Yolanda Salcido and Raj Chopra at a Southwestern "gala"
Southwestern College’s long-awaited forensic investigation was released last week. The report focused on the awarding of Proposition R contracts and the activities of the Southwestern College Foundation. The report is remarkable in what it does not contain.
The consulting company contracted by the college to do the investigation, Seo Consulting, worked within constraints. The report advises the reader that, unlike the district attorney, the consulting company has “no subpoena power.”
Two figures, who many presumed would be central to the investigation, were former superintendent Raj Chopra and former foundation director Dan Hom.
Chopra, who was hired at Southwestern in 2007, was lauded for his efforts in passing Proposition R and presided over the district’s dispensations of Proposition R contracts. Chopra’s former vice president of business and finance, Nicholas Alioto, had his home searched by district attorney agents in December; Henry Amigable, former program manager for the college has been indicted.
The investigation states: “I attempted to contact Dr. Raj Chopra, former Superintendent/President of Southwestern College, but the number listed on his March 20, 2011 Form 700 was disconnected.”
In 2008, Dan Hom served on the board of the Southwestern College Foundation, traditionally considered a funding source for student scholarships. When the foundation donated $75,000 to Friends of Yes on Proposition R, Hom and his public relations company Focuscom went to work for the committee. After Proposition R passed, Focuscom/Hom was given a $100,000 public relations contract by Southwestern’s vice-president Nicholas Alioto and former Proposition R program manager Henry Amigable.
Southwestern’s investigation states, “I contacted Daniel Hom, former Director of the Foundation and President of Focuscom, but he preferred not to discuss the issues surrounding this Review.”
Notable, also, is the absence of interviews with any school-board members who served during the period under investigation. Two former board members, Yolanda Salcido and Jorge Dominquez, had their homes searched by the district attorney’s office today, March 20.
Southwestern’s review, like the district attorney’s report, demonstrates the complicated system of gifting, campaign donating, and contract awarding.
Periodically, fresh details were revealed. For example, the wife of program manager Henry Amigable, Angela Amigable, was paid $3000 by the foundation “for services related to the Gala.” Emails indicate “Nick Alioto hired Ms. Amigable with the Foundation’s approval.”
The report also notes that Seville Construction Services, the program manager for the bond construction, “expended approximately $1,450 for ten rounds of golf for Mr. Alioto from October 2009 to November 2010. During that same time period, Mr. Amigable purchased approximately $1,700 in meals for Mr. Alioto. There were also a few instances of meal purchases for Mr. Wilson [Southwestern’s director of business, facilities and planning] and Dr. Raj Chopra.”
Many times the report points to material that warrants further investigation.
In a presentation called “Prop R-New look 2025,” given at the last board meeting, one Powerpoint message read: “District spent valuable resources but we had a bad start for the program.”
How much of the proposition’s $389 million is irrevocably lost?
Interim business and finance vice president C.M. Brahmbatt was not available for comment March 19. Southwestern’s media contact, Bill Gay, said all he was at liberty to say was that “there has been communication between Southwestern and the principals involved in contracts.”