Is Sweetwater Climbing Out of the Muck and Mire?
At last night's board meeting, Fran Brinkman, one of the five community activists who took the Sweetwater corruption concerns to the District Attorney, asked the Sweetwater trustees to "try to climb out of the muck and mire of the ongoing scandal."
Specifically, Brinkman asked trustees John McCann, Jim Cartmill, and Arlie Ricasa to recuse themselves on a vote to give the construction company Balfour Beatty a $19 million dollar contract. Brinkman's concern was that a vote would be unethical because they had received campaign contributions from Balfour Beatty in the 2010 campaign election. All three voted to award the contract.
Campaign contributions and contractor gifts continue to haunt the district. In March the board received an audit of Proposition O spending, performed by Eric Hall & Associates.
According to the district's website, the purpose of the Prop O audit was to "provide taxpayers with a review of the efficiency and effectiveness" of the $644 million bond program. The website goes on to say that Hall gave the district a score of 7.5 out of 10.
In connection with gifts and donations Hall and Associates made this recommendation: "The district should work with its legal counsel and develop for board consideration restricting all gifts and donations to District staff and board members and should address a restriction or ban on gifts and donations during or after contract period."
In December of last year, community member Nancy Stubbs agendized a resolution capping campaign contributions at $500.00. The Sweetwater board was mum on the resolution; it died for lack of a motion.
At Monday's meeting, trustee Bertha Lopez asked the district to assist board members in identifying "gifts." Lopez said she receives a calendar every month with invitations, but the calendar does not say who is paying for the event. She asked that the host be identified so trustees can avoid being the recipients of undesired gifts.
Some members of the public noted that monitoring of public participation took an aggressive turn last night. Speakers were frequently interrupted by the board president, Pearl Quinones, who repeatedly asked if the speaker was on point and rules of conduct were handed out at the door.