October 23, 2002

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Brown's school ties

THE LEGACY OF former San Francisco school superintendent Bill Rojas just keeps getting worse. In the past three weeks, state and federal prosecutors have brought three felony embezzlement cases against former San Francisco Unified School District employees and companies that do business with the SFUSD. The theft – allegedly more than $1 million in taxpayer loot – reflects horribly on the superintendent who oversaw the Edison Elementary School privatization fiasco and the apparent misuse of huge sums of bond money.

But as A.C. Thompson reports on page 30, the press has largely overlooked another key element of the scandal: a link to Mayor Willie Brown. Corporations and individuals now under indictment funneled tens of thousands of dollars to the mayor's 1999 reelection bid. In fact, the District Attorney's Office alleges that $25,000 was stolen from the SFUSD and given to the Democratic County Central Committee with the express purpose of underwriting Brown's reelection.

If that's true, it's alarming (even by the lax ethical standards of Brown's administration). At the very least, the mayor and the Democratic Party ought to give the money back. But the District Attorney's Office should be looking into the larger questions here: What did the alleged crooks expect to get in exchange for their campaign money? Was there a connection between the Mayor's Office, the school superintendent, and a bunch of contractors who, the prosecutors charge, were stealing money meant to help schoolkids?

The indictments issued in the past week were a start, but this investigation should be far from over.