Former superintendent pleads no contest to embezzlement, other felony charges

Tim Hanretty faces up to four years in prison; restitution promised

Former Portola Valley schools superintendent Tim Hanretty appeared in court Tuesday morning, July 31, to plead no contest to six felony charges, including embezzlement of $101,000 from the Portola Valley district, stemming from his work at that district and, earlier, at the Woodside School District.

Looking drawn and contrite, Hanretty accepted a plea bargain from the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office that could include up to four years in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Mark Forcum on Oct. 11.

Although Hanretty declined to comment after the hearing, his attorney, Mike Markowitz, acknowledged that his client had shown "incredibly poor judgment" in committing the crimes, but that he "fully intends to pay the full amount back."

When asked by a reporter how much that would be, Markowitz cited the $101,000 amount Hanretty embezzled to pay for construction work on his Woodside home.

Whether that will satisfy the judge is another question: District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Almanac in an earlier interview that his office wants Hanretty to repay at least a portion of interest now burdening the Woodside district as a result of Hanretty's falsifying papers to take out a school construction loan for nearly $2 million more than what was authorized by the school board.

"He exposed the Woodside district to (a large) indebtedness, and (the district) has to make good on that," Wagstaffe said.

After the court hearing, Markowitz noted that his client had not stolen any money from the Woodside district, where he served for a number of years as the chief business official. The district "got 100 percent benefit from that loan. ... There was no loss. The district got what (it) paid for," Markowitz said.

Karen Guidotti, chief deputy district attorney, said the probation department will determine the amount of appropriate restitution, and will present a recommendation to the court. The determination will be based in part on what the school districts request, she said.

With the plea deal, two of three felony charges stemming from the Woodside case were dropped; the remaining count was misappropriation of public funds. One of six felony charges was dropped in the Portola Valley case.

Hanretty, who remains out of custody after posting bail, had pleaded not guilty on June 19 to six counts of embezzlement from the Portola Valley district for actions beginning in late 2010.

He had resigned from his post as superintendent of that district in January 2012, after the DA's office launched the investigation into his suspected misappropriation of funds in the Woodside district.

As a result of that investigation, he was charged in April with three felony counts of misappropriation of public funds, which included the falsifying of documents that enabled him to take out the unauthorized loan. He soon after pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2012 at 11:01 am

There needs to be SO MUCH MORE oversight from the School Boards in the area. I don't believe that the so-called "Citizen's Oversight Committee" in Half moon Bay does any more than an After-the-fact review of the money that was spent.
Our community was just Saddled with a new $81,000,000 25-40 year bond.
(Measure S) We still are being assessed for Measure E and no doubt loing before we pay down the Measure S bond, they will think up new ways to spend OPM (Other People's Money) And put another Measure on the Ballot to extract money from the Property Owners in the Cabrillo Unified School District.

Like this comment
Posted by local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I agree - we are in the middle of trying to improve our schools with enormous bonds resulting from painful tax level -- hundreds of millions at issue -- what are we doing to ensure such malfeasance couldn't happen here, or that even worse, things like kickbacks to make decisions favorable to contractors, various vendors, and construction professionals aren't happening here? I don't think the board CAN offer the appropriate oversight, and the citizens committee is kind of a joke.

Like this comment
Posted by scot
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

wanna bet we STILL get to pay for his retirement?

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

There outghta be a law (where are you Joe Simitian?), that ANY public servant, from the president on down, who commits financial fraud relating to his/her job is denied all retirement benefits from all public service jobs forever.

Like this comment
Posted by Crime-Does-Pay
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm

> There outghta be a law ..

The Courts have generally ruled with the felons on this one. A number of cases where pensions were denied people who committed crimes as public sector employees have result in rulings that the pension was a benefit associated with employment, and can be be denied because of actions of the employee.

Probably a US Constitutional amendment would need to be passed that would open the door to breaking contracts (pensions) for reasons that involved criminal acts on the part of the employees.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Wait, he's going to jail, right?

Like this comment
Posted by Crime-Does-Pay
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm

From the MerkyNews--

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum said he would consider probation if Hanretty reimburses the school districts, which he described as "the victims." Hanretty will be sentenced Oct. 11.

Like this comment
Posted by 6 strikes
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2012 at 8:47 pm

6 felonies + high priced lawyer + "white privilege" = slap on the wrist

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Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

Again, in the interests of full disclkosure, I'm a former Mid-Town resident from the 60s.

I imagine your state prisons (a drain on your hemorrhaging state finances)would only make this guy worse.

IMHO, most white collar criminals need a short leash out of prison with severe financial penalties.

How about this?

1.Pay back the $101K with interest from the date of embezzlement (@ the going rate for PV School District bonds)

2. Yes, forfeit all state retirement with his share of accrued benefits credited to the lowest 10% of current retirement recipients in the district.

3. Require say 3 years of consulting work to districts in the Bay Area teaching staff how to spot such shenanigans early on---a sort of "Catch Me if You Can" scanario in the public sector.

4. State audits for 3 years of his tax-returns assuring he's not doing anything else low life.

5. Finally, several 100 hours of community service in hard physical labor---the sort he has probably never experienced coming from a priviledged background I'd guess.

That's a "everyone wins"---he loses sort of punishment.

Like this comment
Posted by you're kidding
a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

The really scary part is he's been doing this for over a decade at both schools. He's been described by ALL who knew him as so charming and that "he would never do this" until it was proven, these characteristics describe a sociopath. As the definition says: "lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience." It's hard for anyone that does have a conscience to believe that others don't, but they really don't. Hanretty was in both districts for years and years. he was well integrated into the communities. The fact that his actions have not only impacted both these wealthy towns that will buy most of their way out of this, but he has devastated aides, teachers and other real people who will/have lost incomes as a result as will have to find jobs in an economy that is less than hospitable. He's known these folks intimately for years and that doesn't bother him at all. That's a sociopath. If he's not convicted of anything, there will be nothing to be reported in his record and he'll be able to do this again somewhere. Dean, I really like your idea of restitution. Just like the government gets hackers to help them learn how to plug the loopholes and in fact find other hackers. That would be a great use of his time. However, he's going to sell his beautiful home (which a realtor told me has doubled in value) and move on down the road to another unsuspecting wealthy school district. I never even thought of how we'll have to pay his retirement---now THAT sucks!

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm

He should do at least 5 years in state prison! White collar crime pays and most of the time there is a slap on the wrist. So what if he pays back the money. I could not rob a bank and if caught get a lighter sentance or no jail time simply because I pay back money after being caught.
How much money did it cost to investigate the crime, file charges, court costs etc etc. His crime cost tax payers much more than the 100K he took.
He stole money that was for educating children, giving him a break will only send the messege to other potential white collar crooks that the gain is worth the risk if you get caught.
Let him teach other inmates at state prison for 5 plus years.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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