(Updated Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 12:04 p.m.)


It was once the largest chain of charter schools in California.


Three years after the California Charter Academy closed its doors, and almost two and a half years after a scathing audit report was released by the Department of Education, subpoenas have been sent to High Desert politicians as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged misappropriation of $23 million in taxpayer dollars.


Hesperia City Councilman Tad Honeycutt was the last of the local politicians to be subpoenaed.


"I met with [the district attorney's office] yesterday and got my subpoena," he said Wednesday morning.


Honeycutt had been out of the area during the last week of July, when County Assessor Bill Postmus, First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, former Hesperia Unified School District school board president Eric Swanson and Victorville City Councilwoman JoAnn Almond had been served with subpoenas.


All of them but Mitzelfelt had been named in the April 2005 audit report detailing alleged conflicts of interest and misuse of taxpayer dollars by officials at CCA, spin-off companies and individual school boards.


The assumption by those subpoenaed is that their grand jury testimony will relate to CCA, but until they are questioned at the end of August, they won't really know for sure.


"Nowhere on any of the paperwork does it say what it's about," Honeycutt said. "They say you can bring documentation with you, but without telling you what it's about, it's hard to do that."


At its height, the Victorville-based California Charter Academy had operated 60 sites serving 4,500 students. The schools shut down suddenly in August 2004, with students scrambling to register for other schools prior to the start of the 2004-2005 school year.


The audit report blasted CCA founder C. Steven Cox for conflicts of interests, violations of charter school regulations and overcharging schools for services rendered (and allegedly, sometimes not rendered at all).


Honeycutt managed a for-profit subsidiary company, Everything For Schools, which auditors alleged overcharged CCA for services -- the exact opposite of its stated purpose.


The councilman said he has attempted to communicate with the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Public Integrity unit regarding the case.


"I've actually tried to communicate with the DA's office previously, but the only format they would allow me to give them information was in a verbal spontaneous manner, which I did not think was a very accurate manner to recall information from years ago," Honeycutt said.


In the past, the councilman has loudly and vigorously maintained he was innocent of any wrongdoing. In the audit report, Honeycutt's name is mentioned 38 times in the 103-page audit report, second only to mentions of 148 times Cox was mentioned.


"Nothing has changed that I know of. The impression that I've gotten, from people I've talked to, is that oftentimes when there's not a real strong case, they'll do something like this ... have a grand jury review the case," Honeycutt said.


The councilman said he does not know whether the subpoena is a precursor to criminal charges filed against him.


"I would anticipate that anyone who could be a potential witness or has a potential information would get a subpoena. There's a lot of ground to cover," he said. "They may just want information from me. I have no idea if I'm even a suspect in anything. ... But if I was, I'm absolutely sure there's nothing inappropriate that I did."


Former HUSD school board president Eric Swanson received a subpoena last week.


"I will be there and I will answer their questions," he said, of his upcoming grand jury appearance.


Swanson was formerly a governing board member for three CCA schools, before stepping down on June 30, 2001. That same day, his information services company received what the auditors called a no-bid contract ultimately worth more than $700,000.


County Assessor Bill Postmus, First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and former Hesperia Unified School District school board president Eric Swanson also received subpoenas last week.


The audit report called out Postmus for accepting $25,450 in contributions for his Board of Supervisors campaign while serving on the boards of two CCA schools, which auditors suggested was a conflict of interest.


Mitzelfelt's spokesman, David Zook, confirmed the county assessor had received a subpoena last week.


"The subject of the subpoena was not on it. The CCA part is just speculation."


Mitzelfelt, Postmus' successor, is not named in the audit, but has also received a subpoena. He served on a board associated with CCA until 2002.


"Someone from the assessor's office had alerted county counsel that the district attorney was attempting to serve subpoenas to Supervisor Mitzelfelt and Assessor Postmus regarding the California Charter Academy," county spokesman David Wert said Monday.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.