School superintendent accused of stealing $345,000 faces 7 years in prison


Former Poway Unified School District Superintendent John Collins

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SAN DIEGO — A judge Monday rescheduled a preliminary hearing to April 9 for ex-Poway Unified School District Superintendent John Collins on charges of misappropriating more than $345,000 in public funds, including putting in for vacation time already used.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst told Judge Michael Smyth that his 63-year-old client was dealing with a health issue that came up last week and couldn’t go forward with the preliminary hearing.

Collins, 63, faces seven years in a local jail if convicted of four felony counts, said Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr.

Schorr said his office started an investigation after getting complaints about Collins from community members.

Two of those community members, Kim and Chris Garnier, led a Facebook and online campaign to have Collins removed from his post. Both attended Rancho Bernardo High School, which is in the Poway Unified School District.

Chris Garnier said he at one time had a good relationship with Collins — when the defendant was the principal at Rancho Bernardo High — but things turned sour when Garnier started to allege injustices against blacks and Latinos in the school district.

Collins was fired in July 2016 after an audit found the alleged misappropriations.

At the time he was let go, Collins was the highest paid superintendent in San Diego County, with an annual salary of $308,900 and a total compensation package of more than $457,000.

The Poway Unified School District filed a civil lawsuit last year to recover the lost money. That case is still pending.

Collins’ preliminary hearing is expected to last four to five days, according to the prosecutor.

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