November 8, 2016 election
WCCUSD Candidate Interviews:
West Contra Costa school board accepts audit report
EXCERPT: West Contra Costa schools trustees formally accepted the results of a forensic audit of the district’s $1.6 billion bond program Wednesday evening and agreed to form a task force charged with carrying out its recommendations for reform.
The school board also agreed in closed session to turn over the results of the audit to “law enforcement,” without specifying what agencies it was referring to.
Ernie Cooper of the auditing firm Vicenti Lloyd & Stutzman LLP said an investigation by law enforcement agencies will be required if the district wants to uncover any mismanagement or wrongdoing by district officials and school construction contractors because law enforcement is “not within the scope of our work.”
“It was not our charge to uncover fraud and conspiracy or go out and find if there was a kickback,” he said. “Why don’t you ask the responsible agencies to take a look at this report?”...
According to the audit report, SGI declined to cooperate with a number of requests for information and thus limited the audit’s scope. ...
WCCUSD: Whistleblower files retaliation complaint
A whistleblower who alleged financial mismanagement in West Contra Costa County Unified's $1.6 billion school construction bond program, has filed a retaliation complaint against the district with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
In his complaint, Dennis Clay, a program analyst for the district's school bond program, said he was given an "unsatisfactory" job evaluation by his supervisor for the first time in his 12 years of employment with the district. ... "They want to paint me a disgruntled employee, and they want to make it seem that my stuff (statement and financial reports on the bond program) isn't accurate, and that the district needs to be protected from me," Clay said...
West Contra Costa bond audit: Some construction firms 'lawyering up'
By Joyce Tsai • East Bay Times
Excerpt: ...Five of 18 companies asked to provide information to the auditors have obtained legal representation and have not complied with the request, said Ernie Cooper, a partner at the independent forensic auditors Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman, at a Dennis Clay subcommittee meeting on Monday night. The committee is named after Clay, a whistleblower whose allegations about the district bond program sparked the investigation. Although the district's vendor contract language includes "the right to audit" the records, subcommittee attorney James Kawahara said some of the vendors indicated they will charge the district to provide documents if the auditors won't visit the worksites to identify and obtain the records they need. ... For Complete Article Visit:
Measure TParcel Tax Renewal
Each year, the District receives $9.8 million to support its schools. On Tuesday, November 8, West County voters will be asked to support MEASURE T, a renewal of this parcel tax for eight more years. For this parcel tax cycle, Measure T renews the parcel tax at its current rate with no increases. The measure continues the 7.2¢ per square foot of building area that is assessed to local property owners (with exemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons).
Borenstein: Pay-to-play concerns in school bond program?
Excerpt: An audit of West Contra Costa’s $1.6 billion school construction program indicates vendors felt pressured to contribute to two board trustees’ pet causes in order to receive district contracts.
Former trustee Charles Ramsey, current trustee Madeline Kronenberg and political ally and current school board candidate Don Gosney solicited money from vendors and subcontractors, according to the audit.
During fiscal years 2009-15, $2.1 million was donated by 26 vendors and subcontractors including architects, financial consultants, contractors, engineers and the bond program’s construction management firm.
About half the money went to the Ivy League Connection, a privately financed scholarship program founded by Kronenberg and Ramsey, and administered by them and Gosney, according to the audit.
Another $961,000 of vendor contributions went to “For the Children of West County,” a political action committee that campaigns for the district’s bond and parcel taxes. Ramsey was its fund-raising chairman.
If vendors were required to make contributions to obtain public contracts or continue their business relationships with the district, thatwould violate state and federal criminal bribery and extortion statues, said attorney Michael Martello, a government ethics expert. ...
The report contains paraphrased summaries of comments from unnamed vendors: “The message was always clear – here’s what it costs to stay in.” “This is how we continue to get work from WCCUSD.”
It was pretty well known that if (you) didn’t contribute to what Ramsey says, you’re not going to get work with the district.” “He never hesitated to remind you that you wouldn’t be around here if you didn’t come up with a certain amount.”...
... The audit, released last month, warned of problems with the bond program budgeting practices, poor internal controls to ensure compliance with legal requirements and school board policies, and inadequate safeguards against conflicts of interest.
The contribution solicitations arose as part of the conflict-of-interest section of the investigation. The auditors offered no opinion on the legality of the practices. On Sept. 21, the school board voted unanimously to send the audit to law enforcement.
West County trustee discusses charter schools and school district obligations
By Rick Radin | June 29, 2016 | EastBayTimes
Excerpt: Kronenberg, speaking at the El Cerrito Democratic Club's monthly meeting on June 28, did a hurried reprise of a "State of the District" presentation delivered last fall by outgoing Superintendent Bruce Harter.
But questions and comments during and after her presentation seemed more insightful and up-to-date. ...
Before 2010, the district was one of a few districts statewide that offered lifetime health benefits for retirees, according to a report entitled "Managing Public Sector Retiree Healthcare Costs," published by the Contra Costa Economic Partnership.
Although West Contra Costa negotiated an end to that program for new retirees that year because of rising costs and reduced income during the recession, hundreds of former teachers who retired before 2010 are still receiving benefits. ..
On the school construction front, district critic Scottie Smith lambasted Kronenberg for West Contra Costa's spending bond money to build a new football stadium at El Cerrito High School while thousands of students throughout the district are languishing in substandard facilities. ...
To Read Complete Article: eastbaytimes.com/
Excerpt: ...Duffy will
officially begin on July 6.
“I am humbled and proud to have the responsibility of serving the students and families of the West Contra Costa Unified School District,” Duffy said of his appointment. “I look forward to working with the Board of Education, teachers, parents, community partners and staff members to ensure that every student receives a high quality education and is prepared to be successful in the college or career pathway of their choice.” ...
“The most important job of the Board is to choose the District’s chief executive. Matthew Duffy was the consensus pick because he understands the importance of serving the variety of needs in our communities and he has proven success helping students excel,” Board President Randy Enos said. “I look forward to seeing his enthusiasm and knowledge at work in our District.” To Read Complete Announcement:
West Contra Costa schools: Familiar, fresh faces compete in November race
Seven candidates will be competing for two open seats on the West Contra Costa school board on the Nov. 8 ballot. ...
Antonio Medrano, a former school board trustee who served from 2008 to 2012 before losing his re-election bid. He is a retired community college and high school teacher who remains active in the district.
Don Gosney heads the Ivy League Connection and is an ally of former board President Charles Ramsey. He has been an outspoken critic of spending $1 million for a forensic audit of the district's $1.6 billion school construction bond program.
Tom Panas, chairman of the district's Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. He has advocated for the forensic audit, as well as increased transparency and accountability for the district.
Mister Phillips, a labor attorney who also represents West County on the Democratic Central Committee. He ran unsuccessfully for the board two years ago.
Ayana Kirkland Young, an attorney and district parent who hopes to bring more outreach to diverse neighborhoods. She also ran unsuccessfully two years ago. ...
Carlos Taboada, a retired teacher, counselor and district parent who has served as co-chair of the Multilingual District Advisory Committee for the past five years.
Stephanie Sequeira, an education advocate and district parent. eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_30260169/west-contra-costa-schools-new-faces-compete-crowded
WCCUSD Bond Program.
Phase II of Forensic Audit to be completed by August 31, 2016
• Documents Related to Forensic Audit
• Subcommittee on Clay Investigation
• Phase I Bond Program Fraud Risk Assessment
• Scope of work for Phase II of Forensic Audit (Test of Controls and Forensic Accounting Investigation).
• There are many articles regarding the audit. Here is one that describes allegations that sparked the audit: www.eastbaytimes.com/richmond/ci_28208269/west-contra-costa-bond-oversight-committee-review-whistle
Contra Costa: Six file to run for county education board
Two challengers will face off against longtime incumbent Pamela Mirabella in the Nov. 8 election to represent Area 1 on the Contra Costa County Board of Education. The challengers include Fatima Alleyne, an outspoken West Contra Costa school district critic and education advocate who served as a member of that district's Budget Advisory Committee and has raised questions about how the school district is spending its Measure G parcel tax money. Also competing for the seat which covers El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Kensington, San Pablo, and parts of Pinole and Richmond, is former West Contra Costa board trustee Elaine Merriweather, who ran unsuccessfully for re-election two years ago. ... eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_30264597/contra-costa-seven-file-run-county-education-board
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