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Like many community colleges, Southwestern College, located in Chula Vista, had to severely cut course offerings in the spring and summer of this year. At a June 2010 press conference, California Community College chancellor Jack Scott said, “Over the past year, about 140,000 students came to community colleges to take classes but were not able to enroll because those classes were not available.”

Despite budget problems, Southwestern’s superintendent/president Raj Chopra hired Trilogy PR using general fund monies for an unknown reason. According to Trilogy’s website, “Southwestern College called on Trilogy PR group’s expertise and contacts to ease media and community pressure during a critical period with a successful crisis management plan implemented by Scott Alevy.”

According to Southwestern College’s April 2010 purchase order, Alevy was paid $2491 for communication services. The purchase order names Chopra as the initiator of the agreement. Aside from being a principal at Trilogy, Alevy serves alongside Chopra on the South County Economic Development Council.

In a March 2009 Union-Tribune Q&A piece, Chopra identified wasteful practices that he was correcting at Southwestern. Among those practices, he mentioned, “Work was being outsourced when personnel from the college could have performed the services.”

Chris Bender is Southwestern’s "chief marketing, communications, and community and government relations officer." When contacted on July 19 to inquire what crisis Southwestern College was experiencing when Trilogy PR was hired and what services were performed, Bender was unable to answer. Bender said he was newly hired during the period in question and was unfamiliar with the situation. When asked in a follow-up email why the college could not handle the matter in-house, he said he would send an update later in the day. That didn’t happen. (On July 21, Southwestern College’s communications VP called to say he was still searching for the requested information.) Bender was hired in March 2010. His salary for the fiscal year 2011 is $95,772.

In an editorial last May, Southwestern College’s student newspaper, the Sun, suggested that money spent on consultants might have been better spent on classes. The editorial stated that the college had spent $99,468 on a pension consultant, $11,500 on a snack-bar consultant, and $122,000 on a technology consultant. Regarding the “snack-bar consultant” and “technology consultant,” the editorial stated, “Both of these consultants seem strange to spend money on since the college already pays a hefty salary to a Director of Food Services and a Director of Computer Systems and Services.”

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Comments

Grasca July 22, 2010 @ 2:28 p.m.

I have heard of food stylists who work with photographers, caterers, and foodies but never a food consultant. Southwestern must be taking a page from the City of San Diego. Maybe the college district will create a drop program next ? Food consultants need a healthy retirement just like many City of San Diego retired staff enjoy. Bon Appetite.

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Founder July 22, 2010 @ 3:38 p.m.

$11,500 on a snack-bar consultant, says it all!

"Food for Thought and indigestion..."

It seems to me, every where I look I'm amazed, folks are spending money on just looks. Call me old fashioned; I wish for the good old days when we did not have so many crooks!

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SurfPuppy619 July 22, 2010 @ 4:22 p.m.

According to Southwestern College’s April 2010 purchase order, Alevy was paid $2491 for communication services. The purchase order names Chopra as the initiator of the agreement. Aside from being a principal at Trilogy, Alevy serves alongside Chopra on the South County Economic Development Council.

And the gov hits just keep on coming!!!!!!!!

I would hope the DA or US Attorney would look into this-but asking gov to do it's job is a littl but too much to ask for in these lean days.......maybe if we paid them $800K per year like the City Manager in Bell, CA (Pop 37K) we would get a better response!

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Founder July 22, 2010 @ 4:36 p.m.

3 Yipe Yipe!

Imagine all the cool things the students could have done with all that money!

Come to think of it, I wonder if any of the students even read the Reader and if so are they brave enough to post how they feel about getting Ripped by the very folks entrusted to keep their best interests in mind while providing the best education possible?

That would be educational!

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Grasca July 22, 2010 @ 5 p.m.

Crooks and cooks go together at Southwestern which does primarily serve an economically challenged demographic of students. I am sure that they would rather have more course offerings instead of a food consultant.

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Founder July 22, 2010 @ 6:23 p.m.

It makes financial sense to change their name to:

$outhwest College"

"Where no expense is too great for your education!"

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joepublic July 22, 2010 @ 7:05 p.m.

Southwestern College's Communications Vice President had better communicate why the college is spending taxpayer dollars for all these consultants during these tough financial times. Isn't this what we pay administrors for? If he doesn't inform the public, then his exorbitant salary must also be brought into question.

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SurfPuppy619 July 22, 2010 @ 8:07 p.m.

It makes financial sense to change their name to:

$outhwest College"

"Where no expense is too great for your education!"

LOL....now that was funny!!!!

Ohhh... or maybe "Cha-Ching College"!

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joeblow July 23, 2010 @ 7:45 a.m.

Thank you, Susan, for bringing this info to a larger audience!

For all South Bay residents, PLEASE make your voices heard at the polls this year when you vote to REPLACE the governing board members up for re-election!

This has got to stop. Our students deserve better from the administration.

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rubengrita July 23, 2010 @ 9:23 a.m.

Odder still, this is not the first time the snack bar consultant (Wilkie Enterprises) has been hired.

Wilkie Enterprises appears on the Nov. 14, 2007 Governing Board Agenda for $3,000 (11D, page 12): http://www.swccd.edu/Pdfs/GBAgenda11-14-07.pdf

On February 13, 2008, Susan Wilkie and Director of Food Services Joe Fighera reported their findings to the Board (7A, page 2): http://www.swccd.edu/Pdfs/GBAgenda2-13-08.pdf

The supposed goal of the consultation was to increase the solvency of food services. (It's common knowledge on campus that the cafeteria runs deeply in the red.)

All of Wilkie's recommendations, however, focused on the independently run Tradewinds coffee shop and Jimmy J's coffee cart. As far as I understand, those were not the areas losing money--the main cafeteria was. But there weren't any recommendations addressed to that.

Now Wilkie is back (at $11,500) to advise on the snack bar. Will she recommend another "smoothie concept"? (her big contribution back in 2008, which was never implemented anyway).

Why is a consultant whose advice wasn't used two years ago being retained again for almost quadruple the money? And why does the college keep throwing cash at Director of Food Services Joe Fighera, who makes a six-figure salary despite consistently losing money in his main area?

For more background, see this article from the award-winning Southwestern College Sun: http://www.southwesterncollegesun.com/2.9184/change-brewing-1.1301932

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Founder July 23, 2010 @ 9:30 a.m.

Regarding #10 by Joeblow

"$ Crazed College Board "

I hope the South Bay folks will get all our jokes!

Maybe at the next election they all can vote for correction.

"CAN" the current wasteful Board who must be out of their gourd.

Your College kids deserve fiscal prudence so that they can become better Students!

To all you Students and Parents that pay, it's about time you also had a say!

Get this problem fixed, it's easy, say HEY, get active, VOTE or it won't go away...

Act now, there is no time to lose while this Board continues to snoose

Chula Vista has enough problems of it's own, now it is Southwestern's Board that needs to atone!

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Susan Luzzaro July 23, 2010 @ 9:39 a.m.

Founder, who knew you were a poet--perhaps with your facility for words you too could be hired to ease media and community pressure during a crisis. Susan

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joepublic July 23, 2010 @ 9:48 a.m.

Most disturbing is the spending of the public's money on a consultant to "..ease media and community pressure.." While it might be common practice to hire spin doctors in the private sector, it should be illegal to use PUBLIC tax dollars to persuade the PUBLIC!

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Founder July 23, 2010 @ 10:34 a.m.

13 Thanks a lot Susan, I'm also your fan!

It would be a real extreme pleasure without dipping into their treasure

to help them save some real big dough and give the Board the old Heave Ho!

I certainly know I have the knowledge because I used to work at a College!

It's easy you see if you are like me

I really do know how to save a buck first cut the NEW Board's salary, Good Luck!

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Founder July 23, 2010 @ 10:53 a.m.

14

I'm with Joepublic, Board waste makes me sick!

Today, everywhere we look, seems there is another "crook".

If we don't pay heed, we'll be ruled by Greed.

Please consider telling everyone to vote it Is WAY past time for these FAT CATS to gloat!

As for the Director of Food Services, he is now only providing "$ervice" like a bull does to a cow!

Ask questions and spread the word and tell voters what you heard...

Now in America, it's true we sure need every one of YOU!

Please don't hesitate or delay, the best time to act is today!

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Founder July 23, 2010 @ 12:15 p.m.

17

Believe me Parker, if you are Honest and Caring you are probably over qualified to fill the shoes of whomever is doing the job now and add to that, you probably don't have nearly enough experience with Greed and payola to do what is normally expected for the person in that position. That said, if you have well connected friends that enjoy lots of free food and are willing to look the "other way" at every opportunity you might actually get an interview!

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SanDiegoBorn July 24, 2010 @ 11:20 a.m.

Let me get this straight: The college needed help with media relations + they did not have anyone on board, at the time, who could handle it = so they went out and hired a consultant to handle it for them. What a novel idea. I wonder if other companies/organizations engage in this highly unusual practice of hiring consultants to meet their needs. And then, have the nerve to be transparent and publicly report it for all to see. Man, that college is really sneaky about its needs and expenditures. Let's write a story and make it sound controversial. Or we can do simple math and look at what the consultant charged versus the full time position.

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tango July 24, 2010 @ 12:32 p.m.

I think the REAL question is this: Why are they keeping on a food services director making six figures? This person is clearly not doing his job and putting the food services into deficit which the board has swept under the rug for a long time. So hiring a consultant is a fix BUT the real fix is getting rid of the director who is not doing his job well! The board has always taken care of their cronies and kept them in their jobs even when they weren't doing them. Then they go and harass and try to get rid of the competent people. Do you know why? It's because the competent ones are the ones questioning all of this insanity. The board wants to keep things status quo. We need to remove this board and get good board members!

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Founder July 24, 2010 @ 12:34 p.m.

Regarding #19 SDB

Southwestern needs "HELP" alright, and with more than "JUST" it's media relations.

When any public institutions (and especially schools) have a dismal track record of paying big bucks for Outside Services while at the same time cutting back on their "CORE" activity (like offering educational classes for their students) then I believe that the Public is entitled (and Right On) to question their Boards "Direction" and even ask for an investigation if those answers don't pass the smell test!

Educational Dollars should go toward education, not to Big PR or any other Big Companies contracts! SW's Board needs some remedial education themselves, on being responsible to the Students and Faculty they serve!

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Founder July 24, 2010 @ 3:31 p.m.

Regarding #20 Tango

I'm with you,

SW College's Board is thumbing it's nose at it's Students, it's Faculty and all the Tax Paying Residents of South Bay;

and

they are doing this in an election year, for crying out loud, which is the height of ineptitude and arrogance!

No wonder they need to hire Professional Damage Control Consultants... what's next, Big time Lawyers?

Are they the ONLY people willing to serve on SW's Board or what?

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joepublic July 24, 2010 @ 5:36 p.m.

I like Founder's term "Professional Damage Control Consultants". SanDiegoBorn#19 makes it sound like the college just needed some help with media relations when in fact the consultant's website says they were hired to ".. ease community pressure." What was that pressure they were trying to ease? Could it have been that the college administration was being criticized nationally for denying students and faculty basic rights of free speech? #19 says it's O.K. for companies to hire consultants to meet their needs. However, when public institutions hire private consultants to spin public opinion, it is wrong!

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Founder July 24, 2010 @ 5:51 p.m.

Regarding #23 by joepublic

Right On! + Because SW's Board was wrong in the first place by not doing their jobs and wrong in the second place for trying to hire media folks to put some high priced spin on it, this old adage came to mind:

"Two wrongs don't make it Right"

Bye, Bye Board...

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