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Laurel parent files suit against PTO members, principal over alleged financial misconduct

Original post made on Mar 16, 2021

A Laurel School parent has filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County alleging that the school's parent teacher organization (PTO) used illegal means — through quid pro quo payments — to boost its fundraising.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 11:45 AM

Comments (69)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2021 at 12:47 pm

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As a parent of four district students and former MPAEF board member, all of this sounds only too depressingly familiar. As a side note, it underscores the need to address the pension funding issues directly, as this is an albatross that affects finances across the state, not just in Menlo Park-Atherton.

I have never met Foroughi but am glad she is taking this action, especially given the environment. I also hope the Almanac will cover the district's rebuttal.


Posted by Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 16, 2021 at 1:43 pm

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There is a lot of information in this article. The allegation of undisclosed use of MPAEF donations for payment of pension obligations is surprising, if true. However, it seems that the plaintiff’s primary concern is that her daughter received an unsatisfactory recommendation to Menlo School from Laurel’s principal in the Feb/March 2020 timeframe. I am sure it was disappointing for this mom if her daughter was not admitted to Menlo. I can also imagine that the Laurel principal may have been busy during that time frame last year in the lead up to COVID, not to mention her other duties. I hope the failure to include comments in the recommendation were not due to retaliation. While I have had disagreements with Laurel staff at times, it is hard for me to imagine Linda Creighton taking this type of petty action against a student. I hope that Mrs. Creighton and the PTO are able to resolve this without spending too much of the community’s donations (or the Laurel principal’s time) on this apparent grudge.


Posted by Maria
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 16, 2021 at 3:37 pm

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How sad that this lady is so upset because her daughter was, probably, not admitted to Menlo middle school. I’m sure there are many others who did not get in either. I can only see this as white privilege.

As for the outdoor camp funds: many unprivileged children benefit from the money that is donated by these companies. Some families cannot afford the outdoor camp fees.


Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 16, 2021 at 4:47 pm

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This legal action seems more about retaliation for petty personal interactions than a true whistleblower-type case. If one were truly concerned about the welfare of the our school & students, I don't see why this lawsuit and the public shaming is necessary, especially at the PTO's expense. There has to be a less expensive and less public way to handle this, but maybe that wasn't the point.


Posted by Amy
a resident of Laurel School
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:00 pm

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We have had numerous meetings with Linda and Laurel PTO staff and can say for sure that she truly cares about the school and the students. What is really surprising is this part: "Creighton had scored her daughter highly in some areas — the comments section of the recommendation was left completely blank," the suit states. "This was a clever way for Creighton to effectively damn plaintiff's daughter with 'faint-praise.'" So many kids apply to private schools, and only a few get in. Leaving the comment section blank should not be part of a lawsuit. That is just ridiculous!
I agree school shouldn't have allowed parents to match corporate funding for field trips. I would blame those parents that have failed the school and not Linda for this. Laurel funds many programs for underprivileged families, and always in need of additional funds to support these amazing programs. If the funds were used to provide field trip cost for families who cannot afford, I don't see a problem with that.


Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:36 pm

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I am both a lawyer and a Laurel parent, and I know that filing this lawsuit helps no one.

This parent is imposing horrendous financial, time and emotional costs on the school, administration and PTO. Sure, perhaps there could be improvements in documenting funds for field trips, but this is not such an obvious or material violation (to the extent it is a violation) of the tax code that it rises to the level of meriting this level of outrage. I've worked at organizations where lawyers have struggled to comply accurately with tax guidance, and I certainly don't expect a school principal to understand or work to change a particular tax interpretation that is made at the district level. This year is so difficult for our schools, and they need all of their time and resources to be addressing the complexities and demands of schooling during the pandemic.

If this parent were so concerned about the possible tax violation, she could have offered to pay a lawyer to advise the district. She would have spent less money on lawyers than this lawsuit will cost her, and it could have benefited everyone.

There is too much here to comment on everything. I read the entire complaint, and I come away exhausted and frustrated. I feel worried and sad that my children go to school with children who have a parent like this. I love so much about Menlo Park, but I worry about the privilege and manipulation of parents like this. I hope all her children get into private schools, so that they're not at school with my children.


Posted by Menlo Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:50 pm

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I am a father of two at Laurel. It pains me to see this lawsuit filed against the school. If there are possible issues with how donations are classified then bringing in a good accountant seems like a reasonable and prudent solution. Filing a lawsuit does not. Reading the details in the article, it's clear this is a personal grudge taken much too far. Mrs Foroughi's grudge is consuming valuable resources that should be dedicated to the education of our children, at a time when they need even more resources than ever.


Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:56 pm

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Let me state that I have children and Laurel School I have had many discussions with Linda Creighton and found her to always be upfront completely honest and helpful. That ia also the consensus with every parent that I've talked to you about her or the school. The accusations made against her in this article are completely against her character and I don't believe them for a single minute. I've spoken to other people familiar with this situation in this article and from what I have heard and read this sounds like a person with a vendetta against the school and the PTO because she did not get her way. If she has any proof beyond her accusations it would be interesting to hear but I'm personally not expecting it. As for the recommendation to Menlo School it's possible Linda Creighton was too busy or she was following the old adage if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. Dining room I don't find that to be retaliatory in the least.


Posted by Jan
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:30 pm

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I am unbelievably frustrated that Mrs. Creighton and the school staff have to be put through this. I am continually inspired by the heart and soul that Mrs. Creighton puts into that school and the kids that go there. Honestly, it’s exhausting just to be on the periphery of it all.
This woman’s lawsuit is being brought about due to a personal grudge and pure privilege. It’s just awful and it reminds me of so many disappointing conversations I’ve had regarding parents and the white privilege lately in this area. (And I’m white and privileged)
Mrs Creighton works her tail off to make her schools the best- to provide the best education, experience, and tools to EVERYONE. Quite frankly, there are countless students that come through her school that would never receive the same education or opportunities without her programs in place. She is one of the most giving, caring individuals I have ever met. Seriously, spend some time with her and be inspired to make this world better for every child- for leveling the playing field and giving all children equal opportunities.
For some rich lady with a grudge to try to “get her back” is just so infuriating. I can’t believe the amount of time and money that’s about to be wasted so that this petty individual can continue expressing her entitlement. And all this while the entire school and staff work endlessly to educate our kids during a pandemic??!!! Has this lady seen what’s going on in the outside world? Nope, probably not. She doesn’t care about the affect this may have on kids who have little or nothing - her kids have all the opportunity that $80k per child per year can buy.


Posted by MP Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:32 pm

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I have read the complaint online at: Web Link No.: 21-CIV-01197) 

This lawsuit has nothing to do with this parents daughter not getting into private school. It is about breach of fiduciary duty by some of the PTO board members. 
The parent is not seeking anything for herself, she filed it “derivatively on behalf of the Laurel school PTO.”   The complaint is highly detailed (86 pages) and it describes troubling conduct  by members of the current PTO executive board which may put the PTO‘s tax exempt status in jeopardy, and by school district personnel – including as one example, the allegation of the retaliation against the daughter that was mentioned in the story. 

The complaint states that at least two other PTO executive board members quit the board because of the current PTO executive board members alleged misconduct.  It also seems the parent tried many times over the course of a year to get the executive board to correct false information, conduct investigations into reported wrongdoing (which she offered to pay for on behalf of the PTO) and to be transparent to our community – but they apparently refused which resulted in this lawsuit. I think all parents should read the complaint itself and not rely on any spin.


Posted by Poppy
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 7:16 pm

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I also read the entire complaint, and I am quite frustrated and disappointed by this lawsuit. The detailed factual allegations suggest an organization that is complex, involves many participants with different levels of experience and expertise, different personal motivations, and, yes, imperfections. I have never worked at an organization that doesn’t have real disagreements, misunderstandings, egos and rudeness. There is nothing here that suggests material fraud.

I saw no indication that this parent took intermediate steps that would be appropriate prior to filing a law suit, such as letters to the school board or raising the issue to district legal counsel. The allegations suggest that there was a time when the parent sought to involve an investigator, but (from what I can tell) this seems to have been clumsily suggested and without measured conversation.

I also see no reason that an investigation was necessary. There were disagreements about how PTO/MPAEF funds should be spent. And one small tax question. We are lucky to have so much funding that there is enough money in these organizations that we can even think to argue about it.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 7:41 pm

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It’s disappointed that someone would bring a frivolous lawsuit against parents who volunteer their time to our PTOs. They should be applauded for their efforts, not dragged through the mud because a former parent in the district didn’t get her kids into private school.


Posted by Mr Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 16, 2021 at 8:02 pm

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To be honest it looks like the PTO members brought it on themselves. I find it funny that you're applauding them when this PTO clearly has serious issues and it's not dissimilar to many other PTOs.
I'm a parent in the area and have a public and private school kid. I have read the emotions in these comments and would like to suggest you pull emotion out of it and look at the issues. Our education system needs improvement. The fact that we're financing the system at this level and it's unclear where our money goes is a problem. The school board, and PTOs and faculty need to be held accountable if our money is being invested there. Where's it go? This case opens up many good questions that need answers. Instead of focusing on what is easy to focus on, blaming the parent and defending the principal and PTO, think through how much better our education system could be. Additionally I have seen PTOs before and this behavior is far too common. it becomes an outlet for parents to clique up and try to get some power because they don't have it in other parts of their lives. Then anyone who is a professional in that environment gets outcast. There's no place for a parental hobby in an organization that's taking our funding. Done right it should be professional and use our funding in a measurable way to improve access and educational resources our children receive. The parent is asking for transparency and accountability. The emotional nonsense in the comments as a response to that are the reason why the schools get away with hiding how our funds are used and fact that people are so defensive of the status quo is frankly pathetic.


Posted by A Laurel Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 8:14 pm

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I was on the Laurel PTO Zoom Board meeting at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Part of that meeting was to introduce the new board members for 2020-21. I remember Jacqlyn Foroughi was on that Zoom as well. She asked a question: "How do the board members get selected for this? Did surveys go out to the kids' classes? How is it that this same subset of people always end up in these roles?" I found the news of this lawsuit interesting to read, in light of this. It seems to me like there would be lots of remedies to the issue -- as a previous poster mentioned, hiring an accountant to audit, or raising this issue to Laurel parents rather than filing a lawsuit. What an expense for the school to take on at a time when so much madness has happened with the pandemic and the need to raise more money is already apparent. I'm pissed that my donations to the school and tax dollars will go to representing Laurel in this matter. It feels like a personal matter and retribution on an individuals' behalf against the school. What a waste. She sounds like sour grapes that she didn't get nominated to be on the exec committee. I know the parents who are on there. Yes, the jobs rotate among a general circle of friends. Name me a school where that isn't true! It sure doesn't warrant this suit.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 16, 2021 at 8:31 pm

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“MP Mom’s comment” is greatly appreciated, especially in light of the mean spirited comments that preceded it. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to point out problems in our community and I applaud Foroughi for her integrity.


Posted by Laurel Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 16, 2021 at 8:38 pm

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We and our community of first grade Laurel families feel so unbelievably lucky to have the thoughtful leadership and heart and soul Linda Creighton represents. She is a gift to the students and staff at our school and to the families of MPCSD. I see her go above and beyond time and time again, helping make Laurel the amazing school it is.

It was no surprise in 2019 that Ms. Creighton was awarded (out of a field of 300 schools' principals) by the Association of California School Administrators the Regional Elementary Principal of the Year.

We are in the face of a global pandemic, and it is disheartening how much energy this lawsuit will steal, when there are so many more important things in our community to address.

Linda inspires many by her huge heart and dedication to Laurel. I agree that with spending time with her, one would be inspired to want to make this world better for every child.

We are also so grateful for the heart and generous time of the many volunteers of MPAEF who help make possible an outstanding education for all MPSCD students. Let us focus on the kids and what really matters.


Posted by gps
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Mar 16, 2021 at 9:04 pm

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Listen to MP Mom. Read. Like you were taught in school.

Just because an organization has a lot on their plate does not absolve them from fiduciary responsibilities. Distracting rhetoric whining "think of the children" or "this will cost money" are misplaced. Don't hide from problems when someone points them out.


Posted by Laurel Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 9:05 pm

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I am baffled by the few commenters who support this suit and suggest that the people expressing disappointment and frustration are emotional or mean spirited. I suspect that all commenters would welcome appropriate steps to improve transparency and process around PTO and MPAEF funds. Just like any organization can improve, improvements are surely possible.

But do we want to do any of this through costly and disruptive litigation? No. Will litigation cause an overall improvement in the PTO? No. This is a parent volunteer organization that has rotating leadership. The lawsuit will likely decrease donations and discourage volunteers from participating.


Posted by Laurel Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 16, 2021 at 9:06 pm

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I am a parent of two kids at Laurel, an entrepreneur, a CEO, and a board member. I have also led the finance committee for a California State government board of directors. I have attended the Stanford Directors College twice and am an expert at corporate and non-profit finances. My kids have gone to Laurel for years. I am reasonably active in the school but by no means part of any perceived "in crowd" and have not served on the PTO. I am a donor to the PTO and the Foundation and feel that it's fine however they want to be organized.

I am aghast that a parent would hurt the principal, the school, the district, and the volunteers by filing a frivolous and malicious lawsuit against them. How dare this parent do such a damaging act to a beloved institution run by such a kind and loving principal? I couldn't care less how parents classify their donations and as an employer, I would be happy to do matching donations for field trips which many hard-working families cannot afford. Who cares? No one except this angry, underemployed, lonely lady who has a chip on her shoulder and her husband's money to waste on harassment.

As for paying toward the teachers' pension, that sounds wise. These teachers and administrators such as Linda Creighton are worthy of every penny we can pay them and more. But again, I respect the decisions made by the PTO and the Foundation.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Let's all gather around Linda Creighton, who is one of the nicest and most hard-working, kind, professional, and ethical people I've ever met, and let's support her, the PTO and the Foundation, and the District.


Posted by Maryann Wall
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:02 pm

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I give donation every year for my two kids since their kindergarten but for me its good because the school take care of the kids materials field trip and other kids needs. Some people only have time to complain about things instead of being grateful for the things that’s being done for the kids even they don’t donate any money. In that donation that’s why we have great faculty, best teacher ,great Principal,good school and Brand new building too.


Posted by Local94025
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:39 pm

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Wow, a Lawsuit. Someone finally did it. Cuz yep the PTO and MPAEF def need better financial oversight and training. 100% they have been fishy things happening there for years. And yes, they are very cliquey organizations.

But to lump Linda into it? That is gigantic stretch and as this article reads clearly retaliation. If the PTO and MPAEF are too hard to crack into at a public school, Menlo was going to be better? They won't even let you in the door. Are you going to sue them next?


Posted by Rick
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 16, 2021 at 11:54 pm

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[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
A truly abhorrent waste of our district’s funds that could have been handled a variety of different ways short of a costly lawsuit.
[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Public school parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 17, 2021 at 9:00 am

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I find it appalling that our public school principal and 25 parent VOLUNTEERS are being sued by someone claiming to be “committed to school district parents.” Filing a lawsuit that will cost the school district and community members tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees (if not more) does absolutely nothing to support school district parents.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Also, for those of you that don’t have children in the school district and are unaware of who is agreeing to serve on the PTO Boards, these people are hard working parents that graciously donate their precious spare time to help our schools. It is a thankless job and despite what Mrs. Foroughi claims in her complaint, no one is lured by a “promise” to be appointed. Normally, the outgoing PTO Board has to actively recruit people to fill the roles because no one wants to do it. And why would they? It’s a huge time commitment and it’s not time spent with your child. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Laurel parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 17, 2021 at 10:20 am

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Menlo School must be something else, for someone to get this worked up about their child being rejected there. She didn't think Hillview was good enough?

As a parent, I'm sad and annoyed that one person with a grudge would choose to do this. Lawsuits like this do not benefit anyone (except maybe the lawyers, and I say that as a lawyer myself). I read through the complaint, and don't see any merit in any of the allegations. In fact, I would consider filing a 128.7 motion in response.


Posted by Public school parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 17, 2021 at 11:47 am

Public school parent is a registered user.

Portions of several comments above, including mine, have been removed “due to disrespectful comment or offensive language”. Isn’t it ironic that someone can file a 86 long public complaint full of disparaging and untruthful comments about public figures in our community, but the minute people question their motives or provide another side of the story they are immediately silenced? Legal inequality at its finest.

I’m not sure what is so offensive about the word billionaire, but that is the common thread in the removed comments.

No worries though. It’s hard to keep things secret these days. Foroughi is such an uncommon last name, a quick Google search will easily fill in the gaps.


Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 17, 2021 at 12:13 pm

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I agree with many of the posters who feel this lawsuit is frivolous and retaliatory. The person bringing this suit should be ashamed and I hope they not only lose but are required to pay the legal fees on both sides. I would not even be surprised if there was a countersuit for slander.

There are many ways to handle this before going to court. Starting with a letter to the PTO and escalating through the District Board and to the State body that oversees Non-profits. Was any of that done? It seems like this parent was was angry that while "Creighton had scored her daughter highly in some areas — the comments section of the recommendation was left completely blank,". I guess the principal is required to write an amazing recommendation regardless of whether it is true or not and must drop her current work to get it done at a parents request? I have no idea if the girl deserved a great recommendation in the comments section or not but it really does not matter. I doubt the job description for a principal calls for them to write recommendations required to get a student entrance into a private school.


Posted by AK
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 17, 2021 at 1:18 pm

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This is really so sad. I have been involved with a number of PTOs in MPCSD and other districts. Generally members on the executive committees work collaboratively to make informed decisions. And yes, disagreements and arguments occur. But no matter which side of an argument anyone is on, the betterment of the children is always the goal...until now.
After reading the complaint several times, I still can't understand how this helps anyone. Jaclyn found something dubious at best that runs akin to "no harm no foul." [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] Because once again, no harm no foul. The funds she was so worried about aka the quid pro quo are used for underprivileged kids to go on these field trips. Yes, even Menlo Park has underprivileged kids. Laurel (and the other schools) admirably strive to help out these families in our community with meals, snacks, toys, supplies and even funds for two overnight field trips for 5th graders.
Could the Laurel PTO have handled it better? Sure. But to sue to the PTO and individual members is so beyond the pale. Crucial funds will need to be diverted to cover the lawyers and for what? To help the kids? No way. To help Laurel? Nope. To help the district? Not even close. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
BTW, don't think the timing of this lawsuit wasn't completely purposeful. The school district is about to ask for a parcel tax to replace the one that is expiring. Sure seems vengeful to me.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 17, 2021 at 2:17 pm

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A lot of comments in a short timeframe! As a former Laurel parent, I can guess that the call went out to parents: "go to TownSquare to defend Linda!" And thus the ranks close and attacks begin. This isn't the first time.

In the complaint, the plaintiff details her efforts to help the PTO/principal adhere to the law. The prevailing sentiment among school leadership seems to be that the ends (more funds!) justify the means. The description of the murky relationship between the MPAEF and the PTOs is credible based on my own experience. The retaliatory actions occurred only after the plaintiff had invested months in trying to resolve matters through meetings and discussions. The private school incident, which so many have latched on to as a "reason" for the legal action, is a detail among many.

I'm especially sad to see so many here focused on the cost. (This was the same rationale used for years to handpick MPCSD board members and skip elections. Whenever a rogue candidate would file, the insiders would accuse that person of wasting district money through forcing an election, de facto disqualified from holding a board position.) But fixing this long-broken system is going to cost time and money.

Transparency, especially involving finances, and openness are important! This PTO/MPAEF obfuscation has been occurring for at least two decades. The fact that it's entrenched is not a good reason to perpetuate it.

Lawsuits are unfortunate, but often they are the only way to get the attention of the parties involved. There are real issues that need to be addressed. This community should be able to set aside emotions and give those issues objective scrutiny.


Posted by Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 17, 2021 at 3:01 pm

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I agree it sounds like the PTO could use some improvements to its governance processes and of course volunteers should be respectful to those with different opinions. All organizations, even professionally managed public companies subject to shareholder scrutiny and regulatory oversight, have challenges. But let’s be real, the alleged infraction here is immaterial and sounds like it was being addressed. Filing a lawsuit against individual members of the school and volunteer PTO is a completely disproportionate response.

@Observer, FYI, the email I got from Linda Creighton invited parents to take the high road on responding to this lawsuit.

That is hard for me to do as I personally profoundly resent the plaintiff’s vanity lawsuit sucking precious time and resources from our educators and volunteers during this incredibly difficult and stressful time.

This is not an emotional response - this is reality. Time and money are finite, and I would rather have them focused on my kids than addressing this lady’s upset feelings.

I do agree with @Observer that this is certainly the plaintiff’s attempt to get “attention”. Just not sure if this is really the kind of legacy that any of us should want to leave in the community.


Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 17, 2021 at 8:23 pm

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Observer,

Sorry to break it to you but you are completely wrong. There was an email to parents letting them know about the lawsuit. It did not say anything about defending Laurel, the PTO or Linda Creighton. In fact the entire email was 4 sentences long and ended with asking that people "take the high road". I think it is a testament to Linda Creighton and the PTO that so many people who know what they are talking about have jumped to their defense.

While lawsuits are a way to get the attention of the parties involved there are several other ways to accomplish the same thing and I have not heard that the plaintiff attempted use those options before filing the suit.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 18, 2021 at 12:15 pm

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@Brian: I'd assume the official email was completely anodyne. But there were other messages that went out to a much smaller group of insiders. There's a reason so many people showed up here, when most TownSquare stories rarely get more than a couple of comments.

Maybe some are swayed by this bandwagon approach. But others are more likely to suspect that there are systemic problems. Scapegoating the person who called out those problems is not the solution!


Posted by Laurel Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 18, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Laurel Mom is a registered user.

I am one of the people who has posted my disappointment and frustration over this lawsuit, and I can assure you that no one encouraged me to post. I even wondered when I was posting if my post was sufficiently "high road" per the instruction that went out. But like the poster "Menlo Park" I was motivated by my personal profound resentment toward the plaintiff’s lawsuit sucking precious time and resources from our educators and volunteers during this incredibly difficult and stressful time. No one has encouraged me to have this feeling or to share it in this forum; it is simply a profound horror that I feel towards Ms. Foroughi's actions.

Every year, I encourage our kids' grandparents to donate to our school fundraisers, and I feel so sad thinking that their donations -- which they so proudly give to benefit the school -- are being wasted in this way.

And yes, I do appreciate people pointing out difficulties in systems. Just not in this terribly self-centered and wasteful manner.


Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 18, 2021 at 2:37 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Observer,

Are you speculating? I have talked to people closely affiliated with the school and the PTO and they have said there was no email like you are discussing. Now there maybe personal emails from one parent to another, I have no idea about that. I can tell you that when myself and other parents heard about the lawsuit we came here to express our opinion, not because we were asked to but because we choose to defend Linda Creighton and the PTO from what looks like a retaliatory lawsuit by a disgruntled parent. Simply put, that is what good people do when they see friends attacked. Nothing nefarious about the activity here, there are other stories that have garnered more comments in a much shorter amount of time. That is expected when a story like this is published.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 9:35 am

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This will be a fairly simple case, money is so easy to track. And while it sounds like the Principal is a genuinely nice person, I think her goose is cooked. Here is the crux:

Jaclyn Foroughi is chartered financial analyst (CFA). She is not allowed to "not see" improprieties, even in cases like this where the actual dollar amounts are relatively small.

Furthermore, if indeed the Principal coached her colleagues to deem the money a "donation" knowing fully well it is not really a donation, then the Principal kind of, sort of, um ... lied.

To the parents of Laurel kids: if your child asked you if it was OK if they lied - just a little bit - would you say yes, it's OK?

What's unfortunate is if the Principal had keep things above board, and made a simple clarifying statement that the "donation" is not a full donation under IRS rules, and that parents should seek the advice of their tax professionals ... it may have had minimal impact on the aggregate amount of money given to the school, and it would have highlighted the ethical standards of the Principal. But instead she fudged, a little, which is harmless, right? I mean, little lies mean nothing., right? Anyone here have trial law experience? Anyone here ever sit on a jury and listen the judge explain that if a defendant tells a small lie, consider everything to be a lie? The real world is kinda harsh that way.

Readers, tonight's homework assignment ... ask your kids "is it OK to lie, just a little bit, because everyone else does it?

Jaclyn Foroughi, thank you for your example and your courage. Laurel people, come come clean. And for heaven's sake, if you get deposed and/or your books are examined, tell the truth and ask for forgiveness.




Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:13 am

PV Resident is a registered user.

Y'all Menlo Park people are cra. I understand some folks say it didn't happen...so let's investigate. But I don't get the ones who say it's no big deal. It's FELONY TAX EVASION - regardless of whether the principal's a nice person or the plaintiff's pouting or whatever excuse you can cook up to pretend it's not FELONY TAX EVASION or CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT A FELONY or FRAUD. Please consider what you're signaling your kids about the conditionality of legality and morality. Please clarify to them when it's ok to commit felonies cause I'm confused.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:28 am

Parent is a registered user.

PV Resident, thank you for seeing the real issue. And any PTO member who saw the fraud is guilty of fraud. If more than one person then yes, you've got a conspiracy. This is exactly why Jaclyn had to blow the whistle, she is licensed, she is not allowed to "un-see" the illegal nature of the activity! I'm stunned at the amount of support the Principal is getting. People are claiming they are supporting a "friend being attacked". The "friend" did something which may be deemed by a judge to be illegal. The bank records will confirm, or deny this. Regardless of the Principal's good intentions, laws are laws.

The money involved is relatively modest, but the main issue is that things were hidden. To those non-attorneys out there, it's called a lie of omission. And all for what? A few thousand dollars in matching donations? I'd love to know whether the school gave the donors a receipt for the "donation". You can bet the parents who donated will be getting a call from an attorney. And who signed those donation receipts?

It will be interesting to see if the public support for the nice Principal dries up once individual parents start getting calls from a law office.

Is this no big deal? Um, anyone remember a little thing in the news called Operation Varsity Blues? Even a "little bit" of fraud is not a good thing. The only remaining issue is which parent on the PTO will be the first to request immunity so that she can tell the whole story.


Posted by Laurel parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:33 am

Laurel parent is a registered user.

For those who do not work in litigation and deal with complaints for a living - not everything you read in a complaint or a pleading is true. Shocking, I know, but it happens.

However, let's say that most of it is true, then what? Is this lawsuit the only (best?) way to achieve the results that the plaintiff purportedly wants? The answer to that is no. There were other avenues that could have been tried. On the other hand, a lawsuit, by its very nature as a time and expense consuming affair, has severe negative consequences that affect the entities and individuals that the plaintiff says she cares so much about. So then, one must wonder as to the true motive(s) of pursuing such a path.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:42 am

Parent is a registered user.

"I am both a lawyer and a Laurel parent, and I know that filing this lawsuit helps no one.

This parent is imposing horrendous financial, time and emotional costs on the school, administration and PTO. Sure, perhaps there could be improvements in documenting funds for field trips, but this is not such an obvious or material violation (to the extent it is a violation) of the tax code that it rises to the level of meriting this level of outrage. "

Is there a magical cut-off in the tax code which allows a little bit of violation versus a lot of violation (to the extent it is a violation)? And is it OK to categorize something as a donation when it's not really a donation, but if called a donation, it might generate a corporate match?

I'm curious to know how an attorney can spin this.

No officer, I wasn't speeding. I mean, yes, I was over the limit, but not materially over the limit. I mean, the speed limit sign is a just a suggestion, right? And by the way, officer, I get to decide what is an obvious or material breach of the speed limit. OK?


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:44 am

Parent is a registered user.

"So then, one must wonder as to the true motive(s) of pursuing such a path."

Accountability? Ethics? Just a couple things come to mind.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 11:59 am

Parent is a registered user.

"I am aghast that a parent would hurt the principal, the school, the district, and the volunteers by filing a frivolous and malicious lawsuit against them. How dare this parent do such a damaging act to a beloved institution run by such a kind and loving principal? I couldn't care less how parents classify their donations and as an employer, I would be happy to do matching donations for field trips which many hard-working families cannot afford. Who cares?

The Internal Revenue Service?


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"I am a parent of two kids at Laurel, an entrepreneur, a CEO, and a board member. I have also led the finance committee for a California State government board of directors. I have attended the Stanford Directors College twice and am an expert at corporate and non-profit finances."

I wonder how these credentials elevate you to render an opinion on the law. I don't see that you listed your law degree. I too am an entrepreneur, and a CEO. But I don't ever mention it, it doesn't make what comes out of my mouth any more valid than the next person's words. And I never really saw the need to announce my credentials, because they really only matter to very specific activities, and I personally never saw the need to blow my own horn.

I hear that judges are usually pretty well informed when it comes to legal matters. Let's see how it all goes.


Posted by Julie
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 19, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Julie is a registered user.

As a working board member of a nonprofit, I understand the necessary value of having expertise across critical areas like governance, finance, legal etc sitting at the table. And if not, the ability to augment as needed. Surely one positive thing to come out of this will be more rigor at the executive board level. Unfortunately, there’s a high probability this will be an expensive lesson to learn. Both financially and in human capital. Abs in that, no one wins...especially our children.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2021 at 2:03 pm

Observer is a registered user.

Thank you, Parent, and PV Resident for articulating the issues so well.

My reading of the filing suggests that the plaintiff tried, over and over, to get the problems addressed and resolved outside the legal system. Legal action was a last resort, and I don't see that she stands to benefit at all. The opposite is more likely (parents have been ostracized -- yes, in the MPCSD --for lesser infractions of cultural norms).

Whether or not Linda is a warm and welcoming principal (she is), or whether parent volunteers are sincere and dedicated (they certainly are) is immaterial. It's sad to see how few posters here care about the ethical and moral aspects of cheating, excusing it as ok because it's just a few misrepresentations, made for a good cause, and the people involved are so nice.


Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Rebecca is a registered user.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Here's mine (and it is based on experiences as a lawyer who has worked with nonprofits, taxes & pensions as well as a volunteer who has served on the PTOs and the Foundation):

1. Anyone can allege anything they want to allege in a complaint. A version of facts has been presented. That's all.
2. Volunteers work hard for the schools but they may not know all the intricacies of the quid pro quo laws and mistakes can happen. The rules are not entirely intuitive and smart, well-meaning people can still get it wrong.
3. Nonetheless, most people who volunteer for their community schools do so with a full heart and great intentions.
4. It certainly appears that when the matter was raised it was addressed with legal counsel appropriately and that PTO Members and the organization took steps to address it in ways that quite likely will be deemed acceptable by relevant taxing authorities.
5. All microcosms (including the PTOs and the Foundation) have their social dynamics and they are fairly predictable.

I urge everyone to step back from this matter and consider things with more equanimity.
We are a community. Our kids are our future and they are watching.
Our School District has served so many students so well and that is their reason for being.

We all have to deal with the complexity of shrinking budgets and increased demands and challenges.

I agree with Principal Linda Creighton (whom I know and trust) on this. Disheartening is the word and we can all do better.


Posted by Mr Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 19, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Mr Mom is a registered user.

In my last comment I pointed out that everyone is latching onto the completely wrong point. It's very refreshing to see the posts by Parent. Here are the material topics and we should applaud Ms Foroughi for the efforts here to raise them:

1) From reading the case, and I'm sure most haven't given the majority of misinformation in the comments, it seems she attempted to resolve this. But that led to more of a cover up at the board level. Yes I understand these are volunteers. But who are we kidding, all our volunteers in Silicon Valley are professionals or highly educated individuals. We should be setting an example for our children. Instead these volunteers were hostile, bullied, and when told of the issue they helped to cover it up which makes them complicit. Over what a few dollars?

2) Many posters are trying to mask the real issue with blind defense of the Principal and keep pointing out the school stands to lose money on this. Well how about the individual's reputation that could've been damaged had she not spoken up? Or how about the individual's legal bills? Just because someone has money doesn't mean they want to waste their time and money. And it seems all she's asking for is an investigation that she'll finance to create change. Why is the Principal and the Board and all these commenters so afraid of an investigation unless there is something to hide?

3) I was curious who was on the PTO after reading the case. It's funny that a lot of these people seem linked to each other. Should a bunch of friends be on a board? Conflict of interest? Seems like there was plenty here.

4) And everyone points out the small dollars. Well why is the Principal forced to take these risks? Where is the district? We all fund the district and are asked to provide thousands a year in donations to a public school district we also fund with taxes. Where is the transparency around where our money goes? And they are asking for another parcel tax now too?


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:39 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"Our kids are our future and they are watching"

Exactly why the Principal should not have been coaching the PTO members to solicit a "donation" if there was a strong indication that the use of such a word was a ploy to get a corporate match. It was a lie, period.

As far as the general statements such as "but our kids will suffer!". How exactly might this occur? Does a third grader have any comprehension of the lawsuit or the PTO?

And for those of you who think this is a baseless, over the top attack on a "nice person". Nice persons do not get a free pass. Nice persons do all sorts of things I will not mention here. It sounds to me like the "nice person" is not a "professional person". A pro would have investigated the legality of calling the money a donation. I certainly wouldn't put my job on the line in order to raise a few more bucks for a field trip, I care too much about my salary (and I'd care too much about my generous pension as well, if I had one).

A couple of elephants in the room:

"Parisi told Creighton that accepting funds for overnight field trips and having them matched by corporations was illegal". So now we have corroboration. Not one but two highly skilled people, at least one who is a licensed fiduciary, warned the Principal. Once you have been warned, any further action in the opposite direction is seen as full consent of your own actions.

And

"Creighton sent Foroughi an email claiming that her daughter had told the teacher that she planned to walk out of school without Foroughi signing her out, according to the suit. Creighton had to walk back her allegations and admit that she had made up her accusation, the suit claims."

Email is so easy to investigate. You can bet Ms. Foroughi kept it, and you can bet the District archives all employee email. And there's also going to be a record of Ms. Foroughi notifying the school that her daughter had to leave school early.




Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:58 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Here's what going to happen. Contrary to the outpouring of support for the Principal, nobody will fall on a sword for her. Banking records and receipts are now fair game, as are emails. People will be asked to give statements. There may be some PTO members who are not completely on board with trying to wish this away, and they will talk - on the record. Once they talk, others will be compelled to talk as well, and sooner or later individuals will come to the conclusion it's a fool's game to try and shield the District.

It's a shame, but the Principal may lose her job. But perhaps all of the folks who support her can start a GoFundMe.

The very best thing the District and PTO and Principal can do is admit the errors, and issue a public apology to the parents and to Ms. Foroughi. Pay the legal fees of the firm representing Ms. Foroughi, and return the matching "donations" to the local companies who were misled.

Isn't that what we teach our kids? Be honest, and take responsibility?


Posted by Confused
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2021 at 4:25 pm

Confused is a registered user.

If anyone read the Mercury article, the PTO realized their mistake and returned the money to the families a right away. They also got an independent audit and have fixed their process. They made a mistake and owned up to it. This was all in 2019. What else do we want them to do? She blew the whistle and it got fixed- why the public lawsuit? Just to humiliate them? I teach my kids right and wrong but also how to let things go...


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 4:55 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"I teach my kids right and wrong but also how to let things go..."

I read the entire complaint. There are several instances of of people not "letting things go".

In the complaint, Erik Burmeister, Superintendent, is claimed to be someone who bullies and intimidates. I don't know if in fact this is true, but the complaint goes into great detail how several people, including Erik Burmeister appeared to have harassed or at a minimum sought to humiliate Ms. Parisi and Ms. Foroughi. And for what? They were only seeking financial transparency.

The web link to the complaint might be broken, but you can find it by entering the case number. It's not all sunshine and butterflies. I feel badly for Ms. Parisi and Ms. Foroughi if even half of what is in the complaint is true.

Just another form of cancel culture. Disagree with us? How dare you!




Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Observer is a registered user.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no direct link to the filing, but it should only take a minute to access it

Web Link

Click "smart search"

Enter the record number 21CIV01197 [note that you cannot include the dashes!]

Click "I am not a robot" -- you may have to complete a captcha

Hit Submit (be careful not to hit Clear by mistake)

The case summary will appear, with a link to the case in the left column. Click and read.


Posted by Confused
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:16 pm

Confused is a registered user.

Glad to see the law firm is monitoring the comments and pretending to be an actual parent in the district.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:24 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Not that it matters, but my child attended Laurel, back when the large oak at the edge of the playing field was still standing and before the days of a dedicated crossing guard. I have good memories of the school.

Here's what the complaint seeks:

Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and the Laurel School PTO, prays for judgment as
follows:
1. Awarding compensatory damages against all Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount to be proven at trial;
2. Awarding restitution, disgorgement of any and all illicit proceeds generated as a result of the wrongful conduct alleged herein;
3. Awarding appropriate equitable relief, including any injunctive or declaratory relief necessary to change and/or reform the Laurel School PTO’s corporate governance, policies and culture;
4. Awarding punitive damages at the maximum amount permitted by law;
5. Awarding costs of suit;
6. Awarding pre-judgment interest; and
7. Awarding such other relief as this Court may deem just and proper.


Posted by Amy
a resident of Laurel School
on Mar 19, 2021 at 7:47 pm

Amy is a registered user.

@Parent, are you serious when you wrote this?
“Pay the legal fees of the firm representing Ms. Foroughi, and return the matching "donations" to the local companies who were misled.”
This is a public school district for God’s sake who are trying their best to support families who cannot afford field trips. Are you seriously asking to punish the school for doing this and return the money to the local companies? What amount are we taking? It is pennies for these companies but worth a whole lot more for these families. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
I am seriously astonished!


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 8:03 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"Pay the legal fees of the firm representing Ms. Foroughi, and return the matching "donations" to the local companies who were misled.”

The complaint seeks the costs of the suit. Read the complaint (?)

Return the donations? Yes, if the "donations" were obtained fraudulently, be truthful and return
the money.

According to your reasoning, defrauding local companies is OK because it is "pennies for these companies". Therefore, just a little bit of fraud is OK in your eyes, Amy? Would it be OK if someone committed just a little bit of fraud against you?

A responsible school does this: Dear Apple Inc., you recently made charitable donation match to our school. Upon further review, we have come to realize that this match should not have been made because the amount in question did not meet the legal definition of a donation (in full). Our records indicate your matching donation was $250. Upon the advice of our tax advisor, we have been informed that only $xxx of this amount should have been identified as a valid donation as described in the tax code. In light of this discovery, we wish to return to you $xxx. We look forward to rectifying our error, please accept our apologies, and we appreciate your continued support. Sincerely ...


Posted by Public school parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2021 at 8:24 pm

Public school parent is a registered user.

Parent- You are absolutely right! A responsible
school such Laurel would AND DID do that!

From the Mercury news article, and mentioned by “Confused” above:

In a statement, the PTO Executive Board said the tax counsel it consulted determined the payments were misclassified.

“We worked to rectify the situation by returning the payments to the families and corporations involved,” the statement said. “The amount in question was less than $10,000 and represented less than 4% of the Laurel PTO budget over 2 years. The intention of the matching donations was to provide scholarships for low income students to attend overnight field trips.”


Posted by Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 19, 2021 at 9:07 pm

Menlo Park is a registered user.

Wow, after learning that Laurel already consulted tax counsel, admitted the misclassification and remedied the issue by returning donations to parents and companies - this whole lawsuit seems even more absurd. If the school already fixed all this, and I am sincerely asking here, what are the damages plaintiff expects to recover? Attorney’s fees for this frivolous lawsuit or some type of $$$ restitution for her daughter’s lost opportunity at Menlo? Surely no one will want to write a recommendation for this family anytime soon. Also can’t imagine working collaboratively on school matters with someone known to be suing the the PTO volunteers. I think that feeling will be the same for my kids’ public and private schools.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2021 at 8:12 am

Parent is a registered user.

Why did certain volunteers feel compelled to resign? It appears they sensed the fraud and immediately got away from it (and as a result they are not being sued). You can bet they will be called as witnesses, and that's when the story will unravel because the other PTO members will come to the conclusion, albeit late, that it's just not worth it as the story evolves.

Members of a non-profit are usually indemnified as long as their actions are made in good faith. But fraud is another matter altogether, and from that, there is no shield. And thus it's safe to assume each of the named defendants has retained counsel, and paid counsel (what is it nowadays ... $600 per hour?) to read the entire 87 page complaint. Wouldn't the retainer fee been better spent on "the kids"? Yep, and as the PTO members continue to write checks for counsel the dam will crack.

But won't the District cover the individual PTO members legal fees? Um ... no. The District will soon come to the conclusion there is no need to bail out fraudulent activity.

But can't they claim they were volunteers and therefore ignorant of the rules? Um ... no. Why? Because they were informed by a Chartered Financial Analyst, who made several attempts to raise the alarm.

From the complaint:

In addition, it appears that Parisi’s and Wasserstein’s efforts internally also influenced Executive Board members Gourley and Ritu, who at different times expressed their interest in learning more about the facts behind Plaintiff’s complaints. However, the Individual Defendants silenced them too and refused to act. Eventually, in April 2020 Wasserstein resigned as a result of the Individual Defendants’ conduct, including, their falsification of minutes of meetings that Wasserstein insisted be corrected – but which, the Individual Defendants refused to correct. In addition, shortly thereafter, Parisi also resigned because of the Individual Defendants’ illegal conduct, and ongoing refusal to fulfill their fiduciary duties.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2021 at 9:28 am

Parent is a registered user.

[Portion removed due to quoting a post using disrespectful language]

Ms. Foroughi had a right, if not an obligation (due to her license as a chartered financial analyst) to bring forward the complaint. [Portion removed due to quoting a post using disrespectful language] She appears to be very qualified academically, and athletically. [Portion removed due to quoting a post using disrespectful language] do not compete in ultra marathons. Ms. Foroughi clearly has demonstrated personal discipline in her life and career. Laurel School and the PTO was unwise not to welcome her suggestions.



Posted by Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 20, 2021 at 9:49 am

Menlo Park is a registered user.

Parent, your comments are instructive. Sounds like the goal is not to get the PTO to admit and remedy the error - which has been done - but rather to inflict maximum economic pain on the defendants for getting crosswise with the plaintiff. Despite your view that exerting financial leverage will make Linda and the other defendants vulnerable, I don’t think the plaintiff is going to find fertile ground with this complaint since the issue was acknowledged and fixed. Most of us in the district feel immense gratitude for the work of the principal, superintendent and volunteers for their often thankless efforts on behalf of our children and would surely want to indemnify them to the max possible in this situation. Is the hope to have a chilling effect on the the school’s ability to hire top candidates and engage with volunteers? Because they will be afraid that if an entitled PTO member does not get adequate deference, the principal and/or volunteers will be sued? If the error has been fixed, then the only intent here can be punitive.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2021 at 10:07 am

Parent is a registered user.

I'm not involved, my child was at Laurel many years ago. I liked the school. Things get less fun as the kids go thru Encinal and Hillview.

Let's see what the complaint uncovers, there may be more to the story.

It's disturbing to think that Ms. Foroughi was bullied and dismissed for trying to educate the PTO on basic bookkeeping.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2021 at 11:04 am

Parent is a registered user.

"if an entitled PTO member does not get adequate deference, the principal and/or volunteers will be sued?"

If I were on a PTO, or considering participating in a PTO, I'd have no fear of being sued if the PTO was doing everything by the book. If anything, going forward the Laurel PTO will be one of the safest PTOs on the planet because they have been put on notice. It's not the best analogy, but every plane crash makes air travel all the more safe because the airline industry and the airline operator learns what not to do.

"Most of us in the district feel immense gratitude for the work of the principal, superintendent and volunteers for their often thankless efforts on behalf of our children and would surely want to indemnify them to the max possible".

There's a really simple fix for that ... pay their legal fees and/or damages! Start a GoFundMe and put your words into action if you "surely want to indemnify them to the max possible". I wonder how many people "who feel immense gratitude" will contribute immensely and to the max ... seems it was already a bit of a chore trying to raise $250 for a field trip.

If the GoFundMe campaign is successful, then no worries what a jury will say. Right? Problem solved.


Posted by Steve_J
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Steve_J is a registered user.

Trying the case in the newspaper is not appropriate as only one side is talking. Let's see what happens in the courts if it even gets that far.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"Trying the case in the newspaper is not appropriate as only one side is talking"

I think the SJ Mercury quoted the defendant. They did not quote the plaintiff but instead picked some claims from the complaint.

This online forum seems to have supporters of the PTO, and supporters of the plaintiff.

Are you certain only "one side" is talking?


Posted by Howard Galt
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:18 pm

Howard Galt is a registered user.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
Naming the volunteer PTO board members individually in the suit? Seeking compensatory AND punitive damages to the full extent on the law? That isn’t solving a problem that is revenge. Over tiny $’s being contributed to a school? [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Howard Galt
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:25 pm

Howard Galt is a registered user.

Oh yeah and if you haven’t read the file complaint you have no business commenting since you are missing important context...there are another 25 “John/Jane Does” that she is yet to identify in other school volunteer staffed fund raising organizations. This is really a blockbuster case! Let’s hope the judge tosses this before any real time, effort and $’s are diverted away from what she claims her goal is...the children in the school. To the extent there are real problems here to clean up there are much better, faster, and cheaper ways to achieve that goal.


Posted by Howard Galt
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:30 pm

Howard Galt is a registered user.

Finally “chartered financial analyst” has no special meaning for anyone confused by that fancy title. She paid for and passed a test to have an accreditation that her Wall St. clients might like. If a CFA informs you of something it means exactly...nothing...compared to any other normal person. Maybe if it was a CPA and they are being paid to attest to the accuracy of financial statements in accordance with GAAP.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 21, 2021 at 7:48 pm

Parent is a registered user.

"Finally “chartered financial analyst” has no special meaning"

Absolutely incorrect. A “chartered financial analyst” designation is part and parcel of Ms. Foroughi's business, and her wanting to protect her business and the integrity of that title is no different than a Realtor wanting to protect the integrity of his/her title. A chartered financial analyst, as well as a Realtor (as well as an attorneys, etc.) have professional designations, titles, and professional memberships which distinguish themself. And such designations or titles often require a course in ethics training, and the person holding the title is held to a higher than normal standard of professional conduct if they wish to keep their title.

I sense that Ms. Foroughi did not want to turn a blind eye to tax fraud and or other kinds of fraud, as not only would it jeopardize her standing as a CFA, it would also put her in line as a defendant should someone else question the laws surrounding the PTO's and the District's handling of money.

The issue as I see it is Ms. Foroughi "saw something", and she went to great lengths to convince the PTO to correct it. They did not, and it appears they were offended that she had the audacity to point out an illegal activity. The offense taken by the PTO and the principal appears to have manifested itself in bullying and/or mocking Ms. Foroughi.

Ms. Foroughi offered to pay for an independent investigation of the PTO yet this offer was denied. Why? Was the PTO concerned of what might be found? If an electrician offered to check my home's wiring, at his expense, and submit a report I'd welcome it. I'd want to know if there was any risk, and how to mitigate it. Yet the PTO denied the very generous offer to have their own organization reviewed at no cost. Ms. Foroughi's only request was that the investigation findings be made public.

So the questions ... why the roadblocks? Why the bullying? Why did two others quit out of concerns raised by Ms. Foroughi?


Posted by Menlo Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 22, 2021 at 8:58 am

Menlo Parent is a registered user.

@Parent I assume you read the far more balanced article in the Mercury News. The PTO did bring in outside experts and correct the misclassification error over a year ago, addressing the complaint on which this suit claims to be based. As you appear to know a surprising amount about Ms Foroughi, what is her motivation for filing this lawsuit now?


Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 22, 2021 at 9:43 am

Parent is a registered user.

"I assume you read the far more balanced article in the Mercury News"

Your statement implies there are less balanced articles? I find the article as published by The Almanac to be very well balanced, as it simply cites the nature of the claims which are to be reviewed by a judge and perhaps a jury. Assuming the PTO and the District are as pure as the driven snow, then there should be no cause for concern. However, lawsuits often uncover other issues, not the least of which is the misappropriation of funds - a good example of this would be, for example, if the Superintendent misused funds for his personal gain. In that event, we then have the proverbial can of worms.

Regarding the statement that the PTO conducted an investigation, you are probably aware that the plaintiff claims the investigation was biased. I am not sure why the plaintiff has suggested this bias, but for example if the investigation was performed by someone related to the PTO, or someone with a child at the school, then I can easily see a bias.

While you suggest I know a surprising amount about Ms. Foroughi, your suggestion is fantasy. I would not know Ms. Foroughi if she was standing in front of me. It's been many years since my child attended Laurel and even then, I only knew a handful or parents and I never paid attention to the PTO. All of this said, I'd like to meet Ms. Foroughi, I get the strong impression she is a very qualified and accomplished person.

As far as her motivation? I can't see into her mind or heart therefore I can't answer your question. My guess is Ms. Foroughi made a good faith effort to provide guidance to the PTO and by extension the District, and her suggestions ruffled feathers. I further assume she persisted, and it resulted in attempts of bullying, humiliation, and mockery. Her attorney contacted the PTO with a "last chance" letter, and it was rebuked. Therefore she reluctantly filed a suit.

I see her behavior as noble, she has nothing to gain.


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