Los Angeles City College
855 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029

888.930.LACC  |  www.lacitycollege.edu
February 27, 2011
For media inquiries, please contact
Coby King, MWW Group
213-486-6560 x319
cking@mww.com

 

Statement by LACCD Chancellor Daniel LaVista,
in connection with the publication of the first two articles in
the Los Angeles Times series on LACCDís Building Program


Today the Los Angeles Times published two articles on the Los Angeles Community College Districtís bond-funded Building Program, with more apparently to appear over the coming week. In the main article, the Times acknowledges the pressing need for renovations and the valuable improvements paid for with bond money. We, on the other hand, acknowledge that there were past problems with planning and oversight. However, the articlesí implication is that problems with the $6 billion Program have overshadowed these improvements. The Times is wrong. Of course, in any construction program of this magnitude and scope there are going to be issues. We have rigorous new systems in place to address these issues to ensure we are meeting our responsibilities for accountability.

In fact, this program, one of the most heavily audited and examined in the history of public construction, has been found over and over again to be well-managed, careful with taxpayer dollars, and committed to innovative management and reducing impacts on the environment. And while we take the issues identified by the Times seriously, it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Los Angeles voters have approved three separate bond measures, totaling almost $6 billion. No one can deny that this money was desperately needed to modernize each of the LACCDís nine colleges, most of which were in various states of decay and disrepair. No one can deny that investment in community colleges is a critical part of our economic recovery. No one can deny that the benefits of LACCDís Building Program are real, and are being delivered safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. In fact, our latest count shows that the building program has completed nearly 50 major projects (with budgets over $5 million), changing the faces of each of the Districtís nine colleges.

After ignoring the good news of the Program for years, the Times spent 20 months on this investigation and now picks at a few issues in what appears to be a sensationalist series published right before trustee elections. The timing is suspect, and the reporting is one-sided. So far, we are sorely disappointed. While the Times notes that half the $6 billion is still to be spent and there is time to "correct" things, I say to the Times that with only two articles published, there is an even better opportunity to correct their sensationalist tone and one-sided and biased reporting.

We at the LACCD take the management of the Program very seriously. Our regular annual audits over the years, which have examined the Programís performance and finances, and have been conducted by outside, independent firms, have yielded consistently good marks. At the same time, issues that the audits have identified (not surprising in a $6 billion program) have been quickly and forthrightly addressed by the Programís management. We have also taken corrective measures when others, including the Times, have identified issues. This commitment to improvement is part of the Programís DNA, and is an aspect noted by the auditors themselves.

LACCD has over the past two years taken a number of steps to strengthen program management. The board of trustees has:

1) Approved the creation of an independent Office of Inspector General to report to the board and conduct on-going reviews of performance, financial integrity and legal compliance of the Program. The first IG took office in October.
2) Approved the creation of a whistleblower program so that staff may report on issues that need investigating.
3) Taken a variety of other steps to tighten controls on contractor compensation and selection.

These actions and many others put the District and the Program on the leading edge of management of bond-funded capital programs in California.

As to the construction issues raised in the article, especially those at Valley College, City College, and East LA College, we have rectified many of the issues and we are making progress on the others. To the extent that the Times identifies issues that neither we nor our auditors were aware of, we will move aggressively to take corrective action.

As to the article published today on contractor contributions, we have to ask, whereís the news? The fact that companies seeking public contracts contribute to bond measures and elected officials is not new or news. In fact, we applaud those companies who, just like interested individuals, contributed to our various bond measures. Without private support, it would have been impossible to educate the public on the desperate need for renovation at our nine colleges.

As to implications that these contributions brought favorable treatment, such insinuations are ludicrous. We are not aware of any evidence, and the Times has not presented any, that contributions to either bond measure campaigns or trustee elections have influenced the selection of contractors. LACCDís bond construction program has very strict protocols governing how construction contracts are awarded, and these procedures are followed closely. In fact, it is impossible for one person, be he or she a staffer on the Program Management team, an employee of LACCD itself, or a member of the Board to Trustees, to award a contract.

In fact, LACCDís Trustees are quite insulated from the process. They have no role in the evaluation of individual construction contract proposals except where there is a bid protest. Their main function with respect to contract awards is to ratify staff recommendations in this area. So the idea that contractors made contributions to trustees and as a result received contracts is ridiculous.

The bottom line is that students, faculty, staff, and the communities surrounding the colleges are already greatly benefitting from the improved facilities. Thanks to the Program, students are being better prepared for important careers in health care, child development, high technology, and public safety, or to transfer to a four-year college if that is their goal. The stimulus effect of the Programís spending is one of the very few bright spots in todayís Southern California economy. Finally, the Programís attention to environmental responsibility is also important to coming generations.

The improvements we are making to our colleges are not just for today or the next few years, but are meant to provide benefits over the coming decades. The LACCDís Building Program is and continues to be a great investment by the people of Los Angeles. With these improvements, everyone benefits, and for a long time to come.

 

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