Xavier De La Torre, superintendent for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, has agreed to give back nearly $100,000 of his salary over the rest of his contract to help pay down the interest and principal of a housing relocation loan he received last year.
The loan was a source of consternation following the exit of the previous county superintendent, Charles Weis, who did not make any payments on a downtown condo the county helped him buy with a reported $915,000 loan. Weis left the county Office of Education on the hook for the condo, which will most likely be rented as the housing market continues to rebound and eventually sold.
De La Torre, who signed a four-year contract with the county in March 2012 after working in El Paso, Texas, received a loan similar to the one Weis received.
In his letter(s) to media outlets, De La Torre wrote:
“Much scrutiny has been given to my compensation package with the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Though I am comfortable withstanding the public scrutiny, the continued focus on me and my compensation has become a very real distraction for a public agency needing to dedicate its collective focus to our county’s students. With that precise interest in mind, I have worked with the Board to restructure the terms of my Agreement to significantly benefit the Office of Education and the taxpayers of this county. After speaking with my family and with their full support, I have decided to forfeit nearly $100,000 in income over the current term of my contract as part of this agreement.
“My hope is that this forfeiture serves as a clear demonstration of my commitment to the integrity of my office and to the well-being of Santa Clara County taxpayers, who I hope to serve for many years to come.”
Each month, according to an amendment to De La Torre’s contract, the superintendent will pay the county $2,500 each month, which will then go toward paying off the loan he received.
A small subplot to this whole feel-good story, however, is the odd manner in which De La Torre made the announcement. At the board meeting Wednesday night, trustees agreed to amend the contract without making a public statement.
But at 3:52pm Thursday, De La Torre sent an email to media from his personal Hotmail account announcing the decision. Twenty-nine minutes later, he sent a similar email on county letterhead from his official work account.
Could it be that De La Torre not only wanted to show his “commitment to the integrity” of his office, but also hoped to come out looking like the good guy while the board—which pushed De La Torre for months to take more financial responsibility for the loan—remain whipping boys and girls?
Ah, screw it. With $100,000 the Office of Education could throw a hell of a party. Who’s got a P-Card?