By Veronica Mackey
When Jose Fernandez signed on as Superintendent of the embattled Centinela Valley Union High School District, his contract stipulated that he could not be fired with less than four out of five votes.
The board went one better on Tuesday, voting unanimously to fire him during the closed session.
A former Inglewood council member, Fernandez became the subject of public outcry and public embarrassment by the school district, after the Daily Breeze revealed his $663,000 annual compensation last year.
Since he became district superintendent in 2009, Fernandez has enjoyed a 9 percent annual increase, expense accounts, and two premium life insurance policies that total $100,000 a year, paid for by tax payers, in addition to his $271,000 a year base salary. Records show he has also taken out a loan for a $910,000 home in Ladera Heights.
The lucrative contract Fernandez had with the district made him among the highest paid public servants in the nation. His compensation for running a school district with less than 7,000 students is well over what President Barack Obama makes for running the country.
The story, published in February, set off a hail storm of criminal investigations, attempts to change state laws permitting such large compensation, and was the subject of numerous op-ed pieces.
While the former superintendent may have been overly paid, he has not been charged with doing anything illegal. His 18-month buyout clause may cost the district an additional $500,000. An investigation company is looking for evidence of wrongdoing by Fernandez, which would allow the board to terminate him for cause and avoid further financial obligations.
While everyone is on board with the firing, the public still wants answers. The fact remains that Fernandez had to have help getting his compensation approved in the first place. Who authorized this deal?
Risk Control Strategies, the company hired by the school board to investigate Fernandez, hopes to uncover the smoking gun that was right under the noses of board members for five years. The company employs several ex-FBI agents.
Cesar Perez, president of the classified union representing nonteaching employees, told the board, according to the Daily Breeze: “Anybody who knew about this and allowed the superintendent to do what he did needs to be put on the chopping block. It would send a message, not only to the state but the whole country that this cannot be happening. It is an abuse of power and that cannot be tolerated anymore.”