A $34.5 million grant application, written by a Paso Robles-based consulting company, has created a storm of controversy in the Palm Springs area, where the money was supposed to benefit low-income students.
The grant in question was awarded in November to a nonprofit youth services group called Indio Youth Task Force, but the award was revoked after local school district officials said it included forged signatures, false information, and was written without the district’s involvement.
In an April letter to the California Department of Education, Desert Sands Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Kristina Davis wrote that the application was written by Jean Cross, the president and owner of Paso Robles-based Cross Resources, Inc. Davis wrote that the district had contacted Cross to demand that she “refrain from using [the district’s] name, or any other information associated with the district in connection with the [grant] or program.”
Concerns about the grant have been widely reported in the Palm Springs newspaper, The Desert Sun, and other Southern California newspapers. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported in June that state Department of Education officials were drafting letters to both the state and U.S. attorneys general asking for investigations into the grant.
A California Department of Education spokes-woman said that the matter has been referred to the U.S. Department of Education for investigation.
“I can’t say much more at this point in the investigation,” said Hilary McLean, press secretary for Superintendent Jack O’Connell. “We are actively working with the appropriate government agencies.”
Reached at her business by New Times, Cross declined to comment. Calls to her attorney were not returned by press time.
On her Web site, Cross’ company lists two employees and boasts of having attained more than $100 million in grants for nonprofits. The site says Cross has a doctorate in education from Pepperdine University.
The grant money was supposed to go to the nonprofit group, which was then to use it to fund more than 15 after-school programs.
According to the school district’s letter, district officials originally planned to partner with the nonprofit, headed by a local police chief, but withdrew their support after they had difficulty getting information about the grant. It wasn’t until later that they heard that it had been submitted, and awarded. After reviewing a copy of the grant application, school officials determined it was replete with forged signatures and included on a “virtually fictitious” memorandum of understanding from the district.