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News

A Public High School Principal Charged More Than $100K To A School-Issued Credit Card

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El Camino Real Charter High School, located deep in the Valley in Woodland Hills, has hired a forensic private investigator after scrutiny revealed the school's principal, a man named David Fehte, charged more than $100,000 worth of indulgence to a school-issued American Express Credit Card. As the Daily News reports, Fehte incurred the debts over the past two years.

Notable charges include a $15,500 cumulative tab at Monty's Steakhouse, on Ventura Boulevard. A pair of $1,890 first class tickets to Hawaii for him and the school's assistant principal, a $6,700 for a trip to Michigan, several nights in $400 hotel rooms and $5,700 in flowers also found their way way into the invoices.

Because of Fehte's, and other El Camino administrators', extravagant spending habits, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued a warning about the school's exceedingly high use of credit cards. A Daily News investigation followed, revealing Fehte's particular eagerness to spend public money on private expenses.

"He used a school credit card to pay for personal expenses not one, but many times, among other abuses,"said Marlene Widawer, an El Camino parent, to the school's board, according to the Daily News. "And I have news for you: this goes beyond a simple mistake... His behavior shows a pattern of abuse—one that cannot be tolerated."

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Due to the abuse, LAUSD downgraded El Camino Real's charter school financial rating from a 4 to a 1. Though serious financial mismanagement is cause to revoke a charter school's charter, LAUSD is working to implement financial reform at the school before exploring other options.

But part of the problem, however, is that LAUSD lacks any sort of rules governing credit card use. As LAUSD's central business adviser Aaron Eairleywine explained to the Daily News, "there is nothing here that indicates they have done anything outside the law... We're not done with the review yet, but we don't expect it will yield anything along those lines."

Fehte, who characterizes the luxurious spending as a serious of minor mistakes, has offered to reimburse the school for any misused funds. Whether or not that will include the estimated $20,000 expected to cover the private investigator is not yet known.

As for El Camino, the school is run by a nonprofit that receives roughly $32 million in public funding annually.