Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Public Schools are moving to fire a principal and discipline 15 other employees, following disclosures by the CBS 2 Investigators and Better Government Association of apparent fraud in the free lunch program.
Now we’ve learned that a yearlong investigation by CPS’s inspector general has confirmed our findings and more.
The Chicago Public Schools spend more than a $100 million on free lunches to feed low income children.
But at the North Grand High School, CBS 2 and the Better Government Association found, for example, that the children of math teachers Maria Mouroukos and Virgilio Santos were getting free lunches
“How can you qualify for the free lunch program with a salary like yours. More than $70,000?” Zekman asked Santos last year.
“Sorry, sorry,” was all he said as he drove off.
Mouroukos also did not respond.
Now we’ve learned they’re among 14 employees implicated in submitting falsified free and reduced lunch applications.
“This was a scam,” said Andy Shaw, Executive Director of the Better Government Association. “This was a ripoff of tax dollars and heads should have rolled.”
One already has. Ascunsion Ayala has been removed as the principal at North Grand for allowing the false applications to be filed by her staff.
“The buck stops at the principal’s desk,” Shaw said. “She allowed a ripoff of our tax dollars.”
CBS 2 has also learned that dismissal charges against Ayala allege that she allowed false invoices to be submitted by a school vendor and allowed a breakdown of Board of Education rules to occur — such as tuition fraud, residency violations, falsified attendance records abuse of sick time and comp time.
Shaw praised the work of the CPS inspector general in this investigation saying, “the only way that you hold people properly accountable is when an independent inspector general Investigates.”
Ayala, Santos, and Mouroukos could not be reached for comment.