The D.C. Board of Education yesterday censured at-large member Frank Shaffer-Corona, accusing him of misusing public funds and "repeatedly" subjecting the board to "embarrassment, ridicule and consternation."
The censure resolution directs board president R. Calvin Lockridge to consult with the U.S. attorney to see if any criminal charges should be brought against Shaffer-Corona.
It is the first time the board has acted formally to reprimand a member, Lockridge said.
The resolution also directs the board's general counsel, James E. Brown, to investigate the charges against Shaffer-Corona and to take appropriate civil or administrative action to force Shaffer-Corona to reimburse the school system for any misuse of funds.
In a separate action, Brown submitted his resignation as the board's acting executive secretary, saying "petty matters," including the board's frequent infighting were consuming too much of his time Patricia Miner, whom Brown replaced as executive secretary, resigned earlier this year for similar reasons. Brown said he will stay on as the board's general counsel.
The resolution to censure Shaffer-Corona charged him with violating board rules by using school system funds to travel to Mexico and Dallas for "apparent personal reasons."
The resolution also accused him of spending thousands of dollars in school system funds to place and receive international phone calls.
Shaffer-Corona placed most of the calls to the U.S. Embassy in Iran earlier this year when he was trying to negotiate the release of Hispanic hostages being held by Iranian militants. The calls to Iran during one month cost more than $1,900, according to Brown.
Shaffer-Corona yesterday denied he had violated board rules or misused public funds.
The resolution was mostly the work of Lockridge, who had been feuding with shaffer-Corona for months. Yesterday Shaffer-Corona accused Lockridge of using the resolution to "discredit and destabilize the elected Board of Education."
The resolution also said Shaffer-Corona used Board of Education reproduction equipment and postage to send "thousands of pages of materials having no direct or indirect relationship . . . to the District of Columbia public schools."
For example, the resolution said, Shaffer-Corona sent thousands of copies of a letter he wrote to Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie, outlining some of his views on American foreign policy.
The copies were sent to a Japanese journalist, a South American ambassador and the owner of the Calvert Cafe, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Washington, among others, the resolution stated.
Shaffer-Corona said yesterday that his trips to Mexico and Dallas were legitimate school expenses. In Dallas he said he was to meet with members of a nonprofit Hispanic educational organization, but the representatives of the group never showed up. In Mexico, he said he met with the assistant secretary of foreign relations to discuss a teacher and textbook exchange program between Mexico and the District.
Shaffer-Corona was not present when seven of the board members voted to reprimand him. Four board members were absent for the vote.
Shaffer-Corona insisted that his phone calls to Iran are related to public education. Any increases in the defense budget because of the Iran crisis, he reasons, would take money away from educational programs.
"I don't owe [the school system] one thin dime" for the phone calls, Shaffer-Corona declared.
Shaffer-Corona was also reprimanded for having confiscated the receiver for the telephone at the receptionist's desk in the Board of Education office, "thereby rendering the receptionist's telephone inoperative and throwing the daily operations of the board into a state of chaos."
Shaffer-Corona said he took the phone receiver away because he was dissatisfied with the receptionist's job performance.