I Zoomed into the Cold Spring School Board meeting on Nov. 14, with a few longtime residents and witnessed the most unprofessional school board meeting I have ever seen.
It is clear that the members and the administration are all good friends with each as they called each other by nicknames and mocked the public comments that were submitted.
CBO/General Counsel Yuri Calderon doesn’t even show his face on any screen, choosing instead to be a “voice” next to Superintendent/Principal Amy Alzina, a la the Wizard of Oz.
The board members’ lack of meaningful questions indicates that they have no interest in their constituents’ concerns — especially regarding the illegal expenditures of Measure C funds that took place without the required oversight of an Independent Citizens’ Committee, which hasn’t had it’s required seven members since 2011.
With nearly $2.44 million gone and only a handful of documents publicly available, there are very few clues where that money was actually spent. Yet they later complain about the boys bathroom without acknowledging that ALL the bathrooms were supposed to have been upgraded with Measure C monies.
Board members rely on Mr. Calderon to answer basic questions about bond oversight that I Googled on my own. Why serve if you aren’t going to do your basic duties of legal and fiscal oversight?
None of the board members raised concerns that a number of community members’ names were fraudulently provided to the Measure C auditors by the administration last month. And Mr. Calderon brushed off questions about the necessity of an Oversight Committee in the past (he’s been at school for three years).
Mr. Calderon claimed forensic audits are only required when there’s fraud. Wrong!
Forensic audits are required to prove that there wasn’t fraud.
And making up a fake list of bond committee members makes us question everything else in those audits. School board Vice President Jennifer Miller complained that people wanted a forensic audit four years ago, not realizing this actually builds the case for one now. Clearly people were right to be concerned four years ago: By your own admission, you were spending money illegally and have no idea if that money was spent properly.
How many board members have reviewed all the Measure C documents? There are only three sets of Oversight Committee “minutes” badly scanned to show how $2.44 million was spent. What is the price of integrity?
The board members poo-pooed the need for a forensic audit, seemingly eager to put this past them and move on because they don’t want to incur the unresearched expense of a forensic audit.
Too bad for residents that none of them do their research on forensic audits because the state Financial Crisis Assessment Management Team (FCMAT) will do them for free. Mr. Calderon knows this because FCMAT came to Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego where his law firm GCR was providing legal counsel to the school board in 2012, and all five trustees were indicted.
But the board’s incompetence doesn’t end with Measure C. They also voted to approve $76,478 in Developer Fees expenditures that included new furniture, projectors and the survey and financial services for the failed L2020.
Do your own homework, elected officials! Developer Fees can only be used to EXPAND the campus because of increased enrollment due to construction/growth in the community.
In other words, you need to show that there is a justified need for new classrooms because the school has outgrown what room it does have — the threshold being 25 students per available classroom — and that growth can be linked to recent construction. Again, Mr. Calderon should know better.
Developer fees misuse was an issue in Sweetwater. This guide to Developer Fees was created for the Sweetwater board after they got rid of Calderon’s Firm GCR: School Fees DO’S, MUSTS AND DO NOTS. Read for yourself; Developer Fees cannot be used for the items Mr. Calderon presented and the board approved. More tax money misspent.
The icing on the cake was the approval to hire a communication consultant to ease the workload of Principal/Superintendent Alzina. In her presentation, the consultant, Kimberly Bonniksen, called all the people writing letters in the papers “bullies” and claimed there were three types of bullies: self-righteous, entitled or mentally ill.
This asinine statement was beyond unprofessional, yet the board members all agreed that she was the right person to liaison with the community on behalf of the Cold Spring School District! Good luck with that. And FYI, I am none of those things. I’m just a concerned taxpayer who knows how to use Google and wants to know where all the money is going.
Editor’s note: Mr. Weinstein included this website for further information: http://fiscal.sweetwaterschools.org/files/2015/11/School-Fees-Dos-Musts-and-Do-Nots-11-12-2015.pdf.
The author lives in Santa Barbara.