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Billions to Spend: Waste throws wrench into Los Angeles community colleges’ massive project

Poor planning, frivolous spending and shoddy work dog the sprawling system’s bond-financed construction program

Those are the headlines online on Part One of the LA Times powerful week-long investigate series by reporters Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland who examined what LA Community College District have done with the nearly $6 billion in taxpayer construction bonds.

The series is backed by interactive map, graphic on what each college got and a chart of the to 10 contractors and how much money they have donated to board members and to get the bond issues approved by voters.

With the election for four of the seven LACCD Board seats coming March 8, the series is a bombshell that ought to guide voters to cast ballots for fiscally responsible candidates like Lydia Gutierrez, Joe Essavi, Joyce Burrell, Erick Aguire and write-in candidate Mark Isler instead of the slate of candidates backed by the unions and developers.

They are Mona Field, Steven Veres, Miguel Santiago and Scott Svonkin. They must be held accountable or we are complicit in the waste, efficiency and corruption.

The heart of waste, efficiency and corruption is the power of money. The Times followed the money in terms of the contractors who are getting most of the nearly $6  billion and how much they contributed:

Thumbnail image for LACCD-Contractors.gif
Part One in Sunday’s paper and already online starts this way:

The effects of decades of neglect were all too visible at the nine
far-flung campuses. Roofs leaked. Furniture was decrepit. Seismic
protections were outdated.

In 2001, leaders of the Los Angeles Community College District decided
to take action. With support from construction companies and labor
unions, they persuaded voters to pass a series of bond measures over the
next seven years that raised $5.7 billion to rebuild every campus.

The money would ease classroom crowding. It would make college buildings
safer. New technology would enhance learning. And financial oversight
would be stringent.

That is what was promised to Los Angeles voters.

The reality? Tens of millions of dollars have gone to waste because of
poor planning, frivolous spending and shoddy workmanship, a Times
investigation found.

Bond money has paid for valuable improvements: new science buildings,
libraries, stadiums and computer centers. But costly blunders by college
officials, contractors and the district’s elected Board of Trustees
have denied the system’s 142,000 students the full potential of one of
California’s largest public works programs.

This picture emerges from scores of interviews and a review of thousands
of pages of district financial records, internal e-mails and other


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7 Responses to Billions to Spend: Waste throws wrench into Los Angeles community colleges’ massive project

  1. Wayne Katersky from Encino says:

    We are all “Katerskys” now in L.A! We are all living in a sea of corruption and overtaxation that is designed, built, and ran to give 90% of L.A.’s wealth to: AEG, Broad, Katersky, McCourts, Caruso, and the puppets they fund and create to hold elected office.
    David Dumb-merjian doesn’t know what the hell you even call all this corruption, let alone what if any crimes he can “prosecute.”
    The Voters, however, really spoke loudly in what at first I saw puzzling but now is very apparent: Kamala Harris won big not because of Brown as much as because they see Cooley is a poor fat excuse of a human being who sat on his duff and allowed Maywood and Bell both to be looted while he WILLINGLY LOOKED THE OTHER WAY. Police Officers from Bell had long before the Times broke the story told Cooley all about this stuff, to the risk of themselves and family.
    So the voters decided to rebuke Cooley, and most voters are eeking out a living and don’t have pensions over 200 grand a year to fall back on.
    Then over on KRLA we have the Cooley cheerleaders Mr. James and the lobbyist John Thomas, his weekly guest. Name one interview since Kamala got certified as winner as A.G. that he’s had either Cooley or Gaga Trutanich on? Before that, they both were on wall to wall every week. James stutters worse than King George VI whenever someones says anything about Gaga on his show!
    The Community College Board now is crooks? Jesus friggin’ Christ, will someone in L.A. County’s public offices, city or county stand up AND DELIVER already?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wait till the construction mess starts at the MTA who can’t manage a million, leave alone 40 billion dollars of Measure R.

  3. Joe Barrett says:

    Scott Svonkin? On NO! He’s a gun for hire to any developer or corporate entity looking to ruin a community. Do Not Vote For Scott Svonkin!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The LA Times series demonstrates the absolute URGENT NEED for Clean Sweep Activists to open their address books and pass the link to Ron’s short article on to voters. The voters need to know that the slate of recommended reform candidates can sweep away the corruption of the candidates whose campaigns are being financed by the crooked contractors and the goon-squad public unions.
    If you are an activist reading this, PLEASE put a little email together for your email alert list and GET OUT THE WORD about Lydia, Joe, Erick, Joyce and Mark….. the candidates who have pledged to clean up the community college mess of Mona Field and the other union hacks.
    It reminds me of that chant by Clinton/Gore about Bush: It is time for them to go!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The Los Angeles Times reporters Gale Holland and Michael Finnegan started investigating the LACCD Board of Trustees about the same time as the Van de Kamps Coalition began raising concerns that the District Administrators had improperly transferred the $72 million Satellite Campus at the historic Van de Kamps Bakery at San Fernando Road/Fletcher Drive. Over the past two years, the VDK Coalition has shared documents it uncovered about wrongdoing at the Northeast Satellite Campus and in general in violation of the state constitutional and statutory bond financing laws.
    Mona Field, Sylvia Scott-Hayes, and Kelly Candaele all live in Northeast Los Angeles. For the last decade, these community college trustees campaigned in Northeast Los Angeles for the voters to pass Proposition A and especially Proposition AA to fund a Northeast Satellite Campus at the Van de Kamps Campus. Studies cited by these trustees showed that the young adults of Northeast lacked proper outreach for community college opportunity.
    The Northeast Campus Project was to be a “win-win”. In 1999-2000, the Coalition to Save the Van de Kamps Bakery and State Senator Richard Polanco convinced the Los Angeles City Planning Commission to reject demolition of the distinctive Dutch Revival Building. In 2001, Mona Field, Sylvia Scott-Hayes, and Kelly Candaele voted to purchase the 7 acre Van de Kamps site and historically rehabilitate the VDK Bakery Building into a Satellite classroom location for LA City College. When the bond measures passed, they had $62 million to do it.
    From 2001 to December 2008, LACCD worked toward developing the Northeast Satellite Campus. In 2002, after development of a detailed Master Plan with broad community support, the Board adopted a plan to not only rehabilitate 30,000 square feet of the VDK Bakery, but also to build a New Education Building with 45,000 square feet of classrooms and a Community Building with a theatre and wellness center.
    By 2007, because of wasteful changes in directions by the revolving door of Presidents at LA City College, a further revision to the Master Plan changed the scope of the New Education Building and expanded the Community Building, but by then…the wasteful revisions of the campus plans resulted in LACCD not having enough money to build the third building.
    In 2001, 2003 and 2004, the LA City College faculty adopted resolutions supporting completion of the Northeast Satellite Campus as long as it was not a financial drain on the main campus. A plan to open the Northeast Campus with 80% profit-oriented classes and 20% traditional community colleges would provide money to cover operational costs WITHOUT NEEDING STATE financial funding. Over time, as the Northeast Campus got on its feet, the traditional academic classes could be increased without being a financial burden on main campus.
    By December 2008, the LA City Faculty had the educational program planned, the State Architect signed off on plans and the buildings were under construction.
    Then the unions decided they wanted to take the Northeast Campus away from LA City College. That is when Mona Field and Sylvia Scott-Hayes led an effort to transfer control of the campus away from LA City College faculty so they could control it. And then, over objection and now lawsuits, transfer control of the brand new campus to the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and to Mayor Villaraigosa for use as a giant regional unemployment office.
    In the process, Mona Field and her fellow board members authorized the expenditure of at least $7.1 million to DESTROY classrooms in the buildings and create executive office suites for the Mayor’s unemployment programs.
    The Van de Kamps Coalition continues to fight for the vindication of educational rights of young men and women in Northeast. Please help us get out the word across Los Angeles.
    Vote out or keep out the union and construction contractor financed candidates: Mona Field, Steven Veres, Scott Svonkin, and Miguel Santiago.
    It is time for a clean sweep and mandate to clean up the corrupt cesspool at LACCD.
    Van de Kamps Coalition for more information

  6. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone EVER seen Steve Cooley prosecute a public official for malfeasance in office? Our constitution refers to this crime in office and it bars further public office to anyone convicted of it.
    The Public Integrity Unit of the DA’s office continuously cites the Orange County case involving the bankruptcy as why Steve Cooley just “cannot” bring malfeasance charges. But in the Orange County case the Court of Appeal expressly found that the County Supervisors could not be found guilty of malfeasance where they were unaware of the what the County Treasurer was doing with the County’s money.
    The Court in Orange County specifically said that malfeasance in office could be prosecuted for knowing and intentional violation of state laws and dereliction of duty.
    Now… ask yourself when you finish reading all six of the LA Times investigative reports: Is that the same as Orange County where a rogue treasurer was making risky investments that brought the County down? Or did the LACCD Trustees have to know that they were breaking laws, hiding documents that demonstrate their incompetence from the public, and other intentional acts that show a knowing disregard of their job duties?
    Keep this idea in mind as you read these articles and ask yourself if Steve Cooley’s office has really protected you, your children’s education, and your tax dollars by letting this continue under his nose for a decade.

  7. Snarf says:

    Will someone please send copy of the article to George Skelton at the LA Times with this note:
    “George: Love your endless pieces on why we need new taxes to support a state workforce that costs more and does less.
    But please read this article; it merely recounts about this one program, what we all know about government generally.
    LAUSD building boondogles, and principals that every year say they “didn’t know” it was wrong to use school credit cards for personal use;
    The MLK hospital fiasco–so bad the feds had to clsoe it; DWP workers visiting strip clubs on company time;
    the state’s 96,000 cell phones, leased fleet of cars, relatives on payrolls, ludicrous overtime, vacation pay and sick days you can cash in even when you weren’t sick!
    LA’s hiring spree since 2003; its inability to install automatic re-setting traffic lights because of union jobs (sending people out to re set those lights)and the citizens be damned!; the horrendous streets while union pensions deficits mount and bookmobiles are cut;
    LA building and Safety’s the new “diswasher connection fee,” the ramped up parking and ticket fines.
    And spare us the newly found admiration for Reagan.
    George, we don’t want to be Detroit. Or St. Louis. Or Michigan. If you do, why don’t you just move there?
    Let the brave people in the legislature who REFUSE to agree to more taxes alone; they’re braver than the wisconsin democrats who fled and BRAVE enough to ignore the baying for more taxes from you and the Unions who want all of us to pad their retirement.

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