At the June 11 Sweetwater Union High School District’s board meeting, Fran Brinkman and other members of her group (which reported corruption concerns to the district attorney) will ask trustees: What is going on with Proposition O Bond construction funds?
Through a public record request, Brinkman obtained charts from the County Board of Education that show the district’s monthly transactions from Prop O funds and state matching funds between January 1, 2011 and February 29, 2012. Copies of the charts were provided to the Reader.
The cash-flow charts show continuous transfers in and out of the two accounts. I consulted with an insider familiar with district expenditures. The person examined the charts and said it appears that the district has been continuously borrowing from the Prop O funds and matching state funds. The insider questioned not only the transfers out but the many transfers into the account that might indicate the district was trying to play catch-up by paying back the funds.
An analysis of one chart, done by a secondary source, states that from January 2011 to February 2012, the district received $61 million from the state, yet the balance is only $32 million.
In December 2011, the U-T revealed that the district was borrowing money from the $644 million bond to make ends meet. Subsequent to that revelation, all boardmembers except for Jim Cartmill pledged repeatedly that the district would not borrow from Proposition O funds.
Is the district borrowing from these funds, which are dedicated to construction and modernization, or not? The problem appears to be that the spending of taxpayers’ proposition money is shrouded in secrecy.
Bernardo Vasquez is the chair of Sweetwater Union High School District’s Proposition O Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. The all-volunteer committee has struggled to keep track of construction-project spending since 2006.
According to Vasquez, the situation has worsened since Seville Group, Inc, program manager for Proposition O, was suspended in January.
In a May 29 interview, Vasquez said, “The district has not given the committee any financial reports this year.”
Vasquez also said when he and committee member David Butler went to the district last week seeking more accountability, they were alarmed by the charts they were shown by Paul Woods, the director of planning.
Vasquez said he and Butler had worked with the district early in January to develop a model report form that the committee could understand and use to track expenditures, but last week the district showed them a form that bore no relation to the one they had agreed upon.
Even more alarming, according to Vasquez, “The charts were not adding up. They raised more flags than answered questions.” Nevertheless, this is the information that will be presented to the trustees at the next meeting.
“The district is not meeting their obligation,” Vasquez said. He wants to give boardmembers the benefit of the doubt and wonders if district personnel might just be “overwhelmed and undermanned.” But he is weighing the question: “When do we start standing up and waving the red flag?”