(a) The Education Audit Appeals Panel is hereby established as a separate state agency. Its membership shall consist of the Superintendent, the Director of the Department of Finance, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team established pursuant to Section 42127.8 or their designees. The panel shall have the authority to expend funds, hire staff, make contracts, sue and be sued, and issue regulations in furtherance of its duties.
(b) The panel shall hear appeals filed pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 41344. The Controller and the Department of Finance shall be a party to all appeals. The department may, at its election, timely intervene as a party in any appeal. The panel shall consider audit appeals pursuant to the administrative adjudication provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 11400) and Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code), except that it may adopt regulations specifying special pleadings that shall govern audit appeals. The panel may approve settlements and make findings of fact and interpretations of law.
(c) Compliance with all legal requirements is a condition to the state's obligation to make apportionments. A condition may be deemed satisfied if the panel finds there has been compliance or substantial compliance with all legal requirements. "Substantial compliance" means nearly complete satisfaction of all material requirements of a funding program that provide an educational benefit substantially consistent with the program's purpose. A minor or inadvertent noncompliance may be grounds for a finding of substantial compliance provided that the local educational agency can demonstrate it acted in good faith to comply with the conditions established in law or regulation necessary for apportionment of funding. The panel may further define "substantial compliance" by issuing regulations or through adjudicative opinions, or both. If the panel finds there has been substantial compliance, the panel may waive or reduce the reimbursement or penalty amount and may also order other remedial measures sufficient to induce full compliance in the future. Other remedial measures may include restoration of a reduction or penalty amount if full compliance is not rendered in the future, ordering special audits, and requiring special training.
(d) In addition to the normal appeal process specified above, there is hereby created a voluntary, informal, summary appeals process for noncompliant audit exceptions that clearly constitute substantial compliance as that term is defined in subdivision (c). Requests for summary review shall be made to the executive officer of the panel who may seek comment from the Department of Finance or Superintendent. Summary review shall be sought within 30 days of the date on which a local educational agency receives a final audit report resulting from an audit or review.
(1) If the executive officer concludes the conditions for finding substantial compliance are not clearly met or involve substantial questions of fact, the executive officer may deny the request for summary review and the appellant may pursue its claim through the normal appeal process.
(2) For appeals in which the total audit exceptions for full repayment or penalty constitute less than 150 units of average daily attendance or seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000), whichever is less, the executive officer may waive or reduce the reimbursement or penalty upon a finding of substantial compliance and that other remedial measures are sufficient to induce full compliance in the future.
(3) For appeals in which the total audit exceptions for full repayment or penalty meet or exceed 150 units of average daily attendance or seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000), whichever is greater, the executive officer may waive or reduce the reimbursement or penalty upon a finding of substantial compliance and order other remedial measures that are sufficient to induce full compliance in the future, if he or she has the written approval of the Department of Finance and the Superintendent. The executive officer shall provide the details of the proposed settlement and the rationale in writing to the Department of Finance and Superintendent and allow at least 30 days for their review.
(4) The right to appeal pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 41344 is independent of this subdivision and an appellant may pursue his or her appeal under subdivision (b) regardless of the result under this subdivision. A local educational agency that has unresolved audit appeals pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 41344 pending on January 1, 2003, may file a request for summary review under this subdivision for a period of 60 days after January 1, 2003.
(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 32, Sec. 29.)