Southwestern College has gone through a series of upheavals in the past few years and is still the subject of a San Diego County district attorney investigation. Southwestern’s former vice president of business and finance, Nicholas Alioto, has been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor.
What many hoped for, on campus and off, was that the administration would avoid the appearance of impropriety. But heads are shaking and tipsters emailing because of the July 11 agenda.
The new superintendent Melinda Nish came to Southwestern in January 2012 from Coast Community College District. The former interim vice president of business and finance, C.M. Brahmbhatt, also hailed from Coast Community College District and was hired in November 2011.
Brahmbhatt’s interim vice president’s salary was $13,500 a month, expiring June 30, 2012.
In May of this year, Brahmbhatt shifted from being interim vice president to consultant for Cambridge West Partnership, LLC; he contracted for $60,000 from May through July 31, 2012, “to advise and assist in the preparation of the 2012–2013 budget.” (Coincidentally, May was the same month the board approved a 5 percent reduction in pay for classified and certificated Southwestern employees.)
Brahmbhatt’s financial disclosure 700 form filed with the college states that he is a partner in Cambridge West Partnership, a business the form describes as “Planning and Facilities Master Planning.”
Just before Brahmbatt’s contract expired again, the college went on a search for a company to prepare an educational and facilities master plan. Cambridge West Partnership was selected. From July 12, 2012, to July 11, 2013, the company will earn $425,000. (Cambridge’s bid was also the lowest.)
Ken Careghino is a former partner in Cambridge who continues to work as a consultant for the company and commutes from New Hampshire. In an interview on July 9, Careghino said, “C.M. [Brahmbhatt] is a newcomer to the company, but the company has years of experience with education and master planning. We are just finishing up work in Kern and Bakersfield.” Careghino named a long list of colleges or districts Cambridge has done work for, including Coast Community.
Careghino believes Cambridge was selected because they look closely at the educational needs of colleges. “All our facilities plans are based on the education plan. Some companies put the cart before the horse and develop a facilities plan before they even look at the educational needs.”
A facilities and master plan will be the beginning of a new vision for Proposition R construction.
Because of the many problems with the Proposition R construction and the infamous corner lot that was “unveiled” in 2010, Prop R work has been suspended.
Careghino said he was somewhat aware of the past problems the college has had and could see why there might be “a bit of a rub” when looking at Brahmbatt’s previous employment with the college; however, Careghino believes the college “is under a microscope” and that Cambridge was selected based on their extensive experience.