Last week the Sweetwater Union High School board voted to have an independent audit of Scott Alevy, a public relations professional. The board's choice of an auditor has raised this question: can an attorney who has already represented the Sweetwater board in a grand jury investigation be considered independent?
A Union-Tribune article this week revealed that Alevy was billing the district $250 an hour for meetings. According to some people interviewed by the Union-Tribune, either the meetings didn’t take place or the substance of some of the meetings varied from the invoices submitted by Alevy.
In response to these revelations, the board voted to hire former U.S. attorney Greg Vega to perform the audit. Board member Bertha Lopez was the only dissenting vote.
One reason Lopez objected, she said in an interview on Wednesday, May 25, was that Vega’s name was suggested by the district’s legal counsel, Bonifacio Garcia, who had hired Alevy. Lopez also said that prior to the vote, board members were not informed of Vega’s previous work relationship with the district.
“I went home and Googled Vega’s name,” said Lopez, “and found that he had represented the district in a grand jury investigation on Proposition BB [a school bond passed in 2000].”
In 2003, the grand jury investigated citizen complaints about Proposition BB that focused on members of the bond oversight committee (which included the spouse of board member Arlie Ricasa) and raised questions about some of the district's construction projects.
On Sweetwater’s website, board president John McCann is quoted as saying: “Mr Vega is a highly respected litigator and investigator. He has represented clients before federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. He has evaluated corporate compliance issues and conducted numerous corporate internal investigations.” In a May 20 La Prensa San Diego article, McCann is also quoted as saying, “Mr. Vega’s reputation is beyond reproach.”
McCann did not return emails.
Pictured: Scott Alevy
Image: from EastCountyChamber.org video