The Big Switcheroo
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The Big Switcheroo1
or Why You Should Never Trust a Public Official

An ally in the movement against wasteful spending of school facilities bond money had a meeting this past weekend to discuss an ongoing lawsuit against a company that violated the statutes with respect to receiving a contract with a district when the company had previously been a consultant. The lawsuit would recover over $100 million from the company, but the district does not wish to cooperate. The district is Torrance Unified School District. Torrance Unified has tricked its voters into passing four bond measures - Y, Z, T, and U since 2008.

This is the story of two of them.

It sounded like an interesting case, so I did some research. What I found was an admission by the district that it doesn't care one whit about the constitution or the statutes that govern it. It's going to trick the taxpayers into passing bond measures so it can get its hands on their money. Then it's going to spend it as it sees fit -- the taxpayers be damned.

This story focuses on the minutes of the first meeting of the oxymoronic independent citizens' bond oversight committee -- CBOC. The minutes can be found at the link below.

Minutes of First Meeting of Torrance Unified Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee

This is the admission by the superintendent to an observation by one of the brand new CBOC members just before the meeting adjourned.

Dr. Harpole asked about the discrepancies between the Bond list and sample ballot. Dr. Stabler replied that the August 4th resolutions were the official documents and that the information provided attached project lists are the official lists. He explained the project list included in the ballot was very general.

Let me just give credit here to Torrance Unified. Unlike 99% of the districts that have CBOC's, Torrance Unified has actually made a very good effort to follow the law with respect to the mandate that it place the CBOC activity and related documents on its web site.

That's little comfort, however, when you understand how the CBOC is manipulated.

When Measures Y and Z were passed on November 4, 2008, the Board had an obligation to create a CBOC within 60 days. The CBOC met for the first time on February 19, 2009. By that time, $90 million in bonds had already been issued and sold. (And you thought government couldn't act fast?)

The minutes are enlightening because the CBOC had never met before and had to do some housekeeping to get things started. Right from the beginning, however, the District stacked the deck. The CBOC members (all 13 of them) were completely outnumbered, and likely somewhat intimidated, by the district and vendor personnel who filled the room and, basically, ran the meeting.

If you read the entire minutes, you'll see that the CBOC members were told what to do and, even more importantly, what not to do at every stage.

So what's the big deal about the quoted paragraph from the minutes. It's this. Proposition 39 of 2000 made an exception in the California Constitution to the normal two-thirds vote requirement to pass a bond measure. That exception requires that the measure contain "a list of specific school facilities projects to be funded."

So, at the first meeting of the committee that's put in place to oversee the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowed money, it's told DON'T LOOK AT WHAT THE VOTERS PASSED -- LOOK AT WHAT WE TELL YOU TO LOOK AT.

And there you have it. The district never put the list in the ballot measure. These bonds and every other Proposition 39 bond that has been passed without meeting that requirement should be null and void.

If you argue with a district about it, they spin it and say their lawyers (or advisers) say it's ok to pull this switcheroo.

If your bond measure doesn't have the specific list, vote it down. The districts know that it's expensive for you to bring a lawsuit against it. It doesn't cost the district a dime to defend it. The district uses your taxes to pay for that.

 


1   switcheroo noun switch·er·oo \?swi-ch?-'rü\ : an unexpected or secret change


 


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