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Saturday, March 08, 2008

8th Assembly District Race Officially Kicks Off

Although both candidates for the Democratic Nomination for the 8th Assembly District announced early in 2007, the campaign has officially kicked off. Both candidates will have their headquarter grand opening on Sunday March 16, 2008 at 11 AM.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon's will be in West Sacramento at 1401 Halyard Dr., Suite #120.

Supervisor Mariko Yamada's will take place in Vacaville at 187 Butcher Road, Suite C.

The public is invited to both events.

The Vanguard received an exclusive early press release from the Cabaldon Campaign.
"Expected to be in attendance are many of the local community leaders and elected officials from around the district, as well as dozens of supporters. After the program of speeches at the headquarters opening, many of the supporters will be precinct walking and phone banking on behalf of Cabaldon. Barbecue lunch and drinks will also be served at the event to all guests."

"Many of Solano and Yolo County’s highest elected officials have already announced their support of Mayor Cabaldon’s bid for the State Legislature, including every Democratic State Senator, Democratic Mayor, and Democratic County Supervisor (excluding Yamada) in the 8th Assembly District and according to the Davis Vanguard poll taken in September of 2007, Vanguard readers chose Cabaldon as their choice for the Assembly with an overwhelming 67.8% vote."
Meanwhile down I-80 in Vacaville, Supervisor Mariko Yamada will have her grand opening.

In her press release, Supervisor Yamada announced that she had filed her papers for candidacy yesterday.
"Since announcing her candidacy over a year ago, Yamada has been personally walking precincts and taking her campaign message directly to the voters. Since last fall, Yamada has knocked on nearly 3,000 doors in Solano and Yolo counties.

“Meeting voters face-to-face has always been my favorite part of the election process,” said Yamada. “Nothing can replace direct contact with the citizens, and many are pleasantly surprised to see a candidate come to their door asking for their vote.”
The Republican running against the winner will be Manuel Cosme, no ballot designation at least at this time.

The last time the seat was open Lois Wolk faced Republican John Munn, a Davis School Board member and won by a 58-41 margin. In 2006, Lois Wolk garnered 66% of the vote in the heavily Democratic 8th Assembly District.

The Vanguard plans to cover both headquarter openings on March 16, 2008. Stay tuned to the Vanguard for the latest news and commentary about this and other races as the June 3, 2008 election rapidly approaches.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Vanguard Stories

BREAKING NEWS: Senior Investigator For Yolo County District Attorney's Office Accuses Reisig of Ethical Malfeasance And Much More

Concealing Evidence, Deceptions on the Gang Injunction, Questionable Campaign Tactics Highlight the Seven Page Letter Filled with Accusations.

Senior investigator Rick Gore of the Yolo County District Attorney's Office fired off a letter to Jeff Reisig dated March 5, 2008. In that letter, a seven page long memo, he copied the Yolo County Counsel, Yolo County Human Resources, the State Bar of California and the Attorney General of California.

The implications of this letter run deep, if proven to be true. They reach into the controversial gang injunction, the District Attorney Election against Pat Lenzi, efforts to conceal potentially exculpatory evidence, much more.

He writes:
"Since your election as District Attorney of the county, we have had a few major disagreements concerning what I think are ethical and appropriate behavior compared to your beliefs."
Mr. Gore criticized a number of campaign tactics by Jeff Reisig.
"I did not agree with what I perceived as unethical campaign practices during your campaign."
He refused to write a disparaging letter to the editor as some of his colleagues did, and was ostracized in an inappropriate manner by his colleague.

He goes on:
"However, these bullying techniques did work on many and you got many people to write these personal character attacks against her. We had many closed-door discussions about your campaign in your office doing working hours. I remember saying hi to DDA Lenzi in the hallway and you later called me a traitor and told me I was scared of her. You met with our association and secretly forced our support for you, by using the implied coercion that our boss, Dave Henderson, was going to support you, so we had better support you. You told me the first thing you were going to do when elected was to reassign Supervisor Greg Maursin to welfare since he was being a “pussy” and refused to support you. You made good on this threat and reassigned him to welfare fraud investigations as soon as you were elected. On one occasion, in the middle of the workday, I caught Bruce Naliboff searching DDA Lenzi’s locked desk during the election. He told me he was looking for a case file, but we investigators all know attorneys keep case files on their desk, as she did, not in her desk drawers. I thought all of these tactics were inappropriate and told you so."
Rick Gore further outlines efforts to conceal discoverable evidence during a murder trial.
"One major disagreement you and I had was when you tried to hide and conceal discoverable evidence about a material witness and refused to discover evidence during an on-going murder trial."
He continues:
"Bruce Naliboff told me, in front of you, to “put a muzzle” on Randy Skaggs for talking about this discovery issue. You and I had extensive email discussion about this. Lt. Skaggs was in the office when Dave Henderson had to order you to comply with the law and therefore discover the evidence. I am sure the date of the gun test and the date of discovery of the report will show the long delay in providing this evidence, shooting and gun test, to the defense."
He then goes on to strongly criticize Jeff Reisig for his conduct with the gang injunction, something that Mr. Gore was initially involved in and in fact supported.
"As for the current and past Gang Injunction, when gathering intelligence, contacting active members and working with Detective Villanueva, I fully supported these efforts. However, after seeing this become your political benchmark, I have watched this injunction grow into something I did not want to be associated with or a part of, since I felt it had lost its original intent and purpose."
He admits efforts to mislead the appellate court with regard to initial efforts at noticing a single individual who was not high up in the Broderick Boys organization.
"I also feel you misled the appellate court when you argued, as an officer of the court, that serving only one person during the initial injunction was intended to result in the word getting out to the rest of the Broderick Boys. You and I know that the opposite was true and Wolfington was not high up in the organization and was not expected to pass the word to the others."
He also reveals reasons why they selected Mr. Wolfington to notice.
"I remember you telling me that you specifically selected Mr. Wolfington for being a less than “smart person”, you said he was “too stupid” to show up for court, he lived out of the area (in Sacramento) and he would likely not tell anyone."
Rick Gore no longer agrees with the current gang injunction nor does he think it is needed. However, "an affidavit in support of the injunction under penalty of perjury. I did not want to sign it as written since it was not prepared by me and I thought portions of my affidavit were untrue." He signed an affidavit of support for the second gang injunction that is currently in the process of being challenged.

He continues:
"I was called in by DDA Linden a few days later, and was told [Reisig] had ordered me to sign this injunction and I had no choice. Knowing I could be fired for not following this order, I signed it after changing some of the language."
Finally, he outlines an incident involving the Woodland Police Department. Friends of Reisig were victims of some sort of crime. However, rather than allowing the Woodland Police Department to conduct the investigation and come up with findings, he sent his own investigator and therefore inserted himself into Woodland police department's investigation in a case where he had a personal interest.
"I feel you have sent Bruce Naliboff out on two or more on-going investigations, where your friends have called you and asked for your involvement. Having Bruce Naliboff arriving on scene attempting to direct and influence the investigation, because you have a friend involved appears inappropriate to me and other. I believe you wrote a letter to the Woodland Police Chief stating your authority to do what you wanted. This has the appearance of impropriety appears that you are giving preferential treatment your friends and shows a lack of respect to other law enforcement agencies. I believe this has strained the working relationship between this office and Woodland Police Department."
Mr. Gore also highlights deficiencies in the range training program. DA Reisig has directed the Rangemaster and Firearms Instructors not to document deficiencies and problem seen during range training.
"Since your appointment, you have directed us not to list or document deficiencies or problems that we see during range training."
He continues:
"I think it does the investigators and the public a disservice and puts all Rangemasters and trainers in a difficult and precarious situation. I expressed this disagreement the Chief and the senior Rangemaster, but have followed your directions and have not listed any training deficiencies on any documentation since your directive. To my knowledge, after you took office and gave this directive no training deficiency has been documented. The pattern in our records and emails will support this issue. "
The ramifications of this letter are staggering if this is born out. Efforts to conceal evidence from a murder trial, efforts to lie and deceive the court in the gang injunction case, and other such accusations could spell deep trouble for the District Attorney.

It is clear that the State Attorney General and the California Bar need to do thorough independent investigations into these very serious matters.

The Vanguard will continue to follow this developing story and update you as new information comes to the fore.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Hundreds of Da Vinci Students Flood Chambers Hoping to Save Jobs of Their Teachers

One thing just about everyone agreed last night--no one had seen so many students at the Community Chambers. The fire marshal locked the doors to the main chambers. The hallway outside was filled to capacity. They opened the room next door and it was filled. People, almost all of them students, flooded the corridors and the patio. One had to park down the street. It was an amazing site.

Inside was a sad picture. A picture of inevitability. For almost two and a half hours, the Davis Joint Unified School Board went back and forth discussing the possibilities and the probabilities and numbers. Oh those numbers. There just aren't enough of them. Or too many of them, depending on your perspective.

We learned earlier this week that Da Vinci High School faced a possibility of 9 of its 12 teachers being on the layoff list. An occurrence that would obviously decimate the school.

Last night we learned the consequences if the school district did not make over $4 million in cuts. Associate Yolo County Superintendent Linda Legnitto with Superintendent Jorge Ayala looking on, laid out in very stark, very real, and very cold terms exactly what a lack of action by the Davis School Board would mean. It would be that Davis Joint Unified would lose control of its financial affairs. It would prevent the School District from taking on new debt without approval from the voters. It would prevent them from applying or being eligible for various monies. It would in all likelihood lead the County take over most operations. In short, we would lose local control of our schools.

Unfortunately last night, we also learned the consequence of making such deep cuts. There are some 280 students at Da Vinci which has become a magnet for technology and students who are unique. One by one the vast majority of those students flooded the chambers and spoke from their heart. One by one, the cold hard truth sunk in deeper and deeper. This is going to be a devasting loss.

When you think about it, whether it is Da Vinci High cuts, whether it is foreign languages, whether it is music, whether it is programs that aid at-risk kids, the bottom line is that you are cutting programs that for some kids mean the difference between education and not education. Between success and failure. Every kid is different. What inspires a kid varies. What keeps a kid interested and engaged depends on the kid. What makes Davis unique is the variety of programs that it offers to keep students engaged in their education and when those programs are taken away many kids will become at-risk.

The worst part of these cuts are that they are deep, painful, and have the air of inevitability. We cannot merely rail against the County, the Board of Education, the School District, and hope to make things change. We cannot blame the boogie man and demand better. There is no bad guy here. There are mistakes to be sure. But the board in this case is doing what it has to do. And that's the worst part about it. It is a helpless feeling. The worst thing in the world was watching those kids sitting in the audience and you could literally see their hearts ripped out of them and you knew there was literally nothing that you could do to stop it.

That said, all is not completely lost. As the board emphasized, by March 15, 2008 they were required to lay out these cuts--send out the layout notices and show the county that they had over $4 million, it is closer to $4.3 million in cuts.

However, things can go back some now that this has occurred. The budget will take a long time to hash out, Ms. Legnitto suggested not until at least the summer would we know, but there is a good chance that the state cuts will not be as steep.

In the meantime, the Davis Schools Foundations has already raised over $15,000 and their goal is to raise $2.8 million. They are sponsoring a "Dollar a Day" fundraising campaign, which for laymen would be $365 donations (or perhaps $366 since it is leap year). For more information people are encourage to go to their website at

Should their efforts to raise $2.8 million be successful, it could help bridge the gap. The problem of course is that this too is just one-time money. And the budget picture for next year is not figuring to be any better, in fact, there might need to be another $600,000 in cuts.

There was talk of another parcel tax. But the deadline for June is today. So that would obviously be out of the question. That puts November as a possibility. But would the voters approve another parcel tax just a year after they renewed the last one? That seems like a lot to ask the voters. We are probably talking about another $100 per year to cover everything. It is tough to imagine. Then again, it is tough to imagine $4 million in cuts.

There is no doubt that yesterday was the low point among low points for many in this community and on that board. Gina Daleiden, who called in from Los Angeles from her visit to the Museum of Tolerance emphasized how difficult a call this was and that this was not what she came to the board to do.

One has to sympathize with our new Superintendent James Hammond, who finds himself thrust in the firing line. Hopefully the coming weeks bring better news, until then, we will have to bunker down and ride out this storm.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

County Board of Education Hears Valley Oak Charter Appeal

Yesterday the County Board of Education met up in its Woodland offices to hear the appeal of the Valley Oak Charter School.

Yesterday was arranged to allow community members, parents, and teachers to participate and comment on the school. The board graciously met at 4:45 PM in order to accommodate working people.

The first thirty minutes of the meeting was a presentation by two of the petitioners--Mike Egan who works for CTA and has helped to guide this process and Bill Storm, science teacher at Valley Oak Elementary.

It was a presentation familiar to many who have followed the Valley Oak saga, but for Superintendent Jorge Ayala and the County Board of Education, it was the first time they had a chance to hear in detail about the advantages of Valley Oak and why it needs to stay open.

One of the points that was raised that was somewhat new was a discussion of other teacher directed schools from across the county including the Minnesota New Country Day and Milwaukee Public Schools.

They spoke about how teaching technology can help to bridge the digital divide and how Valley Oak will introduce technology to students and indeed through the students, to their families as a whole. They emphasized that this was not a program about hardware. It was not a program about giving a computer to every student, but rather a program geared around integrating technology into instruction.

They spoke of the organizations that support the development of the charter school including two very key organizations--the Davis Teachers Association (DTA) and the California Teachers Association (CTA). In many ways this is a unique scenario because teacher's associations have often battled with charters in other locations.

One of the big questions is under what collective bargaining agreement teachers would fall under. This is important since the county's payscale is significantly different and lower from that of DJUSD. The petitioners pointed out case law where a county had taken over as the authorizing jurisdiction for the school district and the teachers remained under the auspices of the CBA that was negotiated with their home district rather than the county.

Finally, a point was raised about the criteria for approval and denial. There are very specific criteria that we have discussed in the past at length. Those do not include economic impact on the school district. There is a very important and indeed specific reason for that provision in the ed code and that is because--there is always a fiscal impact on a school district to have a charter school and if they allowed that criteria as a basis for denial, every charter would be denied. It was pointed out that in fact, one of the stated reasons at the meeting on January 24, 2008 was the fiscal impact on the school district. More on that a bit later.

Parents, teachers, and community members attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of the charter school citing the unique place that Valley Oak is a high achieving school for Spanish speakers and other disadvantaged children. They spoke in terms that we have heard many times, of EL students not only succeeding but excelling. Rick Gonzales, Jr. of the Yolo County Concilio talked about the fact that there were EL students who graduated from the EL program and went into the GATE program. Others talked about it having the highest EL scores and performance in the district and the fact that this is the most culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse population in the city of Davis. But unfortunately, also the most vulnerable and that vulnerability remains the reason that they need to have a school to call their own.

County Clerk and Recorder Freddie Oakley talked about a Lt. Gov. John Garamendi Speech from earlier:
"At a time when our state faces more challenges than ever in an increasingly world, an increasingly complex global economy, and an environment threatened by global climate change, California cannot afford to cutback on these investments which have made our state strong and which propel our economy into the future."
She went on to discuss the impact of Valley Oak and the need to take something out of this crisis:
"He was talking about K through 12 education. What a wonderful opportunity has arisen out of this crisis in the Davis schools that was propelling the closure of this extraordinarily valuable community resources. But a tremendous opportunity to do something that will be of real benefit to Yolo County as we go forward into the future. We need learners who are capable and familiar with technology issues. We know that is what children learn and take home to their parents."
Amanda Lopez-Lara, the student representative on the Davis school board came down on her own time to speak to this issue. She said that her family has gone through Valley Oak, although she did not go to school there herself.
"Being on the board, I understand the budget cuts that are going through... I sat through all of the budget meetings and I understand what the achievement gap is. And there is so much talk of closing an achievement gap. Finally I see a where we can focus on the Latino Students, on minority students, and to me it was sad that it was rejected by my own school board. Because here is a chance where I think the achievement gap can truly be closed. Where they can focus on the EL students and those who did not learn English as a first language...

I also understand that for my board it was a sense of monetary worth, because of the budget. I think that sometimes you have to overlook the monetary worth and look at the student value."
County Supervisor Mariko Yamada also spoke in favor of Valley Oak Charter School. She spoke as the parent of two children who went to Valley Oak elementary school.
"We chose to transfer to Valley Oak because of the enriched atmosphere and environment that is truly unique to Valley Oak. It is the oldest, most culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse campus in Davis. I spoke against the closure of the Valley Oak School. I spoke in favor of the charter.

"The Davis school board and others certainly diligently participated in the Best Use of Schools Task Force [argued] that you can take a school and its programs and transfer them elsewhere and they can replicated. That's kind of an intellectual exercise of reviewing school programs.

"I'm here to say that Valley Oak is much more than the sum of its parts. You cannot take the programs and just transfer them to other campuses and achieve the same synergy, the same dynamic, the same sense of commitment that the entire school community has to the school. I think it would be a tragedy to deny the charter."
Throughout the meeting--the presentations, the public comments, the County Board of Education was engaged, respectful and appreciative of the commitment and work of the petitioners and the supports of the Valley Oak Charter Program.

Trustee Davis Campbell who represents a portion of the city of Davis on the Board thanked those in attendance.
"As one board member and particularly from Davis, I want to express my appreciation for all the energy that's gone into this. I know it is a very emotional and important issue for everyone in the room. I can assure you that we're taking that very very seriously."
Board Trustee Stu Greenfield concurred.

Board Trustee Joseph Thomson, who also represents Davis, read some concerns into the record. He wanted direction from legal council about the process followed by DJUSD with regards to the good faith negotiation that went into created the charter amendment which was subsequently denied.
"At the January 24th board meeting the DJUSD board rejected an amended petition. However that decision was apparently based in part on considerations explicitly excluded in the education code. At their February 8th meeting, the DJUSD board chose not to vote on the amended petition, but only voted down the original November petition.

It might be argued that by entering into negotiations, the DJUSD board necessarily obligated itself to treat the amended petition as the operative document, if so, that seems to raise two questions that YCBE counsel needs to answer before we proceed.

One, has DJUSD met its statutory obligations to vote the petition up or down based on acceptable criteria and two if DJUSD has not met its obligation does the YCBE have jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the decision that was never completed."
The implications of that statement could range far and wide. It may force the DJUSD board to take additional action. It may also place the DJUSD board out of compliance, which could itself be grounds for appeal and overturn. That question was directed to be YCBE counsel but also DJUSD counsel, Scott Yarnell who was at the meeting.

How this process proceeds is unclear at this point. The outcome is not clear. However, it seems everyone left that meeting believing that the charter would get a fair and professional hearing. In these times of budget crises and budget cuts, it seems that the Valley Oak Charter school is more and not less important than ever. The students who will be harmed most by declining enrollment and state budget crises are likely to be these kids--kids who are at-risk and disadvantaged to begin with. Valley Oak has been an example of a school that defies the odds and provides children with a strong and solid foundation for their education.

If we lose this tool, it will put these kids education and thus their very quality of life in peril. Right now their hope rests on a body that has not had a vested interest in closing the school for months. It gets a fresh hearing by fresh eyes. And maybe, just maybe, that is what this charter school and this community needs.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thursday Vanguard Stories

NEWS AND COMMENTARY: Valley Oak Charter School Appeal on the Agenda For Tonight And Continuing Budget Crisis At DJUSD

Valley Oak Charter School Hearing

Tonight the Yolo County Office of Education has scheduled a public hearing to receive comment regarding the Valley Oak Charter School petition appeals. The public hearing will be held at the Yolo County Office of Education Conference Center, 1280 Santa Anita Court, Suite 120, Woodland, CA. The hearing will begin at 4:45 p.m.

The purpose of the meeting will be to receive comment from parents, teachers, members of the community, and bargaining unit leaders regarding two Valley Oak Charter School petition appeals.

Our sources suggest that it is unlikely that the Yolo County Board of Education will vote to approve the charter, but this is a necessary step that must be taken. If the County Board of Education rejects the charter it could be appealed to the State Department of Education where it will receive its possible chance for approval.

School Budget Cuts

One of the things we talked about on the radio last night is that the school district just built two new elementary schools and a junior high. So now enrollment declines and the budget is in disarray, what does the school district do? They have already closed down Valley Oak Elementary School and now are talking about closing down Emerson Junior High just a few years after opening Harper Junior High.

Meantime, it appears that each school board member has a particular program that they do not want to cut and for each one it is different. As a non-school board member there are a whole host of things I don't want to cut.

Richard Harris ran on being the budget cutting guru, but somehow, I'm guessing he never thought he would be in the position to have to cut the number of librarians. For Gina Daleiden it is foreign language. For Sheila Allen it is elementary school music. For Susan Lovenburg, she is still willing to keep everything on the table. I cannot really disagree with anyone here. Cutting is a horrible thing to have to do, but then again, you have to cut something you do not want when you have such a huge deficit.

The part that has to give everyone chills comes right out of Jeff Hudson's Davis Enterprise article:
"But despite the lengthy discussion, the board got only a little bit closer to identifying the $4 million in budget reductions needed to keep the Davis school district's financial reserves from diminishing to the point that the Yolo County Office of Education would be forced to step in and take control of the Davis district's financial affairs. That grim fact could become reality as soon as mid-March.

Two top administrators from the county office - Yolo County Superintendent Jorge Ayala and Associate Superintendent Linda Legnitto - stayed up with the Davis trustees until 11:30 p.m., their physical presence reminding trustees of the gravity of the district's perilous financial situation. "
Actually I have to say it is refreshing that Mr. Hudson would print this because it is in fact an unsaid truth that hangs over everyone. The word I have had for quite some time is that the County Office of Education is watching DJUSD very closely.

While I think the previous board did a decent job cleaning up a financial mess left behind by the previous regime, one aspect still looms, nearly half of the cuts are due to the fact that one-time monies were used for a period of time to fund on-going projects. When those monies began to shrink and vanish, the school district depleted the financial reserves that are not mandatory.

In other words, there are 3 percent reserves that cannot be touched without serious consequence, and then there is a district imposed level, those got eaten away. Had they still been intact, the district could kind of soft land this thing for a year or two until things stabilized. Not so now. And while I still think the district should have kept Valley Oak open for a variety of reasons, you can see why the County probably will not.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Political Roundup: 4th Supervisorial Race Gets a Third Candidate

4th Supervisorial Race Gets a Third Candidate

Yesterday’s Vanguard excerpted from the two announced candidates for the County Board of Superivisor’s Fourth District—a seat that is open due to Supervisor Mariko Yamada’s run for the 8th Assembly Seat. John Ferrera who is chief of Staff to Denise Ducheney and Former School School Board Member Jim Provenza are squaring off over what is expected to be a tight race.

The news is that The Vanguard got late word there will be a third candidate entering, Cathy Kennedy. We do not know a lot about her at this point in time. But we got word that she has officially filed as of yesterday.

This is very bad news for both Jim Provenza and John Ferrera--even if Cathy Kennedy gets only a marginal vote share and as the only woman in the race, her vote share may not be that marginal.

But someone reminded me of the 1998 Public Guardian Race. There were two main contenders Cass Sylvia who eventually won and Lynn Christensen. Then there was a third candidate and that third candidate (Larry Hatch) took only 5.7 percent of the vote. Cass Sylvia ended up winning 51.7 to 42.5. Had she gotten under 50 percent it would have gone to a November runoff.

In a close race, even a marginal third candidate can throw it to a November runoff, which means more money and more energy. Just ask Matt Rexroad and Frank Siefferman what a bear it is to run two races and how expensive it becomes.

This looks like a very close battle for the 4th Supervisorial seat and if that is the case, the third candidate almost certainly throws it to November. Stay tuned but this looks like bads news for the main two contenders.

Lois Wolk Files Officially For Fifth Senate Race

Speaking of heated battle in November, the Senate Race is headed there as there is no primary challenge for Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

The Vanguard received a press release yesterday:
"Assemblywoman Lois Wolk yesterday filed papers to become an official candidate for the State Senate in the California’s 5th district, currently held by termed-out Senator Mike Machado.

“Taking care of people has always been at the core of my public service. In the Senate I can do more to protect seniors, get more resources into our classrooms, improve transportation and reduce traffic congestion,” Wolk commented. The Assemblywoman also noted that she looks forward to “continuing my work on water issues, flood protection and Delta preservation.”

“Lois has been a great partner on issues of concern to San Joaquin County and I am proud to support her,” said Senator Machado who endorsed her candidacy.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza whose district overlaps the 5th announced his support and said, “Assemblywoman Lois Wolk has displayed a passion for public service since she first ran for Davis City Council and I strongly endorse her campaign for the California State Senate. She has built a record of accomplishment in the State Assembly by taking on some of the most difficult issues affecting California.”

And, in offering her support, former Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews focused on Lois’ ability to bring people together on behalf of the environment. “Lois has done excellent work to preserve natural areas, wetlands and the Delta. She’s a true environmental champion and we need her in the Senate.”
This will be one of the big races we will be covering in November along with the 4th Congressional race, which will pit Charlie Brown against one of several challengers--more on that race in the coming days. It must be campaign time.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Vanguard Radio Shows Starts Tonight on KDRT

Every Wednesday from 6 to 7, I will host "The People's Vanguard of Davis" radio show on KDRT 101.5

Unfortunately at this point there is no webcast, but we will eventually hook up a podcast to hear later.

Tonight we will be discussing our investigation into Tahir Ahad and Total School Solutions.

Listeners are encouraged to call in at: 530-792-1648

County Supervisor's Race Heats Up

So far it has been a quiet campaign season for the open Fourth Supervisorial District. But that figures to change for the seat vacated by Incumbent Mariko Yamada's run for State Assembly.

Last Friday, John Ferrera filed his papers to make his run official and yesterday Jim Provenza filed his.

John Ferrera, who did not send the Vanguard a press release, was quoted in the Davis Enterprise.
"I know it's a little corny, but we're taking a leap — leaping into leadership on leap year day... I like the symbolism... I'm excited to take responsibility for making tough decisions and working to leave things better than we found them.


I've committed myself to public service for 22 years, working on the issues we face here in Yolo County — creating a long-term vision for preserving and enhancing our environment, supporting agriculture and the economy and providing for those who need our help.

Now, I am committing myself to four years of service to the residents of the 4th District and Yolo County as a whole. It seems appropriate to do it on a day that happens once every four years."
Meanwhile Former Davis School Board Member Jim Provenza in a release sent to the Vanguard wrote among other things:
“Local experience will play an important role when evaluating candidates for your next county supervisor... I am proud to have served for the past four years as a Davis school board member and most recently as President of the Davis Joint Unified School District. My wife and I have been actively involved in the Davis community for over 15 years. Our children attended and graduated from the Davis schools. I am a lawyer with a degree from UC Davis School of Law.


As president of the board, Provenza was instrumental in winning back 4.5 million dollars owed by the state for Montgomery School. He fought for improvements in special education and was responsible for priorities that deliver excellence in education for all students while improving the performance and test scores of students who struggle to succeed.


As county supervisor, I will continue to be a strong advocate for the people of Davis. My priorities will be to preserve open space and farmland, promote accessible government and improve services for seniors, children, the disabled, and crime victims. I will also build a sound county budget by pursuing all available state and federal funds."
Campaign rhetoric is one thing. But the most telling aspect of any campaign is probably who signs one's nomination papers. It indicates depth of support, how many public figures have signed, and of course from the stand point of the voters--what side of the local political debate the office seeker stands on.

Based on both endorsers and signees, these two candidates appear on paper to be rather evenly matched. Personally, who signs the paper is a bit more important for this race than who endorsed, because the nomination paper signers have to live in the person's district.

John Ferrera's papers were signed by among others:
City Councilmember Stephen Souza, Former City Councilmember Ted Puntillo (I believe), School Board member Richard Harris, Former School Board Members Marty West and Keltie Jones, Former County Supervisor Betsy Marchard (who represented this district previously). The most important signature is from wife, Anna Ferrera. Others include former Superintendent Floyd Fenocchio, Kevin Wolf, Chuck Cunningham, Michael Levy, Kathy Tyzzer, Velma Lagerstrom, Bob Segar, Robin Kulakow, Bill Julian, Curt Augustine, Colleen Beamish, Jim Becket, Janet Berry, Rex Berry, Alan Brownstein, Wendy Chason, Bob Chason, Randy Chinn, Jonathan Clay, Colleen Connolly, Ann Costello, Starr Walton Hurley, Estell Jones, John Jones, Pat King, Elisa Levy, Sandy Pellegrini, Brian Sway, Janellyn and Terry Whittier, Katy Zane and Richard Zeiger.
Jim Provenza's papers were signed by among other other:
Current Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, City Council Member Lamar Heystek, School Board members Sheila Allen and Gina Daleiden, Former School Board member B.J. Kline, Former State Superintendent of School Delaine Eastin, Eli Fairclough who represents Mike Thomspon. The most important signature is from wife, Donna Provenza. Others include Robin Souza, Rick Gonzales, Jr., Sheryl Patterson, Holly Bishop, Pam Nieberg, Rose Calabria, Debra Hartnett, Harry Ohlendorf, Rev. Tim Malone, Bob Hagedorn, Heidy Kellison, Renee Liston, Nancy Peterson, Peter Kellison, Davis Democratic Club President Arun Sen, Eleanor Lake, Phillip Reedy, Carl Vandagriff, Edward Peter Hartnett, Lois Bixson, Cory Gold, Edith Gold, Ann Marty, Gayle Henreid, Cameron Black, Jennifer Hagedorn, Jane Reedy, Barbara Ohlendorf, Tom Adams, and Junko Kanaya-Adams.
There will be a number of interesting subtexts in this battle to determine who wins the Fourth Supervisorial District. Things ought to get interesting from here on out. One thing appears clear--the lines in this race appear fairly well-defined. The Vanguard will be closely covering this race that will have important implications as the General Plan process at the County Level continues to move forward and the debate over Davis' borders and peripheral development heats up once again.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Total School Solutions Wreaks Havoc for Waterford School District As Well

As we continue our series on the impact of former CBO Tahir Ahad and his prviate educational consulting company, Total School Solutions (TSS), it is important to note that TSS has contracts and projects in districts across the state of California and beyond. Their webpage lists as clients, 61 such districts including, Waterford Unified School District.

Waterford is a small town of approximately 8,500 just east of Modesto. On Sunday, March 2, 2008, the Modesto Bee ran an investigative report about fiscal mismanagement performed by their Superintendent Howard Cohen and his relationship with Total School Solutions.

If the name Howard Cohen rings a bell for some readers, it should, he was Principal at Davis High School, and worked for our district for a number of years.

To the best that I can approximate, his time in Davis did not coincide with Tahir Ahad--although accounts vary and that is one thing that is being checked into.

It seems more likely that Howard Cohen who moved on to the West Contra Costa County District met Mr. Ahad there. West Contra Costa County was the location of early TSS contracts and a district that has supplied Mr. Ahad with a number of his non-DJUSD employees.

Nevertheless, the Modesto Bee article describes irregularities in the Waterford School District financial practices. Waterford much like DJUSD now finds itself facing a 10 percent budget cut.

In the meantime a report finds three main areas of unauthorized and/ or unexpected payments:
"Stipends totaling $25,000 paid to two principals over two years, Jose Aldoca and Don Davis

Administrative pay raises of 5.2 percent, including a raise for Superintendent Howard Cohen, that were paid five months before the board approved them

A contract with a Bay Area consulting firm, Total School Solutions, was ratified as a $33,000 agreement to polish the district's master plan but turned out to be an open-ended contract that cost the district $124,000 before it was canceled with the work unfinished."
It appears upon hiring Mr. Cohen, who still resides in Walnut Creek and commutes to Waterford (there are questions as to whether or not he works full time), that a number of TSS employees were unwittingly hired as staff or consultants.

The Vanguard has received information that suggests there is more to the situation in Waterford than what was reported in the Modesto paper. Much of it is similar to what happened here in Davis, and what has been reported is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The Vanguard will continue to monitor and possibly investigate this situation as conditions warrant.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vanguard Investigation Part II: Facilities Finance and Construction Irregularities

This is the second story in our continuing series of examining the tenure of former DJUSD Deputy Superintendent Tahir Ahad and problems that arose out of his establishment of a private education consulting business in 1999—Total Schools Solutions. The first segment of this series which ran on Sunday, February 24, 2008 examined the inherent problems involved in a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest we examined involved a series of disturbing findings of how Mr. Ahad used his position as Chief Budget Officer (CBO) with the Davis Joint Unified School District as a means by which to start up his own private company for his own private gain. In short, he used public resources for private gain, a serious breach in the public trust.

If those specific problems were not serious enough, an extensive investigation by the Vanguard has found a series of questionable decisions and critical mistakes by Tahir Ahad and his staff, especially with regards to facilities planning. During the course of this second segment, we shall examine problems that arose with the construction of Montgomery Elementary School, Mace Ranch Elementary, which eventually became Korematsu, and King High.

Due to the length of this discussion, the next segment of this series will cover the Grande Property, and also examine the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistant Team (FCMAT) report and how the implications of a budget deficit was created by the use of one-time monies to fund ongoing projects.

One key point that needs to be made at the onset is that the district brought in FCMAT. They also brought in a consultant, Terri Ryland who reconstructed the district’s books that were in disarray following Tahir Ahad’s 2006 exit from the district. The key point however, as Board President Sheila Allen emphasized, “there was no lost money, there was no money that was illegally spent, but it was very difficult for someone to come in and be able to track exactly—here’s the money coming in, here’s how it was spent.” The other key point that will be demonstrated much more thoroughly in a future segment of this story is that many of the problems that FCMAT found with the district’s books have been thoroughly examined by the school district and new CBO Bruce Colby and the district has fixed many if not all of these problems.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that no monies appear to be missing, what the Vanguard has uncovered amounts to serious fiscal mismanagement. Money may not have been lost, but these practices undoubtedly cost the district much in terms of inefficiency, time, energy, and the expense of repairing the damage caused by Mr. Ahad’s business practices. The FCMAT report rated the district a “high risk,” a score that will be explained during the course of this report.


In 1998, the district attempted but failed to pass a facilities bond with the voters. Complaints ranged from the fact that the bond was too high to the fact that it covered too many schools and facilities. So in 2000, the school district placed a $26 million school facilities bond before the Davis voters. Included in this bond was $32 million in matching funds from the state. Measure K sought to alleviate overcrowding by building a new junior high school and two new elementary schools—one in South Davis and one in Mace Ranch.

The paired down ballot measure passed easily with 85 percent of the vote. However, in it contained the seeds that would cause almost a decade worth of problems for the Davis Joint Unified School District as well as many in the community.

The first problem was the decision to include Mace Ranch Elementary School in the bond measure. There were strong political reasons for its inclusion including a Mello Roos levied on the residents of Mace Ranch and the political need to include it in order to insure passage of the bond measure. But there were warning signs as well including a 1996 Future Facilities Task Force Report that suggested that future enrollment might only support an additional 1.5 schools rather than two full-two schools. Unfortunately, that projection has played out to present, where the Best Uses of Schools Task Force report basically found the same thing—the district does not have significant attendance to sustain a ninth elementary school. This is just a side note however; even now it is difficult to ascertain whether the decision to build two new schools was a clear mistake without 20-20 hindsight.

The larger problem however was the reliance of $32 million in state matching funds. The tenuous nature of such reliance was underscored just a little over a month after the passage of Measure K when the Davis Enterprise ran a December 19, 2000, article that questioned what a State Allocation Board decision to reserve a large amount of money in matching funds for Los Angeles might mean for Davis. This put into question whether Davis would receive their allotment of matching funds.

Ironically enough, Tahir Ahad was quoted in the article as saying:
"I believe it does not reflect positively on the work that districts like Davis have done to make sure we comply with the rules and regulations, and to get our applications in on time."
The problematic nature of depending so heavily on state funding becomes apparent as we examine the problems that underlie the construction of Montgomery Elementary and Mace Ranch Elementary, which would become Korematsu Elementary School.

Elementary School

In August of 2001, the Davis School district signed construction contracts to build Montgomery Elementary School. According to the plan, the approximate funding requested for this project was just over $9 million of which the State was requested to fund just over $4.5 million.

According to the state law, the district had 180 days from this date to submit a funding application. However, the district did not file until July of 2002, or 11 months after the contract was signed. This application was “rejected due to the District being non-responsive to Staff’s request for addition information. In addition, the District did not qualify for funding since the construction contracts were signed more than 180 days prior to the District’s submittal.”

A key point needs to be made clear at this time—it was not clear that the District knew that it had missed the deadline. However, the application submitted was missing required information and the district failed to respond to requests for additional information.

While the facilities plan in general fell under Tahir Ahad’s auspices, the specific employee in charge of the application was Henry Petrino, the Facilities Director who also worked on the side for Total School Solutions. The readers should be reminded that Henry Petrino left the school district to work full time for Total School Solutions but was hired back as a consultant by Tahir Ahad (as was discussed in the previous segment).

By January of 2003, the school construction was completed. The district then submitted funding application for a second time. The application was rejected once again since the contracts were signed more than 180 days prior to the District’s submittal. The deadline was missed not by a short period of time either; it was missed by a full five months.

The Davis School District was not alone in missing the deadline however.

As Marty West and Joan Sallee wrote in defense of the district administration at the time, in their November 2007 Op-Ed:
“Much has been made of the district's ultimate success in August 2007 in obtaining $4.5 million from the state for the 2001-02 construction costs of Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School. We are also delighted at this successful result of many years of work by many people. When we learned in 2003 that a new regulation jeopardized our application for state construction funds, we supported the superintendent in his immediate efforts to secure the funds. More than 70 other school districts had run afoul of the same obscure regulation.”
In point of fact there were problems with the regulations; however, that really does not excuse missing deadlines. A simple call could have clarified any deadlines for matching fund allocations. Many familiar with such processes told the Vanguard that it would be the first thing we find out, because almost all applications have deadlines. One would ordinarily build a calendar to ensure compliance with any and all regulations. This did not occur with the school district in the case of Montgomery.

The Vanguard asked Board President Sheila Allen about the chief problem involved in losing the state matching funds during the course of her interview in January.
“The chief problem for why we lost the state matching funds was because we missed the deadline. To me, that’s inexcusable to just miss it. For something as huge as this, I don’t know what else that you’re doing, but something so very important as this, you just don’t miss the deadline. That’s the reason that the whole thing started is that you missed the deadline. And there can be speculation as to why one would have missed the deadline, but the bottom line is that the deadline was missed. I don’t think there was a sufficient consequence for such a large mistake as that.”
The bottom line however following the denial of funds is that the district was short of $4.5 million that was being counted upon to fund Montgomery. Worse yet is the fact that the construction was already completed before matching funds were secured. So what did the school district do? Did they issue a mea culpa and ask for more funding? No, they did not. They began a process whereby funding for other projects got shifted to Montgomery. However, the lost money from Montgomery was magnified by subsequent problems with the funding from Mace Ranch Elementary School—soon to be called, Korematsu. Before we discuss Korematsu, we will discuss the recouping of the Montgomery money, which took place just last summer.

“Winning the Lottery”—Recouping the Montgomery Money

Following the second denial in April of 2003, the Governor placed a freeze on all regulations until May of 2004. Upon the lifting of the freeze, regulations for a 120-day grandfathering filing period were approved by the State Allocation Board (SAB) on an emergency basis. The district in November of 2004 submitted a 3rd application and this application was rejected since the District did not have eligibility for the project during the grandfathering period.

The problem was that by 2004, the district was experiencing declining enrollment and no longer eligible for matching funds by the state. It would take until the summer of 2007 until the district, with great effort on the part of staff and community, would secure this matching funding upon appeal.

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk told the SAB:
“It’s true that there have been numerous mistakes made on this application dating from the early year 2000 when the bond was passed and after that 2002 and onward… Many of these issues resulted in a new school board, a new school, a new chief budget officer, and a new superintendent. Heads have rolled indeed. But if the district is not granted this appeal, it is not those individuals frankly who were responsible for the errors who will pay but rather the Davis students.”
Former Assemblywoman and current County Supervisor Helen Thomson also apologized to the SAB for what she described as “very highhanded and arrogant” treatment by former employees of the district. She too emphasized personnel change in the form of a new superintendent and new business manager.

A thorough reading of the minutes from the SAB suggests that while the district did in fact recoup the $4.5 million in matching funds, it took tremendous effort and in many ways it was a decision made not on merits of the case as West and Sallee describe, but rather on mercy by the SAB. They certainly were well within their rights to follow the staff recommendation of rejecting the appeal.

Board Vice President Gina Daleiden told the Vanguard it was a combination of the efforts of Lois Wolk and Helen Thomson along with changes made by the school board that led to the reinstatement of the funding.
“We had a huge helping hand from our widely respected representatives, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, Supervisor Helen Thomson, and Senator Mike Machado who all went in and made the statements that you can find reflected in the transcript. But basically it is my belief that the State Allocation Board, in that second meeting, understood that the district had made changes to correct past problems and mistakes, had acted responsibly, and had understood that our students would be the ones that would be most hurt by the denial. And our interim Superintendent listed several changes that had been made in the district that he helped make, and that our new CBO had made in our financial practices, so I believed sitting there in the audience, that the state allocation board understood that we corrected a lot of past mistakes and they were willing to give us the funding.”
The Davis School Board led by Jim Provenza worked very hard to make key changes that would enable the SAB to consider overturning the rejection on appeal. Senator Bob Margett, a Republican was a key player in the appeal process. He would not have been willing to overturn the decision had the district not worked hard to clean up their business office beginning with CBO Tahir Ahad, the replacement of David Murphy with Richard Whitmore as Superintendent, the hiring of Bruce Colby as the new CBO, and an implementation of the changes requested by FCMAT.

The Davis Enterprise quotes Keltie Jones praising Jim Provenza’s leadership and expertise on this matter.
School board trustee Keltie Jones credited Provenza, an attorney with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office in Sacramento.

"We benefited from your expertise in the state Capitol," she said.
Board Member Sheila Allen generously praised the efforts of all involved.
“I have to take another opportunity, because I don’t know if they get a lot of positive press in your blog or not, but Mike Machado and especially Helen Thomson and Lois Wolk, not only came to the meeting and spoke for us, but they were doing political assisting behind the scenes and people were going out of the room and there were phone calls happening at the dais while people were doing their presentations. It passed with more votes than we actually needed. I felt like I won the lottery that day.”


As was the case with Montgomery, the district had budgeted roughly $9 million for the construction for Korematsu. Roughly $4.5 million of that was supposed to be financed by state matching funds. Instead, the district received only $2.476 million or roughly $2 million less than originally planned.

According to Board Vice President Gina Daleiden:
“When we filed for state funds enrollment was at one level and at the time the funding came in we had declined in enrollment so we actually received fewer dollars for Korematsu.”
Local funds had to make up the difference between the $2.4 million in state money obtained and the amount originally planned. Clearly, this is the fault of no one. However, it does illustrate once again the pitfalls of relying on state money as a necessary funding source. Due to the shortfalls and lost revenue, the district between these two projects was around $6.5 million in the hole as compared to the amount that was originally budgeted for the two elementary school projects.

Mismanagement however comes into play here as well. The project bid went to NTD Edge as a “sole source designed build” in which exactly one company was consulted.

The contract itself was very “unusual.” It was a “design-build lease-back contract.” The site would be actually leased to the contractor for $1 per year. According to the minutes from the September 18, 2003 board meeting:
“The design-build lease-back would allow the contractor to negotiate the price with the subcontractors of their choice, reducing cost and ensuring quality workmanship.”
The board would be informed that this arrangement would be “expected to see reduced architectural cost and reduced change order costs with this type of approach.”

This would turn out to be largely untrue.

Moreover, the minutes note, “Deputy Superintendent Ahad noted that the district qualified for funding for this project, but the funding is not released until a construction contract is awarded. There is a possibility the money would not be available, although the district already qualified.” Further Mr. Ahad “indicated that eventually the money would be released, but in the meantime the district would have a cash flow issue. The board member noted that was a concern.” A board member, believed to be Don Saylor, although not identified in the article, “noted that was a concern.” And in fact, the district received less than they expected from the state for this construction.

Further problems resulted from the structure of this contract. The board was told that they needed to adopt this contract the evening of September 18, 2003 or the contract opportunity would disappear.

In fact written into the contract were timelines and deadlines for the district to deal with issues such as the burrowing owl habitat within a timeframe that was largely infeasible. This led the contract to not be executed. As a result, the cost of materials went up and costs increased by at least $600,000 on the project.

Questions persist to this date about the nature of this contract and the reason for a single-bid award rather than an open bidding process.

King High

The fiscal practices of the district and the loss in revenues would catch up to the district and Tahir Ahad with the construction of King High. As we would learn in November of 2006, funding was just the tip of the iceberg. There was a fundamental lack of communication between the school district and the city of Davis. Davis City Manager Bill Emlen came before the board to report on several problems that developed.

The three largest were construction crews severing the root structure of trees on B Street that had been at the center of controversy. Suddenly a huge logistical problem conveniently resolved itself. Second, because the district did not consult with the city before proceeding, there was a discovery of a storm drain that ran underneath the King High structure. Finally, the footprint of King High intruded onto city property.

While Emlen was at this meeting, the board learned that the district needed an additional $5 million in COPs (Certificate of Participation) in order to be able to afford to complete the King High construction project. The revelation that the district only had enough money to complete half of the King High project put an immediate halt to the prior conversations and eventually a halt to the King High project itself until the district and school board could figure out what had happened with now nearly $10 million in facilities money.

In order to trace the timeline more accurately, we go back in time to August 18, 2005. It was this meeting prior to the election of Gina Daleiden, Tim Taylor, and Sheila Allen, that set the stage for what would happen.

At that point, Tahir Ahad was coming before the board for approval of a $10 million COP.

Tahir Ahad stated:
“These items are brought to you to implement the action plan which you briefly talked about on June 9 [2005] to raise money for the construction of King High School and to pay for some other projects in the master plan.”
Board Member Joan Sallee would then ask Mr. Ahad:
“And the reason we are doing this is to give us additional money because we have not enough left in the facilities bond. We’ve fulfilled our requirements, we’ve fulfilled our responsibilities to the community, but we want to go on and work on King High School and some other projects that deserve funding but were not included in that original facilities bond.”
Tahir Ahad responded:
“Yes, you are right Joan.”
Later in the discussion, Board Member Jim Provenza expresses his support for this plan:
“It would be a benefit to the students of the district to get started on those projects a little earlier.”
Keltie Jones follows by saying:
“Particularly for me, the key factor is that this is supporting the reconstruction of King High which I think is long overdue and that the students shouldn’t feel they’re second class and not included in all the upgrades that everyone else gets in the district.”
This sequence is vitally important because it establishes that Tahir Ahad as well as three board members at that meeting acknowledged and clearly understood that they were voting to authorize debt to be taken out to finance the construction of King High and other projects.

November 2, 2006, just over a year later Superintendent David Murphy, with Tahir Ahad now gone, was already talking about taking out another COP for $5 million to fund King High School.

Gina Daleiden forcefully spoke to this:
“We learned just a few minutes ago that more than fifty percent of the [King High] project is unpaid unless we make a decision about COPs. That is news to me.”
On the videotape of that meeting, you can hear both Jim Provenza and Sheila Allen stating their agreement with Gina about this.

David Murphy however tried to reassure the school board that all the money was in place; however, they just did not have the documentation. How he could make such an assertion prior to the audit was unclear.
“I’m sure we have all the money that we think we have, but the documentation provided to the FCMAT team was deficient… I’m confident that not only do we have the money that we believe we have, but the documentation will show that.”
The Superintendent then uses the fact that the top two DJUSD administrators in charge of business services were not there as a reason for not knowing what happened with $10 million.

Former Board Member B.J. Kline came before the board during public comment to make a strong statement.
“When we approved back in September or October last year I believe what it was when we did King High, we were told we were fully funded. We had the money in the facilities master plan, because we got the COPS, we had the money, I signed it, my name is on it. So I’m disturbed that we might not have half the money to build this school. And we made a commitment to that community to give them their school… This is one of the questions we asked during the discussion. Are we done with this? Can we move ahead with no problems? And we were assured that there would be no problems… The financing, there’s no excuse for that, absolutely, 100% no excuse… I’m a little bit, I’ll use the word, it’s pretty heavy, disgusted tonight.”
Board member Daleiden expressed her discomfort for going ahead with the project without secured funding:
“The deal is that ultimately this board is responsible for the finances of the school district… So all of this clean up work essentially eventually falls on our shoulders. I am feeling very uncomfortable and a little nervous… I’m worried about causing more problems for our system than we already have. The problems seem to be a little deep. As I sit here today, I don’t know and that’s part of the problem.”
In their November 2007 Op-Ed, Marty West and Joan Sallee blame the school board for creating this mess and suggest that stopping the construction of King High was costly to the district.
“The construction of a new King High School was on track. Funding had not been finalized, pending the completion of other facilities projects, but we knew sufficient funds would be available. The superintendent told the current board in August 2006 that additional borrowing would be needed, secured by future receipts from existing bonds measures.

In November 2006, the board majority, trying to create an impression of financial mismanagement, put King High construction on hold, causing unnecessary delays and costing an extra $175,000. In early 2007, the budget officer reassured the board that the construction money was, in fact, available. King High is now ready to open.”
The fact that this seemed to catch all five board members off-guard (and indeed even former board member B.J. Kline), the fact that no one could account for what happened with the $10 million surely suggests that the board majority (in fact, a unanimous board) did the right thing by stopping construction and figuring out what happened with the money.

The question quickly became: What happened with the money, and was it lost? The school board would take the lead to answer that question bringing in Terri Ryland, a consult, to examine the books. The board majority made up of four members heavily pursued the answers to what had happened with the King High money.

Their efforts led to an inquiry by Terri Ryland and FCMAT that got to the bottom of the story.

On December 7, 2006, Superintendent David Murphy gave what amounted to an apology to the school board.
“The project was approved by the board on August 17. However, on November 2, it was quite clear that the district’s procedures and the staff’s work by which we’ve kept the board updated and clearly involved in a timely way to understand changes by which to fund this project were very inadequate.

On November 2, it was clear that five board members were surprised to learn that the complete funding of the financing project had not already been approved by a board decision and would be dependent on a current or a future board decision. During the November 2 board meeting, staff indicated a second certificate of participation [COP] would be needed at that time to be issued in the future in order to complete the funding of this budget and that was not expected by this board.

Although that COP would be repaid by CFD revenues, the fact is the board was quite surprised by that need and believed the King High School had already had a formal board approved financing plan. I had not realized the board would be surprised, but the fact is all five board members were. We’d like to and should acknowledge where we see those things occurring, and then we should say what we should do as a consequence of looking at those facts clearly, publicly, and that’s what we’re doing. No one wants such surprises, I don’t want them, the board doesn’t want them, nobody wants them. They’re not done by deliberate intent but they sometimes occur.”
The district hired a consultant, Terri Ryland to figure out what had happened with the $10 million ahead of the FCMAT report that would be coming out later on and we will discuss at length in the next segment.

The answer of course you probably already suspect, the District under David Murphy and Tahir Ahad’s leadership took the money that was a shortfall for Montgomery and Korematsu and took it from the money that was supposed to go to King High.

As Gina Daleiden stated at the meeting:
“Essentially it’s telling us that the bulk of that COP money went to Korematsu… It looks like about $7 million dollars went to Korematsu… That would be a little bit of a new surprise for me. I mean I’m pretty surprised because that was not a discussion that I ever heard that the COP money was for Korematsu.”
So money that was supposed to go for King High instead went to pay for Korematsu. And money that was supposed to go to Korematsu went to pay for Montgomery. How could the board not know this?

Because the state matching money from Montgomery was actually reflected in the district’s flow sheets for several years even though the money had not been received—and so the board members were led to believe that the money was there.

Here was the key discussion during the December 7, 2006 board meeting when this was disclosed:
Ryland: “There was a time yes, when you did, and in fact, there was a receivable on your books as late as the 05-06 year anticipating the receipt of that money… So there was a time when it was part of the plan and it was anticipated that it would be spent on the projects at that time.”

Provenza: “At what point did it go off…”

Ryland: “It was reversed just this last fiscal year, at the end of the 05-06 year, negative five million dollar adjustment to state apportionment was made.”

Murphy: “In the district’s tracking documents that I looked at, that change occurred sometime before May of ’06.”

Gina: “So for two years it looked like the money was there when in reality we had not obtained it.”

Provenza: It wasn’t in our flow sheets but it was still being relied on… It was not in the flow sheets.” “We weren’t aware of the Montgomery money being relied on. But it was in fact being relied on.” “I think the problem is that the board was not properly informed that that money was still being relied on. That’s one of the reasons that we thought that the money was there for King… What I’m hearing is that the Montgomery money was being relied upon to pay for these projects, it was not in our cashflow reports, so that we did not know that.”

Ryland: “It was on the books as a receivable until the end of the year.”

Provenza: “But we don’t see the books as the board, we just see the cashflow report.”

Ryland: “Right, exactly. That’s one of the key points by FCMAT, and would be one of my key points as well is that if that reconciliation had been occurring, between the facilities department and the finance department regularly. ”
Gina Daleiden in her interview with the Vanguard sums up what happened as what was reported in Terri Ryland’s report.
“Basically here comes Montgomery, they’re short the money because they missed the filing deadlines, so now Montgomery is drawing more local funds than were anticipated. Here comes Korematsu, that’s budgeted for a certain amount, enrollment declines… Korematsu gets fewer dollars from the state, so now Korematsu is drawing on more of the local funds, and at some point this $10 million gets dumped into the same fund and now it’s all rolling together so it’s covering whatever was being pulled out before, also modernization projects are in that same funding… Basically King was the last project in, in that course, and the first one to run out of money.”
The problem is that the board was not apprised of what was going on. Part of this is that anticipated funds were included on line items as though they were actual funds. Compounding this problem was the fact that these funds were also not yet board approved.

Gina Daleiden in her interview with the Vanguard cited the FCMAT report (available on the district webpage on the right hand column) page 95:
“There was funding that was not yet board approved that was on a line that was called “redevelopment agency” funds, and that is actually in the FCMAT report, page 95, “since the issuance of FCMAT’s initial draft report, the district has disclosed that the $3 million was entered on the wrong line and instead should have reflected a new COP issuance,” which would have been financing, “with a second $3 million to be requested in 2007. Since neither amount had been approved by the board, it is not appropriate to reflect that as cash flow unless clearly noted as potential cash. The current practice of listing the amounts without such a notation must be discontinued. The district should insure that all revenue projections are realistic and based on likely funding.”
Why this money was placed under the label, “redevelopment agency funds” is not clear. The district staff under David Murphy claims this was an error. Regardless, it led the board to believe money was actually there when in fact it was only “anticipated.”

Summary and Conclusions

To summarize this segment, we can look at the problems with the district’s facilities planning as twofold. There was an initial mistake made in the filing for the Montgomery matching plan. Board member Sheila Allen calls this mistake in itself as “inexcusable.” And that is clearly accurate; you simply cannot miss out on substantial funds because of missed deadlines. That is why you hire professional staff and why you cannot have that staff preoccupied with other projects such as his work at Total School Solutions as Henry Petrino was involved with at the time.

The second problem, is instead of issuing forth a mea culpa, they took what appears to be steps to downplay and minimize their mistake. They shuffled monies around and then asked for additional funding under false premises. How many of these errors were errors rather than concerted efforts at cover up are unclear.

The district under Tahir Ahad and David Murphy assumed all along that they would get the money from Montgomery and that all would fall into place. However, based on what we know, this is incorrect. The SAB never would have granted the appeal and overturned the decision, had the district not made changes to their personnel. The board was mislead into thinking that they had money for project that they did not have. Tahir Ahad and David Murphy were not necessarily covering up the lost money—since the board knew that they had lost this money, but rather covered up the impact of the loss of the Montgomery money.

The board was shown line items that indicated that they had money that was not there. Money that they were told would go to pay for King High, instead went to cover for the lost Montgomery money.

The end result is that the district did not “lose” any money according to the best audit reports from both Terri Ryland and FCMAT. On the other hand, the district never performed a Forensic Audit of their accounts. The audits by FCMAT and Terri Ryland simply aimed at ascertaining where the money went and tracking it. A forensic audit would look to examine as to whether any malfeasance occurred.

Regardless of this point, as we shall discover in much greater detail when we examine the FCMAT report more thoroughly in the next installment, is that the district was at best sloppy with its money. That in and of itself, is a cause for concern. The amount of time spent dealing with these issues was prohibitive. Terri Ryland was hired at great expense to put books together for over 100 hours. The staff and consultant time in recouping the Montgomery money was considerable. The amount of money spent trying to fix King High design and construction problems and figure out the finances was considerable as well.

All of this results from a simple fact that deadlines for funding applications were missed and the need to somehow, some way, conceal the gravity of the situation from the board of education elected by the Davis voters.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Commentary: Target and Superfund

I might have missed it during the Target election, but was it not one of the reasons why some opposed Target, the fact that the proposed site was adjacent to a Superfund cleanup site?

In fact proponents of the Target used language to suggest that the EPA was supportive of the project.

Regardless of those claims however, the general assertion made by proponents of the development is that there would be no problem building a Target on a location adjacent to a Superfund clean up site.

However, now we get a report in the Davis Enterprise this past Thursday, that there could be a delay because the site has to replace eight water monitoring wells that the store would be built on top of.

Now the EPA is seeking public comment on its agreement to move the eight monitoring wells. The EPA has an agreement with Target whereby Target will pay to cap the old wells and dig new ones. The Enterprise describes this agreement as "the first of its kind in the nation."

"Taking samples to determine the best place for new wells could take up to six months, although Target is aiming to get it done in three. "
And some background on the site from the Enterprise article:
"From 1972 to 1983, Frontier Fertilizer dumped pesticides onto the ground and into unlined pits near its company on Second Street in Davis.

In 1983, a dog fell into one of the pits, and soon after died of pesticide poisoning, alerting the community to the problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency declared the area a Superfund cleanup site in 1994, but since 1993, the agency has pumped and treated contaminated ground water and monitored the underground plume of contaminants. "
All of which somewhat re-opens a can of worms. But it also gets me wondering about something--we are trusting the judgment of the EPA on this issue. Is this not, George Bush's EPA? Do a quick Google on "Bush and the EPA" and it is sure to scare you more than just a little bit. The prospect of the EPA overlooking environmental concerns in order to help a business such as Target does not seem that far-fetched to me and always led me to question whether we were being told the truth during the Target campaign.

The delay has to add to such such apprehensions.

One key question is whether the new wells will work as well as the old ones.

As Pam Nieberg told the Davis Enterprise:
"They're going to have to show that the new wells give data that is as good or better than the old ones. They're trying to do it over a three-month period, but I don't know if the EPA will let them do it. (Target's) timeline still shows that they're going to do it in 2008, but I don't know if they're going to be able to meet that timeline."
These are open questions that will be answered in the coming months. In the meantime, the building of "our Target" to quote the Davis Enterprise headline, may be delayed.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting