Ex-charter school chief gets $215K after resigning in wake of spending controversy
WOODLAND HILLS >> Former El Camino Real Charter High School principal David Fehte, who resigned in October after becoming embroiled in a credit card-spending controversy, will be receiving $215,000 for his sudden departure under an arrangement with the school’s governing board, the Daily News has learned.
The El Camino Real Alliance board voted on Nov. 16 to execute an “early termination without cause” provision that was in Fehte’s employment contract, which states the board can unilaterally and without cause or advance notice terminate his contract but “shall pay to the employee the equivalent of twelve months of gross base salary,” according to Janelle A. Ruley, an attorney who represents the board, and the contract. The provision will become effective starting Dec. 16.
“We had extensive discussions with our legal department and this is the way we felt was the best opportunity we had to move ahead,” board member Scott Silverstein said Wednesday.
Fehte, who had served at the helm of the independent charter school since 2011, agreed to resign as part of a last-minute deal struck with the Los Angeles Unified School District in order to halt revocation proceedings over alleged “fiscal mismanagement,” which school administrators denied, and lax board oversight, among other issues.
LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King announced the memorandum of understanding on Oct. 18 nearly two weeks after El Camino board members announced the upcoming departure of the school’s chief business officer Marshall Mayotte under the threat of revocation — and a planned pay cut and shortened contract term for Fehte. Mayotte is due to leave his post next month.
Parent Marlene Widawer, a vocal Fehte critic, said she was “a little appalled at the amount” Fehte will receive and said she would have liked to hear some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing in his departure arrangement.
“I would have preferred there would have been something more punitive in terms of his release but if this just makes him go away into the sunset, then I understand it,” Widawer said.
School officials have said Fehte has reimbursed the school for more than $6,000 in “inadvertent personal” expenses charged on his school-issued American Express card over the last several years. But Fehte, who could not be reached Wednesday, has publicly denied doing anything wrong.
Parent Erin Sanchez, a vocal supporter of Fehte, said she is fine with the amount he will be getting and feels he should not have been pressured to resign in the first place.
“My feeling on Dave was that he stepped down to save our charter — that’s the bottom line,” she said.
Following a Daily News investigation published in May, district staffers alleged in August “numerous seemingly exorbitant personal and/or improper expenses” were charged by school administrators and processed without scrutiny from November, 2013 to December, 2015. School administrators said the vast majority of the expenses were for legitimate business purposes.
Fehte’s contract also stipulated that he could be terminated “with cause” in several instances, including breach of his contract agreement and for any grounds enumerated in the employee handbook. The board would have had to first serve a written statement of the grounds of termination and then serve it upon the employee, according to the contract.
Meanwhile, the school continues to scramble to meet all of LAUSD’s demands, including replacing five El Camino board members and adding two more for a total of nine.
In a special meeting Wednesday, the board appointed a new member, Julie Kornack, director of public policy at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, to serve as a community representative. The board also installed Steve Cohen, owner of West Hills Pizza, to be the parent representative and Steven Kofahl to be the teacher representative following elections. Robert Weinberg, a representative selected by LAUSD who formerly served as the principal at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, was also installed.
Two more community representatives will be selected in December and another representing classified staff, which excludes teachers, will be elected in January. Those interested in applying for these volunteer positions should look for the application on the school’s website as early as Friday, said Melanie Horton, the school’s director of business.Ex-charter school chief gets $215K after resigning in wake of spending controversy: