The Capistrano Unified School District Foundation (CUSD) is accusing its former executive director of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty for allegedly stealing “in excess of $50,000 for her personal gain.”
According to a lawsuit filed inside Orange County Superior Court, Michelle Hart admitted to misappropriating funds in December and immediately resigned.
“[Hart] made dozens of fraudulent charges under the guise of her position as executive director,” attorneys for CUSD advised Superior Court Judge Linda Marks, who will preside in the case.
The civil complaint claims Hart covered up the misappropriations by under counting incoming donations.
The non-profit foundation hired her in May 2014 to work 20 hours a week for $1,500 a month plus a bonus of 20 percent of donations.
A year later, CUSD revised Hart’s contract to pay her $2,000 a month plus 12 percent of contributions.
Her 2017 contract revision gave her $5,000 a month but no commissions.
Seeking damages, CUSD wants a jury trial.
Hart has not yet filed an answer to the lawsuit in court.
The foundation launched 26 years ago as a charity to supplement the Capistrano Unified School District’s budget for teachers and students with donations mainly from businesses, including Edison International, SoCal Gas, Rancho Mission Viejo, Cox Communications, Microsoft, Chevron and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
According to filings with the California Attorney General’s office, over the years CUSD has annually raised as little as $124,000 and as much as $1.25 million.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.