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Merced County schools worker back at work, still facing felonies

A Merced County Office of Education administrator who faces seven felonies after the demise of a nonprofit went back to work this week.

Patrick Bowman, who earns $104,764 a year, had been on administrative leave since his September arrest. He continued collecting a paycheck.

An internal investigation found nothing that warranted immediate action, office of education spokesman Nathan Quevedo said. Bowman, 42, returned to work Tuesday.

He has been assigned to work on a special project of reviewing and updating the policy and procedure books for the three Valley Community Schools, Quevedo said.

"The criminal charges against Pat are very serious in nature and tied so closely to his former job duty and job site that it might send the wrong message to allow Pat to return to his former job site and job duties while these criminal charges remain unresolved," Quevedo said.

Bowman's new assignment, which includes reviewing about 300 pages that cover topics such as field trips and attendance policies, will last until the criminal case against him is resolved, Quevedo said.

Bowman no longer has any supervisory duties.

Ralph Temple, Bowman's defense attorney, didn't return calls for comment.

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said he was in no position to second-guess the office of education's decision.

"I understand that even though our office has criminal charges against Bowman, the presumption of innocence applies to everyone," Morse said.

Bowman also serves as a Merced County Housing Authority commissioner. The Board of Supervisors hasn't taken any action to remove him from the appointed position.

Besides working at the education office, Bowman was the board president of Firm Build, a nonprofit that went bankrupt in September 2007, sparking a yearlong probe by the District Attorney's Office.

Seven felony charges were filed against Bowman, including diversion of public funds and conflict of interest.

Firm Build's managers, Joe Cuellar and Rudy Buendia III, also face felony charges tied to Firm Build's demise.

Among the allegations, investigators believe that Bowman paid $120,000 worth of Firm Build's bills with office of education funds. Though the office of education and the nonprofit had a partnership, the bills weren't related to school projects, according to court reports.

Bowman is also accused of having Firm Build work on his home, which investigators say creates a conflict of interest. He was invoiced for $3,500 for the work, according to court records.

The case is scheduled for a hearing early next year. A trial date hasn't been set.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.

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