EDUCATION BOARD GIVES ULTIMATUM NO RETROACTIVE CONTRACTS, SCHOOL DISTRICT OFFICIALS TOLD.
The Los Angeles Board of Education faces approving today more than $10 million in contracts that district officials handed out without authority under a long-standing practice of rubber-stamping deals retroactively.
Los Angeles Unified board members said Monday they have given Superintendent Roy Romer and his staff an ultimatum: This is the last time they agree to large contracts that officials sign without approval. In the future, such agreements will not be honored and board member Jose Huizar said he will seek disciplinary measures against officials who violate the policy.
``At some point, there has to be some reprimand for forwarding these contracts,'' said Huizar, noting retroactive contracts are the rule rather than the exception.
``It's a matter of enforcement. We have the policy in place. It's taken the board a while to say we are not going to do this any more.''
Huizar said retroactive contracts put the board in an untenable position and severely undercut its oversight authority.
``We are left in the position of No. 1, paying for (a contract) or No. 2, not paying it and face a lawsuit,'' he said. ``We cannot be fiscal overseers if (staffers) are giving us the contracts after the fact.''
Board member David Tokofsky said retroactive contracts are part of a long-standing pattern of staffers trying to circumvent board oversight.
``It's a trail of business practices that basically look at the board as a rubber stamp,'' he said. ``I have been told by people inside the facilities division that the leadership likes to treat the board members, as they say, like mushrooms. They keep us in the dark and they feed us cow manure.''
Tokofsky said Romer and the board agreed months ago to stop retroactive contracts, but the agreements continue coming before the board for approval.
Romer said he and his staffers are putting a stop to them and are now simply cleaning up what is left in the pipeline.
``It's a practice I am trying to cure,'' he said. ``We are working to try to have contracts done in advance.''
Both Huizar and Tokofsky would like to see any upcoming retroactive contracts get audited before they receive the stamp of approval.
``I'd love to see a complete due diligence and audit of every one of these before the board sanctifies it,'' he said. ``It's constantly a thing of, This happened before we got here. At some point, the money train has to come to a halt.''
Tonight the board will review and consider approving nearly a dozen retroactive contracts worth more than $10 million.
``They told me this is the last of them. This better be the last,'' said board member Genethia Hudley Hayes, who recently met with the facilities division about the issue. ``I am not going to vote for them any more.''
One of the contracts up for consideration is a $1.6 million deal with The Donaty Group, which was retained by the district between April 2000 and April 2001 to acquire land for new schools.
The Donaty Group currently has on loan to the school district its president, Ron Bagel, who is serving as the LAUSD's acting director of real estate.
In the past, Tokofsky and Hayes raised concerns about a conflict of interest related to the Donaty contract and Bagel's new position with the school district.
Bagel could not be reached for comment. Hayes said she was assured by staffers that the Inspector General's Office had reviewed the contract and did not find a conflict of interest.
Another large retroactive contract up for consideration tonight is a $3.6 million deal with Trammell Crow Co., which provides management services for the district's controversial headquarters inside the Beaudry building.
A third retroactive contract raising eyebrows is a $1.19 million agreement with Van Ginkel Consulting Group, also for real estate services.
Originally, the contract was set for $249,000 - $1,000 below the limit that would have triggered board review. Contracts between $25,000 and $250,000 are left to the superintendent's discretion and are routinely approved by the board every six months.
Contracts above $250,000, however, are supposed to obtain board approval before the work begins. Payment is withheld without formal board ratification. Lesser contracts, however, are paid prior to such approval.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 12, 2002|
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