Tornillo ISD superintendent placed on leave amid fraud allegations

November 21, 2012

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By Ashleigh Costello
EAGnews.org

TORNILLO, TX. – A Borderland superintendent is on forced administrative following allegations he swindled thousands from his school district.

Tornillo Independent School District Superintendent Paul Vranish was promptly escorted from the school board meeting Monday evening after board members voted to place him on paid administrative leave, reports ABC 7.

Vranish told reporters he couldn’t stay for an interview because he may “get in trouble for staying on school grounds.”

The Texas Education Agency began an investigation into Vranish’s finances several months ago following a tip from an unnamed whistleblower.  State auditors concluded that Vranish used his personal credit card for district purchases and then allegedly reimbursed himself more money than he was owed.

The TEA questions more than $47,000 of Vranish’s reimbursements.  In the agency’s final report in September, state auditors wrote there was about $2,500 still in question for which Vranish did not have proper documentation, according to the news site.

The state recommended the board hire a forensic auditor to examine reimbursements made to Vranish over the past 5 years.

Vranish had previously opposed an audit, writing in a September email to district employees, “If creating more obstacles for me to overcome is the objective, while bleeding school district money in the effort, a forensic audit is a splendid idea.”

Board President Javier Escalante said Vranish’s future with the district depends on the results of the audit.

“Once that forensic audit is completed, then maybe we can bring him back, if he’s clear.  If he’s not, he doesn’t get to come back,” said Escalante.

Monday’s school board meeting saw a large turnout from frustrated community members.  When the meeting was adjourned, the room reportedly erupted in cheers and people clapping.

Interim Superintendent Margaret Ruybe, who is also the principal of Tornillo High School, said her primary concern is restoring order and trust in the district.

“We have to make sure we keep focus on the students and just go from there.  It’ll take baby steps but we’ll get there,” said Ruybe.

Vranish submitted his resignation to the district earlier this year with his last day scheduled for June 28, 2013.  Although his resignation is still pending board approval, Vranish’s attorney confirmed his client has received payment according to the resignation terms listed in his contract with the district.

A Feb. 4 email obtained by ABC 7 said Vranish allegedly “collected $276,000, which cost the district $414,000 due to a state aid penalty.”

Vranish has been Tornillo’s superintendent since 2002.

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