy Foundation, left the Gilroy Foundation board and became the volunteer treasurer for the South County Collaborative.

Blaettler said he uncovered evidence showing that Dominguez, through his firm DZ Consulting, stole $52,269 while managing federal grant money for the South County Collaborative. The amount aligns with a South County Collaborative balance sheet obtained by the Dispatch dated April 5, which lists a line item as “total accounts receivable” of $52,629. The figure in the Collaborative’s balance sheet apparently transposed two numbers.

In early June, Deputy DA Chase said he would take a closer look at the situation.

As of Tuesday, Chase said he had spoken with Blaettler and said the DA’s office is still scrutinizing the charges.

“These things take awhile to look into and investigate,” he said. “We’ve got to collect the documents and talk to possible witnesses, even before we decide whether we’re going to open a formal investigation. I would guess it would be potentially a few weeks before we even know that.”

When asked if the DA’s office has requested documents from Blaettler or the South County Collaborative, Chase said this was a level of detail he would not go into.

Thusfar, the South County Collaborative has not sought prosecution, Magruder confirmed Tuesday, but “the investigation is ongoing as it has been for quite a while, with many people looking into it,” she said.

Magruder did not specify who the “many people” are.

On May 31, the Gilroy Foundation Board sent a strongly worded letter to the South County Collaborative Board, severing a $70,000 grant it obtained to assist the Collaborative and also kicking the agency out of shared office space.

The money came from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation – a philanthropic organization in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties – and was specifically applied for by the Gilroy Foundation with the intention of sending the money to the Collaborative, according to Donna Pray, the Gilroy Foundation’s executive director.

That grant covered about 75 percent of a new position at the South County Collaborative of CEO/strategic director according to Pray who explained “the SCC has other funds to pay the rest”

Magruder said the Collaborative’s new CEO/strategic director, Elena Ruiz-Thomas, is still employed and that the agency is “constantly looking for funding for all of our programs and activities” and will continue to attempt to fund Ruiz-Thomas’s position.

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