Watchdogs, lawsuit say FUSD's Ashjian should pay district million

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new lawsuit by a self-proclaimed watchdog is trying to force Fresno Unified school board member Brooke Ashjian to pay the district millions of dollars.

Ashjian's secrets have cost the district millions of dollars, according to the lawsuit and the Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding.

Attorney Kenneth Mackie says the school board lost big on contracts for work on Figarden Elementary School and elsewhere because Ashjian didn't disclose how he could stand to profit from it, so the district had to restart the whole bidding process or accept a higher bid.

"We're basically doing this to help out Fresno Unified and the taxpayers in Fresno Unified and perhaps make up for some or all of the money that Mr. Ashjian has cost the district," Mackie said.

After initial complaints, Ashjian tells Action News he updated his statement of economic interests, the so-called Form 700, to reflect 10 years of his business dealings.

Mackie says a lot of damage was already done.

"Some of his errors is failing to disclose his ongoing relationship with Bush Construction Company at the same time he was voting in favor of I think it was a $9 million contract for Bush Construction," Mackie said.

Mackie says Ashjian's latest Form 700 is still incomplete -- ignoring at least $1.5 million in property in which the board member has at least part ownership.

The lawsuit would have Ashjian pay the school district for the cost of his errors, but the district has not signed onto the lawsuit.

In fact, nobody has.

Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says a judge might just throw out the case as it stands.

"If they caused some damages to the school district, there may be a basis for a lawsuit, by the school district," he said.

Mackie says he just needs a single Fresno Unified taxpayer to sign on.

Ashjian says whoever is really behind it is trying to bury him in lawsuits because he drained the swamp by eliminating shady lease-leaseback contracts at Fresno Unified. (The lawsuit accuses him of profiting from a lease-leaseback contract at Kings Canyon Unified. Ashjian says his company was a subcontractor on the contract and he didn't know it was lease-leaseback.)

He says he welcomes his day in court.
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