The citizens’ oversight committee for the Peralta Community College District Measure A facilities bonds, which has not issued required minutes or a report on its activities for the year and a half since the bond measure was passed, descended into something close to disarray this month with confusion over its membership.
Meanwhile, with or without citizen oversight, Peralta continues to move forward with projects funded by Measure A bonds, with the board approving requests for $2.7 million in 17 contracts and change orders at its Oct. 9 meeting and $2.1 million in three contracts at its Oct. 23 meeting.
Peralta’s citizen oversight—or rather, the lack of it—contrasts sharply with that of nearby Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, which passed a similar facilities bond in 2004 and has a fully functioning committee that regularly meets and issues reports and minutes that are easily available on the district’s website (see sidebar).
The seven-member Peralta Measure A Citizens’ Oversight Committee is specifically required in the ballot measure language by which the $390 million bond was passed by Alameda County voters in June 2006.
Under that language, the committee was supposed to be formed within 60 days of the certification of the election results, with one member representing business interests, two members representing the community at large, one representing students, one representing an organization supporting the college district, one representing a senior citizens organization and one representing a taxpayers association. The committee’s organizational and community representations are specifically spelled out in the California Education Code section referenced in the bond measure.
Under Ed. Code Section 15280, “all [oversight] committee proceedings shall be open to the public, and notice to the public shall be provided in the same manner as the proceedings of the governing board. The citizens’ oversight committee shall issue regular reports on the results of its activities. A report shall be issued at least once a year. Minutes of the proceedings of the citizens’ oversight committee and all documents received and reports issued shall be a matter of public record and be made available on an Internet website maintained by the governing board.”
No public notices of committee meetings appear to have been ever given, no report has been issued, and no minutes or other documents from the oversight committee appear on the Peralta district website.
Meanwhile, Peralta has not even fully formed the oversight committee.
The district appeared to have filled all but one of the oversight committee positions last June, when Vice Chancellor Tom Smith announced that former California Assembly member Wilma Chan had accepted an appointment as one of the two community at-large positions.
The remaining five committee members listed at that time were Bay Area World Trade Center President and CEO José Deans (business), Berkeley-Albany-Emeryville League of Women Voters Community College Chair Helene LeCar (community at-large), Laney College student Scott Folosade (students), Peralta Foundation President Bill Patterson (organization supporting the college district) and Polly Amrein (senior citizens).
Chan’s appointment left only the taxpayers association representative position on the oversight committee vacant. In November of 2006, Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris requested the appointment of San Francisco certified public accountant Hyacinth Ahuruonye to “serve as a citizen from a taxpayers association that supports a college or the district.”
Ahuruonye once served as the campaign treasurer for former Oakland City Councilmember Moses Mayne. Neither district officials nor Ahuruonye himself ever identified the qualifying taxpayers association to which he belonged, and Peralta later dropped him from the committee after saying that he was not a taxpayer within the community college district.
Chan was later removed from the committee, according to Trustee Board member Abel Guillen, after he informed district officials that the former assemblymember was ineligible for the oversight function because she has been working for the district under a short-term contract as a teacher.
And the agenda for the Oct. 9 trustee board meeting of this year indicated that by this time, the committee had lost its business community representative, José Dueñas, and was now three short. Chancellor Elihu Harris said he was now looking for representatives from a local taxpayers association, the local business community and the community at large.
At the Oct. 9 meeting, Harris said that the district “has been asked to call the local Chamber of Commerce so they can identify a taxpayers organization” to be represented.
It is hard to understand why the district is having difficulty identifying such an organization. The long-standing Alameda County Taxpayers Association, with offices in downtown Oakland, has representatives on several local bond measure oversight committees, including the Alameda County Health Care Measure A Bond, the Alameda County Transportation Measure B Bond and the Chabot-Las Positas Measure B Bond.
Arthur Geen, the association’s executive vice president, who serves on the Alameda County Measure A Oversight Committee, said that “nobody has contacted me” from Peralta concerning the Peralta bond committee.
And there is other confusion concerning the Peralta committee.
In answer to a query two weeks ago about the current oversight committee membership, Peralta officials sent a document entitled “Measure A—Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee” that mentioned eight members: Amrein, Patterson, Scott, LeCar, two positions labeled “vacant” (taxpayers organization and business organization), and two Peralta employees, Vice Chancellors Tom Smith and Sadiq Ikharo.
In a follow-up call to Jennifer Lenahan, a staff worker with the Peralta Finance and Administration Department who serves as the oversight committee secretary, confirmed that Smith and Ikharo are members of the committee, serving as the “co-chairs for the district.”
Smith and Ikharo’s membership on the committee would appear to violate the same state law that precluded Chan’s membership. “No employee or official of the district,” says the law, “shall be appointed to the citizens’ oversight committee.”
Two members of Peralta’s board of trustees said that the listing was in error and that Smith and Ikharo are, in fact, not committee members. After checking with Smith, Board President Bill Withrow said that “nobody from the staff is on the committee. Sadiq Ikharo is the point of contact for the bond projects. He is definitely not on the committee. Tom Smith functions as staff support. He is there to provide information on audits and other financial matters.”
And trustee Abel Guillen, who works as an educational finance advisor for a company that helps California schools and college districts conduct bond measure campaigns, said that after talking with district officials, he learned that Smith and Ikharo only function as staff members on the committee. “The district is well aware that no one on staff or contracting with the district can serve on the independent citizens’ oversight committee.”
But if that is true, the committee numbers don’t pan out. On Oct. 9, Chancellor Harris said that the seven-member committee was short three members. No new members were added to the committee list sent out two weeks ago that included Smith and Ikharo, and the at-large vacancy is no longer listed as it was on Oct. 9.
Meanwhile, if Smith and Ikharo are not considered by the district to be committee members, the filled membership and vacancies in the current district committee list only add up to six, one short of the seven specifically required in the 2006 bond measure.
Lenahan said by telephone last week that the oversight committee has had tours of several of the district’s campuses to review construction activities and is preparing to meet by the middle of November.
Peralta Oversight Committee Contrasts With Chabot-Las Positas
In March of 2004, two years before the passage of Peralta’s Measure A, voters in Alameda County and a small portion of Contra Costa County passed the $498 million Chabot-Las Positas Community College District capital improvement (construction) bond to “repair leaky roofs, worn wiring and plumbing; renovate aging, deteriorating classrooms and libraries; and repair, acquire, construct and equip college buildings, and computer labs at both Las Positas College in Livermore and Chabot College in Hayward.”
The Chabot-Las Positas Measure B bonds were passed under the same authority as the Peralta Measure A bonds, California Proposition 39, which governs the project and oversight requirements for 55 percent-passage California education facilities bonds.
Chabot-Las Positas operates a separate website for the bond at www.clpccd.org/bond that includes separate links for bond projects for Chabot, Las Positas and for the whole district, as well as links for the program management team, professional service providers and the citizens’ oversight committee.
The oversight committee has eight members, including a representative of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, and adopted bylaws that are posted on the website. It has met four times a year since September 2004 (14 meetings in all), with agendas and minutes posted, and has issued two annual reports, one in December 2005 and a second in December 2006.
The Chabot-Las Positas bond measure pages can be accessed by a “bond program” link in a directory prominently displayed at the top of the district’s main web page.
By contrast, there is nothing on the Peralta Community College District’s homepage that indicates a location of bond information. To find Measure A bond information on the Peralta page, a visitor must first go to the District Service Centers link on the homepage directory, then through a link to the district’s Department of General Services webpage, and from there to the Measure A page. The page contains no information on the Measure A citizens’ oversight committee but does contain links to spreadsheets of short-term construction projects for three of the four colleges, as well as reports on furniture and instructional equipment needs allocations.
—J. Douglas Allen-Taylor