Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is This Guy A Criminal Or Not?

The jury voted 11-1 to acquit, so a mistrial was declared. I'm having trouble seeing how what he did wasn't a severe conflict of interest:

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in a fraud case against a former Los Angeles Unified School District math teacher who prosecutors said conned the district into placing a $3.7-million order to buy math textbooks he wrote...

According to prosecutors, Vheru defrauded L.A. Unified in 2004 while interim director of mathematics. In that position, he persuaded the district to purchase about 45,000 copies of an algebra book he wrote, they alleged. Prosecutors also said Vheru did not disclose to district officials his financial interest in the transaction.

As a result of the district's purchase, Vheru received about $930,000.

Vheru's attorney argued that his client obtained the proper approval from both the mathematics department and the accounting office before placing the purchase order. Disclosing royalties on book sales was not part of L.A. Unified's policy, his attorney said. He added that teachers frequently write textbooks that are used in the district.

Really? Do teachers really "frequently write textbooks that are used in the district"? I find that exceedingly hard to believe.


Stopped Clock said...

Prosecutors also said Vheru did not disclose to district officials his financial interest in the transaction.


Anonymous said...

It is quite possible that the prosecution was not able to prove that what he did violated a specific law *AS WRITTEN*.

Doesn't mean that he "didn't do it."

Or that it wasn't bad.

But these aren't the questions in a criminal trial.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Yes, I find it highly improbable as well. I do know one math teacher who has written a fairly popular group of high school texts. I don't know if he uses his own books in his classes. That would be a conflict of interest if he were involved in the purchase.

Unknown said...

Mr. Baird had been a consultant who wrote most of the problems in Rio's physics textbook. It's not unheard of to have high school teachers involved in writing textbooks, but I think that if there is a board that picks textbooks they should have a clear rule stating members of the board can't have any financial conflicts of interest. It sounds like there wasn't anything concrete on the books so while what he did might have been immoral it probably wasn't illegal.

Anonymous said...

If the books are good and the district paid a fair price for them... then what does it matter that he wrote them and made money from them?

If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

Anonymous said...

I think both parties are at fault here.

I would guess that when LAUSD buys a text from a publisher, they probably don't ask what sort of royalties the publisher is paying to the author(s). That's between the publisher and the author(s). But LAUSD is the 800-lb gorilla of districts, and in the interest of tax-dollar stewardship, perhaps they *should* consider the royalty as part of the negotiated deal.

At the same time, I would think any ethical person finding themselves in the position that this Vheru guy was in, would, in the interest of being ethical, disclose connections with a publisher that was attempting to sell a book to his employer.

If the figures cited are correct, his royalty was off the charts relative to what normally passes for a reasonable per-book royalty.

Darren said...

Mr. Baird's connection to the material is well-known in our district, and it's possible he doesn't get paid for that material. I'm not going to go ask him about his personal finances, though!

From what I've read elsewhere, Vheru's material didn't even meet the state's standards!

Unknown said...

I think he told us he was paid a consultant fee, and doesn't get anything for sales. But my main point is if they didn't have anything making what he did illegal, and his material was approved by the required boards then I don't think he is a criminal, just possibly immoral.

Anonymous said...

I know Paul Foerster wrote his books while he was teaching. I love Foerster's texts, and I would hope that any school, including his own, would use them. :)

Anonymous said...

If the jury aquitted him, why was there a mistrial?

Darren said...

They didn't acquit. A unanimous jury is verdict is required. Since one person (or 11!) would not change his or her vote, it was a "hung jury" and a mistrial was declared.

Anonymous said...

From the facts in the article, there was no wrong-doing. When Vheru petitioned to have his book purchased, who in their right mind would think the author wouldn't have a financial interest in the sale? The school system bought it and all of a sudden is 'shocked' that Vheru made money? More like they were 'shocked' that people were upset with them for purchasing a teacher's book without performing due diligence. So they went out to lynch the teacher to cover up their lack of attention to detail.
As to the unusually high royalty on the books, depends on the situation. If Vheru published the book himself, ie. paid a printer to produce the books, then all the profit would go to him. My uncle did this with three books he wrote. Made a good profit off of one and ate the cost of the others.