Monday, February 27, 2012

College Needs to Remain Transparent (Unsigned Editorial)

Art by Carlos Magana
*Written by Albert Fulcher and Nickolas Furr

Southwestern College’s season in Hell is over, but the door of Hades has been left cracked open. Three new trustees are working feverishly to close it once and for all.
Norma Hernandez, Tim Nader and Humberto Peraza have the courage and vision to end SWC’s suffering and steer the college into an age of rebirth. Part of their wisdom is their understanding that the college has to come clean and put all of the misdeeds of the past out into the light before SWC can really be free.

Our college suffered on all levels – academically, administratively, publicly and politically – when SWC’s previous administration chose to erect walls of secrecy and chicanery. Backed by a dysfunctional 4-1 governing board majority, the prior administration’s lack of transparency and blatant secrecy from 2007 – 2010 disgusted the entire community, leading to a toxic atmosphere that has proved epically destructive.

Building Contracts Canceled

Photo: Christopher Martinez
Two weeks after Southwestern College’s governing board suspended all contracts with Seville Construction Services and Bunton Clifford Associates (BCA), the board terminated its relationships with the two construction firms involved in a pay-for-play controversy that has so far led to 26 felony indictments of South Bay education officials. Following a closed-door session on January 25, Governing Board President Norma Hernandez made the announcement to the public.

“The board took action … to sever the contractual relationships with Seville Construction Services and BCA architects, reserving all rights of the college,” she said.

In response, Seville released a statement that read, “Seville Construction Services and Southwestern Community College District representatives are working toward a mutual solution to dissolve a contractual relationship. We believe SCS has operated and acted in good faith throughout our relationship with the district. The independent actions of individuals previously involved with the program, including a former employee who was terminated a year ago for inappropriate actions that included violation of our corporate code of conduct, are negatively affecting both organizations and the community. It is important to note that the former employee is facing criminal charges for alleged actions while employed elsewhere, not SCS, on an unrelated project, not the college district.”

Sweetwater Trustees Won't Get Legal Fees

*By Mary York and Nickolas Furr

Sofia Reyes / Photo: Christopher Soto
Sweetwater Union High School District trustees decided to take no action on a controversial agenda item that would have granted $1.3 million in legal fees to four trustees who have been under investigation by the San Diego County District Attorney in the South Bay pay-to-play scandal. Trustees let the agenda item die without motions at the end of a volatile seven-hour meeting.

Nearly 800 people packed the Hilltop High School gymnasium and sat on folding chairsand wobbly bleachers shouting “Shame! Shame!” and holding up signs with doctored photos of trustees behind prison bars. On the agenda were items to grant $400,000 each to indicated Sweetwater trustees Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quiñones as well as former trustee Greg Sandoval. A fourth item sought $100,000 for trustee Bertha López whose home was searched by the district attorney but who has not been charged. Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara was also indicted and has legal fees guaranteed in his severance package. Gandara was fired in June, 2011. DA investigators also searched the homes of former Southwestern College administrators Nicholas Alioto and John Wilson. They have not been indicted, though District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said more indictments were possible.