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Ex-San Diego County Preschool for All director slapped with conflict of interest fine

First Five funding received by husband of county education executive

Mark Crandall listing from Linkedin
Mark Crandall listing from Linkedin

An ex-coordinator of the San Diego County Office of Education's Pre School for All program is set to pony up a $5000 conflict-of-interest fine to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, but one witness argues the measure is insufficient.

Per a stipulated agreement before the commission at its July 21 meeting, the agency alleges that San Diego Office of Education executive Claire Crandall "influenced a governmental decision of an agency in another county in favor of entering into a contract with a company owned by Crandall’s spouse."

Adds the stipulation: “Influencing a governmental decision in which an official has a financial interest is a serious violation of the [California Political Reform Act] with a high degree of public harm.

“This type of violation undermines public trust in government. Such conduct contradicts the Act’s decree that public officials should serve the needs of all citizens in an impartial manner—free from bias caused by their own financial interests.”

But Crandall critic Sandra Silverman argues in an email posted online by the FPPC that the pending action doesn't go far enough.

"With all due respect, the stipulation and fine seem insignificant given the extent of the conflict of interest," Silverman advises.

"The Preschool for All program for children living in San Diego County was directed through the San Diego County Office of Education,” adds Silverman’s email.

“Claire was employed by [the of San Diego County Office of Education] and supervised the entire data team.”

“The children deserved more, the taxpayers deserve more, and the Crandall’s deserve far less. Please expand the stipulation to the highest possible fine.”

The proposed stipulation recounts the history of a small software firm set up by Crandall’s husband Mark Crandall in January 2012, subsequently known as Early Quality Software.

On August 27 of that year, according to the document, Crandall's company "entered into a software contract" with the San Diego Office of Education "for the purchase and hosting of a database system."

“Prior to the contract award, Claire often shared in staff meetings that she discussed [Preschool for All] data needs with her husband and he helped with her with her data work,” Silverman’s email says.

“Claire then drafted the first Request for Proposal which greatly influenced the specific requirements of the contract,” the document charges.

“Subsequently Mark Crandall was awarded the contract. The database project was called Pinwheel.”

But the current stipulation centers on not the San Diego deal, instead citing repeated pitches Crandall made to First 5 Ventura County, a government agency funded by state tobacco taxes, on behalf of another contract for her husband’s firm.

"At the time, Crandall knew that she had a financial interest in these decisions because Mark Crandall was an owner of, managed, performed work for, and received income from [Early Quality Software]."

The document goes on to say that "[Claire] Crandall contends that she notified her supervisors and [the San Diego Office of Education] legal counsel about her financial interest in EQS. However, she contends she did not know that contacting another agency could also be a conflict of interest.”

According to the stipulation, Claire Crandall's position was not among those included in the San Diego education office's Conflict of Interest Code and she wasn't required to file a Statement of Interests during her time at the agency.

"Even so, Crandall had received ethics training as part of her employment with [San Diego Office of Education].”

Silverman's email describes an extensive relationship between Mark Crandall's operation and his wife's work.

"Several [San Diego County Office of Education] employees and persons from partner agencies expressed concern. One employee even left her position."

"At least as early as 2013, and continuing for multiple years thereafter, [Early Quality Software] was engaged in efforts to promote and sell Pinwheel to other government agencies, including other county offices of education," according to the proposed stipulation.

"Also, [Claire] Crandall made efforts of her own to promote Pinwheel to other agencies."

"Specifically, on or about May 8, 2013, Crandall emailed Petra Puls, Program Manager, First 5 Ventura County. "The email mentions a conference call to take place ‘tomorrow morning,’ and in the email, Crandall writes: 'San Diego completed [a Request for Proposal] process that resulted in the selection of a database that is working very well for us. I have attached the RFP to this email. Please let us know if you need anything further from San Diego for this work.' The RFP described in the email was attached to the email."

"Crandall followed up with First 5 Ventura County by sending another email to Puls, which stated: 'Hi Petra: Just checking in to see how you are doing with your Pinwheel decision.

“’I am keeping my fingers crossed.... Let me know if you need anything from me.’”

The document cites additional contacts between Crandall and First 5 Ventura County leading to the June 25, 2015, award of an $18,000 contract to Early Quality Software

According to the stipulation "Crandall contends that she notified her supervisors and [San Diego Office of Education] legal counsel about her financial interest in [Early Quality Software].

“However, she contends she did not know that contacting another agency could also be a conflict of interest.”

“There is no evidence that Crandall or Ventura County sought advice from the FPPC regarding Crandall’s involvement in contracts with [Early Quality Software].

“Crandall maintains that she was acting under a mistaken belief that her actions were lawful since Crandall was not an employee of Ventura First 5 and was not a decision-maker for this governmental agency.”

“In mitigation, Crandall has no prior history of violating the Act.”

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Mark Crandall listing from Linkedin
Mark Crandall listing from Linkedin

An ex-coordinator of the San Diego County Office of Education's Pre School for All program is set to pony up a $5000 conflict-of-interest fine to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, but one witness argues the measure is insufficient.

Per a stipulated agreement before the commission at its July 21 meeting, the agency alleges that San Diego Office of Education executive Claire Crandall "influenced a governmental decision of an agency in another county in favor of entering into a contract with a company owned by Crandall’s spouse."

Adds the stipulation: “Influencing a governmental decision in which an official has a financial interest is a serious violation of the [California Political Reform Act] with a high degree of public harm.

“This type of violation undermines public trust in government. Such conduct contradicts the Act’s decree that public officials should serve the needs of all citizens in an impartial manner—free from bias caused by their own financial interests.”

But Crandall critic Sandra Silverman argues in an email posted online by the FPPC that the pending action doesn't go far enough.

"With all due respect, the stipulation and fine seem insignificant given the extent of the conflict of interest," Silverman advises.

"The Preschool for All program for children living in San Diego County was directed through the San Diego County Office of Education,” adds Silverman’s email.

“Claire was employed by [the of San Diego County Office of Education] and supervised the entire data team.”

“The children deserved more, the taxpayers deserve more, and the Crandall’s deserve far less. Please expand the stipulation to the highest possible fine.”

The proposed stipulation recounts the history of a small software firm set up by Crandall’s husband Mark Crandall in January 2012, subsequently known as Early Quality Software.

On August 27 of that year, according to the document, Crandall's company "entered into a software contract" with the San Diego Office of Education "for the purchase and hosting of a database system."

“Prior to the contract award, Claire often shared in staff meetings that she discussed [Preschool for All] data needs with her husband and he helped with her with her data work,” Silverman’s email says.

“Claire then drafted the first Request for Proposal which greatly influenced the specific requirements of the contract,” the document charges.

“Subsequently Mark Crandall was awarded the contract. The database project was called Pinwheel.”

But the current stipulation centers on not the San Diego deal, instead citing repeated pitches Crandall made to First 5 Ventura County, a government agency funded by state tobacco taxes, on behalf of another contract for her husband’s firm.

"At the time, Crandall knew that she had a financial interest in these decisions because Mark Crandall was an owner of, managed, performed work for, and received income from [Early Quality Software]."

The document goes on to say that "[Claire] Crandall contends that she notified her supervisors and [the San Diego Office of Education] legal counsel about her financial interest in EQS. However, she contends she did not know that contacting another agency could also be a conflict of interest.”

According to the stipulation, Claire Crandall's position was not among those included in the San Diego education office's Conflict of Interest Code and she wasn't required to file a Statement of Interests during her time at the agency.

"Even so, Crandall had received ethics training as part of her employment with [San Diego Office of Education].”

Silverman's email describes an extensive relationship between Mark Crandall's operation and his wife's work.

"Several [San Diego County Office of Education] employees and persons from partner agencies expressed concern. One employee even left her position."

"At least as early as 2013, and continuing for multiple years thereafter, [Early Quality Software] was engaged in efforts to promote and sell Pinwheel to other government agencies, including other county offices of education," according to the proposed stipulation.

"Also, [Claire] Crandall made efforts of her own to promote Pinwheel to other agencies."

"Specifically, on or about May 8, 2013, Crandall emailed Petra Puls, Program Manager, First 5 Ventura County. "The email mentions a conference call to take place ‘tomorrow morning,’ and in the email, Crandall writes: 'San Diego completed [a Request for Proposal] process that resulted in the selection of a database that is working very well for us. I have attached the RFP to this email. Please let us know if you need anything further from San Diego for this work.' The RFP described in the email was attached to the email."

"Crandall followed up with First 5 Ventura County by sending another email to Puls, which stated: 'Hi Petra: Just checking in to see how you are doing with your Pinwheel decision.

“’I am keeping my fingers crossed.... Let me know if you need anything from me.’”

The document cites additional contacts between Crandall and First 5 Ventura County leading to the June 25, 2015, award of an $18,000 contract to Early Quality Software

According to the stipulation "Crandall contends that she notified her supervisors and [San Diego Office of Education] legal counsel about her financial interest in [Early Quality Software].

“However, she contends she did not know that contacting another agency could also be a conflict of interest.”

“There is no evidence that Crandall or Ventura County sought advice from the FPPC regarding Crandall’s involvement in contracts with [Early Quality Software].

“Crandall maintains that she was acting under a mistaken belief that her actions were lawful since Crandall was not an employee of Ventura First 5 and was not a decision-maker for this governmental agency.”

“In mitigation, Crandall has no prior history of violating the Act.”

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