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California elections watchdog opens investigation into Inglewood school district spending

Grant Slater/KPCC

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The Fair Political Practices Commission said Friday it’s begun to investigate whether public funds meant for Inglewood Unified students were used to carry out political campaigning, as reported by KPCC last month.

“The FPPC enforcement division opened an investigation into the case,” commission spokesman Jay Wierenga confirmed.

He wouldn’t reveal details of the investigation.

As KPCC reported in July, court records show a private investigations firm billed the Inglewood Unified School District nearly $5,000 to distribute fliers critical of a candidate challenging an incumbent school board member in 2009.

The commission began looking into the matter soon after the story aired.

“An investigation is not opened unless there is sufficient cause to believe that, in general, a violation of the Political Reform Act may have occurred,” Wierenga said.

The commission can take up to a year and a half to complete an investigation. Those found to have violated California election laws face fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

“We’re happy that this is taking place and may get to the root of some of the problems that caused the state takeover” of Inglewood Unified said Chris Graeber, an official with Calpro, which represents non-teaching school district staff.

Two years ago, California education officials took control of the school district, ejecting the superintendent and stripping the school board of its authority and opening a $55 million credit line to save Inglewood schools from going bankrupt.