After a closed session meeting Wednesday evening, the Southwestern College Governing Board announced plans to file suit against Seville Construction Services, BCA Architects, Echo Pacific and employees throughout as defendants.
Governing Board President Norma Hernandez said the board gave direction to legal council to initiate litigation.
"The substance of the litigation will include challenge to the procurement of contracts related to the corner lot project and conduct related thereto," she said. "The vote was unanimous."
Investigators raided the homes of SWC former trustees Yolanda Salcido and Jorge Dominguez March 20. One week later, former vice-president of business and financial affairs Nicholas Alioto and BCA Architect Paul Bunton appeared before Judge Michael Smyth March 26.
Charged with two felonies, perjury and filing false instrument and one misdemeanor of wrongful influence, Alioto plead not guilty to all charges.
If convicted on all charges, Alioto faces a maximum of four years and two months in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was booked and released April 1 and is scheduled for status report on May 18.
Bunton did not appear in court, but his defense attorney Dana Grimes submitted a written admission of guilty to one misdemeanor charge of aiding in the commission of a misdemeanor. Awarded a $55 million contract in April 2010 for architectural services for SWC's corner lot project, Bunton faces a maximum of six months in jail and fines up to $1,000. The court set a sentencing date of June 19.
Henry Amigable, former Gilbane/SGI employee in the SUHSD investigation, to a misdemeanor count avoiding felony charges of offering a bribe and obtaining a thing of value to influence a member of a legislative body. Amigable is due in court for sentencing June 22 and faces up to six month in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Hired as program director by Seville Construction Services, Inc. in March 2009, Amigable was the firm's program manager when awarded a five-year, $2.75 million contract for program management services for the college's corner lot project in November 2009.
In addition to evidence collected by the DA's investigation leading to search warrants and charges, SWC's current Governing Board approved the hire of independent forensic auditor Scott Seo of Seo Consulting, Inc.
In April 2011, to perform a focused special review involving the award of contracts related to Prop R and the activities of the Southwestern College Foundation. Governing Hernandez said the board is fully cooperating with the DA's office and released its own internal audit on March 14.
Seo reported documentation stating selection of firms awarded contracts was inadequate and the price negotiation processes "took place in a vacuum and lacked transparency." He stated there was not enough documentation to verify Seville's contract and that the governing board did not have sufficient information provided to recommend the highest bid out of three finalists for program management.
In investigating the $4 million corner lot project awarded to Echo Pacific, Seo reported that the construction company had an unfair advantage in its revised cost proposal and there was no mention of the lower cost proposal of Barnhart Balfour-Beatty, who was awarded the construction management at risk contract for the college's Central Plan/Field House.
Chris Rowe of Echo obtained a trip to Napa Valley by bidding $15,000 at the Southwestern College Foundation Gala "Havana Nights" held in March 2010.
Donated by BCA and advertised as "a weekend of golf and wine tasting in the beautiful Napa Valley" with Vice President Nicholas Alioto, Seo reported Rowe, Bunton, Alioto and Amigable went the weekend of June 25, 2010. This trip came immediately after initial RFP deadline and prior to revised proposals on June 30, 2010 and Echo’s corner lot contract.
With a new plan in place, Superintendent Melinda Nish announced the governing board postponed all corner-lot construction for one year to redevelop the college's infrastructure before sending out new RFPs. Part of the plan is to complete the corner lot parcel 10 years earlier than the original plan.
"This is part of our commitment to ensure the public's money is used appropriately," she said.
Bob Temple, interim vice president of business and finance said the approximate $8 million spent is largely work completed and moving the project completion date earlier will bring a significant savings to the college.
"I believe that to the extent that the projects are being completed sooner, any cost that have been spent to date will be recuperated with the dollars that will be saved by expediting the project," he said. "Only the corner lot has been stopped. The work on the central plant and field house and other projects are still going forward."
Correction: The original version of this article stated that Paul Bunton appeared in court. However, Bunton's attorney Dana Grimes appeared in court on his behalf. The story's text has been changed to reflect this information.