Investigation targets Las Vegas charter school’s history of shady practices

An audit that uncovered instances of nepotism and conflicts of interest at Quest Preparatory Academy has brought the school’s previous business practices under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office and State Ethics Commission.

The 2015 audit details a web of entangled relationships between Quest’s former governing board and the nonprofit Chartered for Excellence Foundation, created by former board president David Olive.

Meanwhile, the new state-appointed leader of the school is embroiled in a rental agreement dispute in Clark County District Court, arguing that the lease for the Torrey Pines campus overcharged annual rental payments — by at least $240,000 — to the benefit of one member of Quest’s nonprofit arm.

It’s the latest development in the Las Vegas charter school’s rocky history, which began three years ago when allegations of financial mismanagement completely overturned school leadership.

The issues are part of an overhaul that state-appointed receiver Joshua Kern, who now oversees Quest, has implemented as the State Public Charter School Authority tries to stabilize a school that once had a deficit in the millions of dollars.

2015 AUDIT

The audit, presented to the state Public Charter School Authority, found that a number of Chartered for Excellence Foundation members were also affiliates of Quest when the school paid rent to the foundation for its Bridger Campus property in 2014.

Though the foundation was charged $27,066 for the property at 1300 E. Bridger Avenue by the landlord, it sub-leased the property to Quest for $41,778 — a difference of $14,771, according to the audit.

The report also concluded that Olive was able to use his influence as board president to have Quest hire his mother, uncle and father as employees in the school for salaries higher than what the human resources manager would have recommended.

The audit has been referred to the state Attorney General’s office and State Ethics Commission for further investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said the document is still being reviewed. The ethics commission neither confirmed nor denied the existence of any complaints on the matter, citing state law.

But Olive, who left the board before the state took over Quest, said the audit was “completely unfair” and left out significant information.

“It only mentions me,” he said of the nepotism claims. “It doesn’t mention that there were approximately 11 family members of board members at the school at the time.”

Olive said he did not hire his family members, but that the superintendent at the time did. He also argued that the foundation was going to use the $14,771 profit from the sub-lease agreement to build new classrooms and improve the building.

But the nonprofit never ended up doing that, Olive said, because the school stopped paying rent.

Olive denied that having Quest affiliates also serve on the excellence foundation was a conflict of interest, noting that both boards were voluntary and unpaid.

“None of us ever voted on anything that had to do with each other, ever,” he said of Quest employees serving on both groups. “I never received a dime from anybody either way.”

And as part of a new board that took over after allegations of shady spending from the school’s previous principal in 2013, Olive said he and his fellow board members had to work to rebuild the school’s image.

In a rebuttal to the state sent in May, Olive explained that the school had many challenges during his time on the Quest board — including a complete overhaul of administration and policies.

“This overhaul resulted in discovery of actions made by employees and former governing board members that were detrimental to the school,” he wrote in a letter. “A few of the accusations falsely leveled against me are, in fact, fueled by members of the previous Quest Board.”

Olive had urged the school administration to hire a chief financial officer because of accounting concerns, but said the school failed to do so. He ultimately resigned as a result, he said.

CURRENT RENTAL ISSUES

The latest drama in the school’s tumultuous timeline stems from a dispute over a rental agreement for its Torrey Pines Campus with the landlord, Tower Distribution Center.

Now under the state leadership of Kern, Quest has argued in district court that the lease overcharged the school based on industry standards.

Additionally, the complaint states it was negotiated by Lavar Winsor, who was both a manager of Tower and a foundation board member. The agreement occurred before Kern took charge.

As a board member of the foundation, Quest argues that Winsor had a “fiduciary duty” to act in the best interests of the school.

“In attempting to charge this rent to Quest, Winsor abused his position of trust with Quest to divert tax payer money and line his own pockets and those of the landlord to the detriment of the children of Nevada for whom the money was intended,” the complaint states.

Though Quest and Tower discussed expanding the space so the school could grow its student body, that expansion never started, Quest argues.

To cope with the school’s growth, Quest signed an agreement with Tower for portable classrooms at $29,058 per month — a deal that was roughly $197,148 more per year than what Tower agreed to pay the owner of the portables, according to the complaint.

Neither Winsor nor his attorneys could be reached for comment, though he has denied the allegations in a court filing.

Meanwhile, Tower has placed a counterclaim against the school, arguing that the agreement required Quest to relinquish the lease if a receiver was ever appointed.

“To date, the Receiver continues to not pay rent and yet remains in possession and control over (Quest’s) assets, including its interest in the Lease, and has damaged Tower by failing to relinquish possession to Tower as required by the lease,” the counter-claim states.

Quest had a settlement conference with Tower on Thursday, although it has since paid roughly $357,279 in past rent at a rate the school believes is more reasonable.

Kern said he was optimistic that the school would be able to reach a settlement with Tower.

Meanwhile, the rental agreement for the school’s Bridger campus — highlighted in the 2015 audit — has also been under litigation.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at 702-383-4630 or apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
News
UNLV Surgeon Performs Successful Rare Pancreas Surgery
Las Vegas resident Mary Duda underwent a pancreatoduodenectomy, or Whipple procedure, for her pancreatic cancer. While the grandmother of 19 recovered, her doctors say she's one of the lucky ones. Pancreatic surgery can be risky and has a high morbidity rate. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Las Vegas police explorer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Former Las Vegas police explorer Joshua Honea sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexual assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Fans Line Up to Grab Their Conference Champions Gear
Golden Knights fans lined up at City National Arena Monday to snap up Conference Champions gear and other memorabilia the day after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas-Review Journal)
Las Vegas shooting survivor has surprise reunion
Oct. 1 mass shooting survivors Taylor Stovall and Parker Gabel meet for the first time since Gabel helped the injured Stovall to an ambulance the night of the shooting. Stovall, then 17, was shot in the arm. They met Friday at the Tropicana.
Hawaii volcano presser
Talmadge Magno of Hawaii Civil Defense gives an update on the Kilauea volcano
Same-Sex Weddings on the Rise in Las Vegas
Allie and Tara Shima finally tied the knot. They've been together for five years and have both been married before. This time, they wanted something simple, quick and cheap, but it still had to feel special. The couple chose Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center begins building in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin kicked off the demolition of buildings where the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center will be built. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
"Yanny" or "Laurel" hearing test has gone viral
'Yanny' or 'Laurel?' This Hearing Test Has Gone Viral This hearing test has gone viral on social media with some hearing "Yanny" while others swear hearing "Laurel." The voice is actually saying "Laurel," but the pitch was changed, causing some to hear "Yanny."
LVMPD Briefs on Year's Sixth Officer-Involved Shooting
Las Vegas police have identified the officer who shot a shovel-wielding woman on Saturday as 23-year-old Ondre Wills.
Police release body camera footage of shovel-wielding woman
Las Vegas police identified the woman they said threatened neighbors with a skillet Saturday night. Officer Ondre Wills, 23, shot at Sommer Richards, 34, multiple times on Big Sur Drive, near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road. Police responded to the area after receiving reports that the woman was armed with a shovel. Police said the woman chased neighbors and a security guard. Wills got between Richards and the others and repeatedly told her to drop the shovel. The woman instead turned and moved toward a person who was standing nearby before the officer fired shots. Police said she bit another officer as he attempted to render aid. Richards remains in serious but stable condition.
College of Southern Nevada Graduates 2017-18 Class
The College of Southern Nevada's graduation ceremony was held at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday. The 2017-18 class was the institution's largest in history. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro looking for suspect in bank robbery.
On Jan. 22, a man robbed a bank in the 8700 block of West Sahara Avenue.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee at opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at opening ceremony of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, speaks about the violence in Gaza. (Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting outside Nevada
The Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on sports gambling. States other than Nevada will be allowed to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and race tracks. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, “each State is free to act on its own.” The vote was 6-3. One research firm estimates that 32 states will likely offer sports betting within five years.
Westcare Clinic Crucial to Las Vegan's Addiction Recovery
Christian Hunt, 21, was sent to Westcare in September after he ended up on drugs and in the hospital. If it weren't for the nonprofit's Community Triage Center, Hunt said he would still be using drugs. Instead, he's been sober for six months, and stopped using methamphetamines seven months ago. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Foundation Provides Full Rides for Clark County Students
Somewhere along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, a group of students from Sin City are pursuing a higher education. Feature on the 38 Clark County students that the Rogers Foundation has given full rides to for Kentucky Wesleyan College. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flames engulf house in Henderson
Clark County firefighters battled a house fire early Friday morning in Henderson. The house, located near Volunteer Boulevard and Executive Airport Drive, was fully engulfed in flames about 2 a.m. Shifting winds sent massive plumes of smoke across the southern Las Vegas Valley sky. As of 3 a.m. , the cause of the fire was not known and no injuries were reported.
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time Georgina Chapman was profiled for 'Vogue’s' June issue, speaking on her estranged husband for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault in October. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Chapman, who has two children with Weinstein, also said she has been seeing a therapist and that has helped her move forward. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Read the full profile on Chapman in Vogue’s June issue or online at Vogue.com.
Bark-Andre Furry the dog is a Vegas Golden Knights hockey fan
The furriest fan of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights is growing into a social media sensation. Bark-Andre Furry the Jack Russell terrier has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect Sought In Robbery Attempt
Attorney Gloria Allred on case against Benjamin Sparks
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the victim in a "sex slave" case against GOP political consultant Benjamin Sparks.
2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards winners
Some winners of the 2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards receive their awards.
Weather Balloon Collects Key Data
Meteorologist Chelsea Kryston discusses the Las Vegas National Weather Service's balloon carrying a radiosonde that collects temperature, humidity and pressure readings.
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark And it will have done so faster than any other film in history. The Anthony and Joe Russo directed film has only been in theaters for eight days since its Apr. 27 release, and it’s already raked in $905.1 million at the worldwide box office, including $338.4 million in North America. It will reach the milestone faster than ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ which took 12 days to cross over the $1 billion threshold. ‘Infinity War’ is the 34th film to cross $1 billion at the global box office, not accounting for inflation.
Henderson Residents Fighting Their HOA
Sun City Anthem residents Tim Stebbins and Bob Frank were arrested by the Henderson Police Department for filing a false report of a crime after they claimed their HOA was hiding surplus assessments in a secret slush fund. Nearly a decade later, Frank is still trying to clear his name. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Professor Retiring After 50 Years
Professor Bernard Malamud reflects on his 50 years teaching economics at UNLV and what it's been like watching to school and the city grow.
Donald Trump recognizes Jon Ponder of Hope for Prisoners
Former bank robber Jon Ponder, now CEO of Hope for Prisoners, is recognized by President Donald Trump at the White House Rose Garden. Debra J. Saunders/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Motorcyclist suffers severe head injury
A crash early Friday morning has left a motorcyclist hospitalized with a serious head injury, according to Las Vegas police. The crash occurred in the southwest valley at Durango Drive and the 215 Beltway, and was reported around 1:30 a.m. Police are investigating and one lane of the eastbound 215 offramp has been shut down.
Woman stabbed in the stomach
Las Vegas police are looking for the suspect who stabbed a woman in the stomach during a street robbery Friday morning in the central valley. The 37-year-old woman walked into the 7-Eleven at 531 E. Sahara Ave., around 1:30 a.m. with a wound to her abdomen, according to police. She was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive her wound. The stabber remains at-large.
Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize Eighteen House members sent a letter to the Nobel Committee in Norway, recommending President Donald Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. The letter was signed by Rep. Luke Messer and other GOP members, according to the New York Post. Letter to Nobel Committee This week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump deserved the nomination, as well, for his efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un soon.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like