PYLUSD Board of Trustees and Esperanza High School’s ASB Create a Plan for the Recovered $1.53 Million

The funds were embezzled by former finance clerk convicted in 2018


PYLUSD Board of Trustees along with the Esperanza High School ASB, in consultation with school administrators, have created a spending plan for $1.53 million dollars embezzled by a former finance clerk and now reimbursed to the school through insurance.

Former EHS finance clerk Cynthia Marie Campbell was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 14 years in jail for the embezzlement of about $709,084 from the associated student body (ASB). Campbell was hired in February 1998 and retired in 2017.

“The school has solicited student input to guide decision-making relative to spending the reimbursed funds,” Alyssa Griffiths says on behalf of the EHS Principal Gina Aguilar. The PYLUSD Board of Trustees along with the ASB, in consultation with school administrators, created a spending plan that aligns with the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), the state’s foremost expert in ASB accounting.’ “

Nigro and Nigro, the district’s new audit firm, will review the plan before the school can move forward with spending.

“The settlement funds must be used in direct benefit of the students in order to enhance their educational experience at Esperanza,” Placentia Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) Public/Relations Specialist Alyssa Griffiths said in an interview with the Matador Messenger.

“In moving forward, the district, in collaboration with FCMAT, has created a comprehensive plan to implement strengthened procedures in order to better support and secure ASB program finances district-wide,” Griffiths added.

The district has created a plan with the FCMAT to better protect school monies. “This includes providing a workshop for school leaders on ASB best practices and procedures to ensure fiscal accountability, safeguarding of assets, internal controls, legal compliance, and transparency as well as independent audits on an annual basis at all PYLUSD comprehensive high schools and middle schools, just to name a few,” Griffiths explained.

“The school has and will continue to communicate with their students, employees, and families regarding the impact of the funds on campus,” Griffiths added. 

The discovery of the embezzled funds began with a conversation between the EHS yearbook adviser and the current EHS finance clerk in 2018.

According to the Orange County Department of Education’s Extraordinary Audit of Placentia- Yorba Linda Unified School District, published in May 2019, The funds were originally discovered to be embezzled when in early June 2018, the Esperanza High School yearbook advisor asked the school’s current finance clerk to pay for a $5,000 ASB yearbook expenditure.

The funds were originally found to be embezzled when the ASB checks did not match. “The current finance clerk researched yearbook transactions and explained that the yearbook has lost money and the account had a lot of transactions,” the report states. After the yearbook advisor stated that yearbook does not lose money, the current finance clerk showed the yearbook advisor invoices with his signature, but the signatures shown were forgeries.

“The current finance clerk researched more invoices and found that a former yearbook invoice was the same as one submitted at that time but contained some extra notes.” This was then brought to the notice of the activities director, who is the certified teacher responsible for ASB.

To further investigate, copies of canceled yearbook checks were requested from the bank. The current finance clerk noticed that the payee on the checks did not match the activity records. This information was shown to the principal, where she contacted the district’s human resources (HR) department to determine if the checks truly didn’t match. Over 250 potentially irregular checks were discovered and were reported to the Orange County Department of Education (county office).

According to the Final Report, “The transactions for all 14 fiscal years reviewed are compared and analyzed, the total amount of potentially diverted and mismatched funds is $1,563,602.90,” A comparative analysis was done by month and year, which shows that the funds were stolen consistently each year.

Readers interested in the audit can read the full report here: