As Investigations Continue, Southwestern College Ends Prop R Contracts

The school's Governing Board took action against current contracts in response to the District Attorney's investigation into Sweetwater Unified High School District and Southwestern College and an alleged "pay to play" culture.

Southwestern College's voter approved $389 million Proposition R corner lot project is back to the drawing board.

In closed session more than two hours, the governing board announced Wenesday evening it directed legal counsel and staff to sever the contractual relationship with Seville Construction Services, Inc. and BCA Architects.

Board President Norma Hernandez said this action is in the best interest in serving all rights of the college.

"The board also directed the staff to initiate a Request For Proposal related to replacement of program manager and architectural services," Hernandez said. "The board directed counsel and staff to continue full cooperation with the District Attorney's investigation and continue to evaluate the college's legal options."

On Nov. 18, 2009, the college's governing board approved at $2.7 million contract with Seville Construction as program management services.

Approved in April 2010, BCA was awarded a $55 million contract. Former Governing Board Member Nick Aguilar walked out of the meeting refusing to vote, saying the process lacked transparency and violated the board's ethics policy.

These actions follow on the heels of the San Diego County District Attorney's ongoing investigation into questionable relationship between board members, administrators and contractors at Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College.

The board's decision revolves around both the DA's investigation and its own internal investigation of Prop. R contracts and the college's Education Foundation, which initiated in April 2011. The board hired an independent forensic auditor to conduct the investigation.

With his home raided last December, former vice-president of business and financial affairs Nicholas Alioto recommended both Seville and BCA as the project's most qualified bidders.

Alioto resigned last February after a contentious election that overturned the former governing board, with the "pay to play" scandals surfacing in news media throughout the county.

Alioto's recommendation and board's of Echo Pacific's $4 million corner lot construction came after a conspicuous trip to Napa Valley. Echo Pacific was released of its contract in a mutual agreement with the college's governing board in October last year. Facing two felony counts of perjury and up to seven years in prison, Henry Amigable, former Gilbane employee for the SUHSD was hired by Echo Pacific to work with the corner lot project shortly after he quit Gilbane.

At last night's meeting, Hernandez said that the college, now under the leadership of its new Superintendent/President Dr. Melinda Nish is dedicated to being as transparent as it can about the results of its internal investigation.

Board members Humberto Peraza and Tim Nader both requested that Nish have staff provide more detailed information in future agendas concerning the process of selection of contracts. They also requested training for governing board members and public on the current process being used to qualify a bidder or award a contract.

Nish said this board training will be included in the February or March governing board workshop.

"It is important for the community to know that the college's current board did not make these decisions and that the new board doesn't work that way," Peraza said.


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