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State takes over finances of 4 charter schools

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state has taken over the finances of four Albuquerque charter schools embroiled in an ongoing FBI investigation.

The Public Education Department, in an Aug. 28 letter, told the four governing councils of the Southwest Secondary Learning Center schools that it was taking over the schools’ finances.

In the letter, PED also said it would hire an outside firm to complete a forensic audit of the schools in cooperation with other authorities.

“Ongoing investigations by the (PED), New Mexico State Auditor and the Federal Bureau of Investigation gives the Department reason to believe that there has been mismanagement, improper recording or improper reporting of public school funds under the Governing Council’s controls,” said Paul Aguilar, PED deputy secretary of finances and operations.

Scott Glasrud, head administrator of the schools, resigned last month.

The FBI has confirmed it is investigating the schools but has not released details of its investigations.

Last month, state Auditor Hector Balderas released a report stating two of the schools that shared an aviation program “failed to follow a transparent competitive bidding process” when contracting with a private company owned by Glasrud for plane rentals, spending $1.1 million.

In a letter sent Wednesday, PED told Balderas it is considering an ethics investigation into Glasrud that could lead to the revocation of unspecified educational licenses.

“PED continues to investigate this matter and will take all available actions to recoup any misappropriated public school funds,” Aguilar said in the letter to the state auditor.

The governing councils’ attorney, Patricia Matthews, said the councils will continue to cooperate with the authorities.

“We’re cooperating. We’re doing anything they ask us to do,” Matthews said.

The schools include Southwest Secondary Learning Center, Southwest Aeronautics, Mathematics, and Science Academy, Southwest Intermediate Learning Center and Southwest Primary Learning Center.