Who's following the money? - Page 2

Not the City College bond oversight panel, which rarely meets and has seen no serious audits of half a billion in spending

The project is now $30 million over budget, an increase of 50 percent, and the school recently requested another $6 million diversion from other bond projects. City College originally planned to build the campus where a shuttered theater currently stands on Mission Street but later moved the site to avoid a showdown with preservationists.

<\!s> Since 1997, City College has asked voters for a total of $61 million to renovate and remodel existing buildings and meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. In November 2005 it asked voters for $35 million to perform such work, but just weeks after the election, $20 million of the money was reallocated to a planned Chinatown–<\d>North Beach campus that's now running $50 million over budget, an increase of 60 percent. That project's ever-changing design has been heatedly challenged by everyone from the Chronicle's editorial board to Sup. Aaron Peskin to state senator Leland Yee.

<\!s> Two projects for which voters authorized a combined $71 million won't see the light of day unless the college returns to the ballot a fourth time, which school officials have discussed. The projects — a biotech learning center and a one-stop administrative shop for new students — have been drained of $42 million to save the Mission campus and an overdue Performing Arts Center, which will cost $75 million more than expected, an increase of 152 percent.


All of this irks Mara Kopp, who was appointed to City College's oversight committee in late 2005 as a representative of the San Francisco Taxpayers Association. She's complained openly that the school long ago should have hired auditors for the kind of far-reaching work West Contra Costa gets.

"If we received ongoing management reports, then we'd have something of substance," Kopp said. "We wouldn't have to hunt and peck in a kind of naive, elementary way."

She is all but alone in her criticism, however, save for a small group of allies including former committee member John Rizzo and Milton Marks, one of the few voices on the independently elected Board of Trustees willing to apply tough scrutiny to Chancellor Phil Day's office at board meetings. Green Party pol Rizzo recently became a trustee after closely beating longtime incumbent Johnnie Carter in the November 2006 board race.

Day has long argued that the school's attorneys don't believe such audits are required under Proposition 39, a 2000 state ballot measure that lowered the threshold for passing local school bonds. Prop. 39 required the formation of local citizens' bond oversight committees.

Marks has questioned the strength of City College's oversight committee and the lack of performance audits since at least 2005, but not until earlier this year were he and Rizzo able to force a resolution demanding the inspections, and now Day claims to welcome a management review. The school will bid out its first audit soon.

"The bottom line is, a performance audit as opposed to a financial audit would determine whether or not funds are being expended in the most efficient, effective, and economical manner instead of just adding up these funds and saying, 'Here's how much we expended and for what,'<\!s>" said Harvey Rose, a respected local auditor who's reviewed city agencies and analyzed San Francisco's annual budget for 35 years.

West Contra Costa concluded that Prop. 39 does require extensive managements audits. The committee even decided to include a $150 million bond election in 2000 in the scope of its work, although that wasn't required, to ensure all the money was still being spent efficiently.

Duer said it doesn't matter to him what the letter of the law requires. "It was always assumed with our work that this is something we had to have," he said.

The Los Angeles Community College District made the same assumption.

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