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Posted by xaviervir on January 13, 2016

From the West County Times:

West Contra Costa school district faces $1 million audit bill
By Joyce Tsai
RICHMOND — After weighing the pros and cons of cutting the costs and scope for a proposed $1 million forensic audit of the West Contra Costa school district bond program, a committee decided to recommend paying for the whole kit and caboodle.

The district’s Dennis Clay subcommittee, which is tasked with looking into the former project analyst’s allegations of financial mismanagement, debated a little more than three hours Monday night before deciding it was best to not cut corners on the breadth of the forensic audit recommended by auditors Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman.

The $1.6 billion bond program has already undergone heavy scrutiny and the detailed investigation would delve into areas beyond Clay’s allegations of fraud, waste or abuse.

Some members of the school board, and even some bond critics, have expressed concern that $1 million is too much to pay, but in the end, the subcommittee voted 2-1 to forward the full proposal as well as an additional $168,000 in legal expenses associated with the audit. It also voted to empower subcommittee legal counsel James Kawahara to attempt to negotiate lower fees with forensic auditors, said district spokesman Marcus Walton.

The audit would include an accounting of historical transactions and a testing of the district’s internal controls, which were identified as having high to medium risk of possible waste, fraud, abuse or financial irregularity, said audit team spokesman Ernie Cooper of VLS.


School trustee and subcommittee member Valerie Cuevas voted for the full accounting.

“While I would not prefer that be the cost, there is no price on making sure that we have the community trust, transparency and equitable resources necessary, so that folks continue to trust us,” she said Tuesday.

Since the voters will need to pass a similar bond measure to complete school construction districtwide in the future, it just makes sense, she said.

“I can’t go and ask them for these dollars if these questions still linger,” she said.

Cuevas’ motion was seconded by school trustee and subcommittee member Liz Block. The third subcommittee member Ivette Ricco, who is also chair of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, voted against the full scope of the audit. She said in an email that she recommended modifying the scope of the audit to save bond funds and time, so it would focus specifically on the Clay allegations made in April 2015.

Tom Panas, a member of the district’s Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, said the price tag for the audit would actually only amount to one half of a tenth of a percent of the $1.6 billion bond program, which is a very small price to pay to ensure future mistakes be prevented.

The full scope of the audit would look at past concerns such as how the contract with SGI Construction Management, the firm that oversees the bond program, was approved on October 2013, and whether it and the district’s architects, WLC Architects, were paid appropriately. In addition, it would test present-day controls to determine the adequacy and appropriateness of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, the Bond Program steering and prioritizing committees, and the district’s Governance Handbook, to name a sampling.

The school board will vote on whether to approve the subcommittee’s recommendation at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-945-4764. Follow her at


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