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Former St. HOPE official's obstruction of justice claim probed by FBI

SACRAMENTO, California — The FBI's Sacramento division is investigating a former St. HOPE executive's allegations of obstruction of justice, Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown confirmed Tuesday.

The news fuels the controversy that has followed Mayor Kevin Johnson since 2008, when his brainchild St. HOPE Academy first was investigated for misuse of public funds.

That investigation appeared to end in April when Brown's office announced a settlement with Johnson, St. HOPE and former executive director Dana Gonzalez.

The settlement, hotly contested by the office of the inspector general for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, required the repayment of more than $400,000 in misused grants for AmeriCorps volunteers.

However, Rick Maya, who officially left his position as executive director with St. HOPE last week, alleged in an April resignation letter that a member of the charter schools' board deleted Johnson's e-mails during the federal investigation. Those claims, uncovered by a public records request by The Bee, caught the interest of Brown's office, who asked the FBI's Sacramento division to look into it.

"The FBI has, in fact, opened an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the alleged destruction of e-mails, and is working with criminal prosecutors in this office," Brown said in a statement to The Bee. "Beyond confirming the existence of an investigation, we are not at liberty to discuss the details of the investigation."

Johnson's office and an attorney who represented St. HOPE Academy during the AmeriCorps investigation both said they would cooperate fully with what they characterized as a "preliminary inquiry" by the FBI.

"We are confident the inquiry will quickly confirm that nothing inappropriate occurred," said attorney Malcolm Segal.

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