ST. PAUL (AP) -- A state lawmaker said he will ask the Ramsey County prosecutor and Attorney General Mike Hatch to open criminal and civil investigations into a St. Paul charter school that shut down last week.
DFL Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul, a former prosecutor, said Wednesday an audit raises numerous questions about financial irregularities at Success Academy.
Another DFL lawmaker, Sen. Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis, said he might hold a hearing this year on charter-school oversight because he thinks Success Academy's problems should have been spotted sooner. There are roughly 70 charter schools in the state.
The St. Paul School District, which conducted the audit, decided not to renew its sponsorship of the school and the school closed shortly thereafter. The school was $1.4 million in debt. Charter schools, run by parents and teachers, receive public funds but operate independent of many state regulations.
Among the problems mentioned in the review is the building space used by Success Academy, which operated under a parent company called Public Academy. The report said St. John's Church leased the space to ''a dummy company set up by Public Academy'' for $140,000 a year. The dummy company charged Success Academy $420,000. The rent was lowered to $227,000 after questions were raised.
The audit also notes that employees received cash advances for things such as wedding expenses and rent. About 50 percent of cash payments had no supporting documentation.
''Who knows what type of hornet's nest they'd find,'' Entenza said.
Chuck Young Jr., head of Public Academy, referred questions to his attorney, who said he hasn't discussed the possibility of legal action with his client.
The review also raised questions about how the school obtained money from the state. Schools like Success Academy get state aid based on student enrollment. Auditors found that when a student transferred to Success Academy, the school would give a child a new state ID number instead of using the old one.
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