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RAMSEY ON THE ‘HOT SEAT’

Posted by xaviervir on April 30, 2015

From the Oakland Tribute:

West Contra Costa trustees to seek a detailed audit of bond program
By Theresa Harrington tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com
POSTED: 04/29/2015 05:17:39 PM PDT0 COMMENTS| UPDATED: ABOUT 11 HOURS AGO
RICHMOND — West Contra Costa trustees will seek a detailed audit of their bond construction program in the wake of whistle-blower allegations of criminal wrongdoing and negligence by three district officials.
“As a board, we are committed to pursing an independent forensic examination of the issues raised in the complaint and we have set forth a process to do so,” Board President Todd Groves said Wednesday, after a closed session meeting to discuss an undisclosed employee complaint. “And the public will be hearing much more about it moving forward.”
Dennis Clay, a project analyst who has worked in the district for 11 years, alleged in a document sent to the board earlier this month that he had uncovered evidence of criminal conduct by former Trustee Charles Ramsey, “facilitation” by Superintendent Bruce Harter and negligence by Sheri Gamba, associate superintendent of business services. Clay who performs financial analysis for the district, said Wednesday that he compiled three binders full of documents to back up his claims, which he provided to outside auditors from Pleasanton-based Vavrinek, Trine, Day and Company.

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“I had hoped that (the company) would use the documents given them in more than a cursory way,” Clay wrote to the board. “Like the auditors before them, Total School Solutions, they did not show much understanding, nor interest in the operational issues and complications involved in running a billion dollar bond program …” Clay said that he wants to discuss his allegations and documentation with the independent Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee or its Audit Subcommittee, if the district will allow that.
District spokesman Marcus Walton said it was his understanding that the board is hiring the auditors to conduct the independent investigation. He also said that Clay did not need the district’s permission to talk about his documentation.
Groves said after the closed session that the district is taking whistle-blower protection laws seriously and that he hoped the board would be ready to discuss its plans for a forensic audit at its May 6 meeting. A forensic audit is a much more detailed examination of the finances of the bond program.
During their closed session, trustees met with two outside lawyers, but excluded Harter from most of the meeting without publicly stating why the superintendent — who normally attends closed sessions — was not allowed to participate in a large portion of the discussions.
Ramsey, reached by phone late Wednesday afternoon, called the allegations “serious,” and said that Clay “would have to back them up.” He would not comment further and referred questions to his attorney.

Several district residents who asked the board for an independent analysis of bond spending after learning of Clay’s allegations praised trustees for taking the matter seriously. The residents said transparency is necessary to rebuild public trust in the bond program.

“This independent forensic audit is a HUGE step forward to shining light on the financial irregularities in the construction program,” said resident Ben Steinberg, in an e-mail to this newspaper.

Hercules City Councilman Dan Romero, who reminded the school board about whistle-blower protection laws before they went into closed session, said in an e-mail after the meeting that he was glad to hear the board would pursue a detailed audit.

“This is a huge step to transparency that residents in West County have not seen in over a decade,” he said.

Trustee Madeline Kronenberg said after the closed session that the FBI, which initially contacted her in relation to an SEC investigation into the bond program last fall, has not followed up with her. Trustee Val Cuevas said that the SEC investigation is ongoing.

Theresa Harrington covers education. Contact her at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

more Information To see whistle-blower documents, a letter from district residents seeking a forensic audit and a video clip from the meeting, visit http://www.contracostatimes.com/education.

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One Response to “RAMSEY ON THE ‘HOT SEAT’”

  1. Patricia said

    TO add to this at Lake School in San Pablo we were recently notified that it was unlikely our school we be re-build because of lack of funds-I contacted Mr. Groves who came in to a parent club meeting were he explained somewhat the reasons behind putting the new Lake School project in the back burners. He promised a follow-up meeting with the whole school community to discuss how the district will determine which schools will be re-build and which ones will not. We were made a promise and although I understand the promise was made by prior elected officials nevertheless we don’t want to settle for a no to our new school.

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