Thursday, March 15, 2012
Most projects funded by voter-passed Proposition R at Southwestern College will be put on hold for one year so they can be reevaluated, school officials announced today.
The community college's governing board took the action unanimously in wake of revelations that about $89,000 of bond money was spent on public relations, a sum SWC President Melinda Nish ordered to be repaid from the school's general fund.
She also canceled a pair of construction contracts.
Ongoing work at the DeVore Stadium Field House, central plant, the Higher Education Center in National City and the Elmhurst and Gotham street entryways to the Chula Vista campus were excepted from the ruling and will continue.
Other projects are suspended until April 2013.
"We need to take a new look at Proposition R," board President Norma Hernandez board . "This is part of our commitment to ensure the public's money is used most appropriately and effectively to achieve our goals of educational excellence, institutional integrity and transparency."
Among the proposed changes is to move the completion date for all the projects up a decade to 2025, Hernandez said.
According to Nish, assumptions made when the measure was passed in 2008 have changed because of the economy, so the reevaluation period will allow the college to adjust.
An investigation found incomplete record-keeping and a lack of clear guidelines on socializing between school officials and contractors that contributed to a potential conflict of interest, according to a report issued by the college. The report from Seo Consulting also revealed discrepancies in costs, inconsistent methods of reviewing bids and missing documents.
College officials said in recent months they have instituted a new code of ethics, conducted ethics training for management employees, established procedures to pre-qualify bidders on Proposition R projects.
The California Community College League will help the college develop and update its policies on procurement and contracting.