The WCCUSD Audit, My Thoughts

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Monday, September 26, 2016.
As promised, I am posting the video of the Final meeting of the Clay Investigation Subcommittee on September 15, when they accepted the VLS audit.

My comments on the conclusions of this audit (as requested) begin at 1:53:29 and run to 1:57:58

WCCUSD Articles in the Richmond Confidential

Investigation reveals possible WCCUSD fund mismanagement

School board votes to accept controversial audit, police may investigate

Article in the East Bay Times

West Contra Costa school board accepts audit report

Hello everyone:

I have been more than a little busy lately, all good.
This post is meant to bring you up to date, from my perspective, on the year-long WCCUSD Forensic Audit and the Clay Investigation.
I will add more detail and links to videos of the most recent meetings as time allows.
But for today, while the events are fresh in my mind, I want to share these thoughts with you.

meeting
The Clay Investigation has concluded. It has been my honor to serve on the Clay Investigation subcommittee along with Trustees Block and Cuevas.
I was appointed to that subcommittee by the school board, not by position but by name.
The audit process took a year to complete. It was a process spurred by allegations made by district employee, Dennis Clay.
The allegations were serious, they alleged mismanagement of the $1.6 Billion Bond Program.
The forensic auditors (VLS) and the Clay committee attorney (James Kawahara), were all vetted through a lengthy process to assure their qualifications and their complete independence from the District.
The subcommittee recomended the final report be sent to the BOE, on September 15, 2016.
The Final Report was adopted last night, September 21, by the BOE by a vote of 4-1, Trustee Groves dissenting.

Over 100 recommendations were specified to reduce the areas of High, Medium and Low Risks identified in the audit process.
Many of the High Risk areas are centered around budgets. Budgets, the foundation of any financial framework, were apparently manipulated and made to fit costs, not the other way around, there was a glaring lack of cost and budget controls in place.
I am outraged at the inefficiencies and mismanagement reported in the audit.
You should be too.

Now we must rely on the elected leaders of the District and Superintendent Duffy to truly lead and implement all of the recommendations made in the audit.
If, the recommendations are fully implemented, then, and only then, can this District begin the slow process of restoring trust in the community.
Leaders must have the courage to lead, to be accountable and to admit that mistakes were made.
We expect our children to go to school to learn, t0 get better, to do better, to learn lessons from mistakes made.
We should expect no less from District leaders.

————————————————————–
My comments below are in response to comments made about the audit and me on a FB page.
Posted to the West Contra Costa Schools FB Group:

I have refrained from responding to the critics of the audit in this forum. But I now intend to speak freely and reply to those who loudly and insistently made some comments about me and the audit.
You said this was a useless audit? Really?
SGI has garnered over $90 Million dollars in fees from, us, from you!
SGI has double dipped, manipulated budgets and operated as if they were in charge. Actually they were, because the District gave them a contract with no termination date, and that contract offered the District no recourse for termination. No wonder SGI felt invincible.
SGI hindered the investigation and its scope. The Forensic auditors were denied access to information and interviews. This, in spite of having a “right to audit clause” in their contract.
We now know that this Bond Program has lacked some very essential elements.
There was an alarming lack of processes, procedures, documentation, follow-up, policies, oversight, budget and cost controls, just to name a few.
Would we have known any of this were it not for this audit?
How much of our tax payer dollars were spent inappropriately as budgets were manipulated and made to fit costs, not the other way around?
The cost to our District and our schools is undetermined but real.
How many ineffective and inefficient practices have allowed funds to be siphoned off leaving us now with a mere pittance of $200 Million for 21 schools after spending not only $1.6 Billion dollars in voter approved bonds but also using state funds and developer fees?
You called this audit a Sham.
No, the sham was what the communities who entrusted their leaders with the Bond Program were subjected to.
There are 21 schools still in need of rebuilding, repair or modernization. The cost for the completion of the work, in my estimation, will be at minimum $1 Billion.

I care not about the politics, I care for the children and their education.
I have spent the last three years arm wrestling with the School District to provide me and the CBOC with information and answers.
I did not want to believe that the Bond Program was in such trouble, but I did my due diligence.  Now after 6 years of hearing  rumors and whispers, some of them told to me secretly by staff and now former staff, It is apparent that they were, sadly, true.

And as for the comment made on this FB page, that, I, Ivette Ricco, drank the Kool-Aid, that is like being called silly by the Three Stooges.
I am totally independent. I am not a candidate, I am not seeking to garner votes nor am I protecting alliances or self interests, I am not pro or anti Charter schools.

I am a product of the NYC public school system. I grew up in the South Bronx.
My parents left their homes in Puerto Rico as young adults and raised four daughters on one salary, in a two bedroom apartment.
School, for me, was a sanctuary.

I believe in public education and I believe every child is entitled to receive the best education this nation can offer.

This audit is a sad statement on the failure of the District and its leaders to rein in the contracts and contractors.
It is the proverbial tail wagging the dog scenario.
And, for the record, Kool-Aid, is not my drink of choice.

It’s Always Sunny in Pinole?

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sunburn1.en
Well, almost always.
Sunny or foggy, it’s still the place we call home.
First, thank you for reading my blog, the numbers have been unbelievable.
Today Riccofreako  is taking the easy way out and simply attaching the Pinole City Manager’s Administrative Report, but pointing out a few items of particular interest.
You can get the full report with all the details below.
8-4-16

Meetings:
Monday, August, 8, 2016 Planning Commission, 7 PM
Tuesday, August 16, 2016, City Council, 7 PM

Events:
Saturday, August 6,  9 am to 9 am. Relay for Life
Collins Elementary School

Politics:
November 2016 Local Election, Pinole
As of August 3rd, nomination papers pulled by:
4 Year Council Seats (2) Roy Swearingen (I), Pete Murray (I)
2 Year Council Seat (1) Maureen Toms (I), Kenneth Berling-Orozco, Sarita Lynnette Evans
Treasurer, 4 Year Term, Dina Rosales

The City is purchasing the Faria House
Just as a point of clarification, I was the “speaker”who asked that the Council consider making space available to other Pinole non-profits, specifically the Pinole Artisans and the Pinole Chamber of Commerce in the Faria House.
I did not specifically request office space be allocated for these organizations, rather I simply suggested that the space in the Faria House might be used to benefit and share with other non-profits “looking for a home”.
I recently toured the Faria House with Jeff Rubin and we discussed the purpose of the Faria House and whether or not it could be shared, in some manner, with the aforementioned organizations. I clarified that I had not spoken to either of these organizations but that they currently do not have a visible presence in Old Town and could certainly use one.
After discussing the options and the obstacles, Jeff and I agreed that some type of display area for these organizations could work. They could place material, flyers, etc, in an area that provides visitors with information and materials at the proposed museum.

I have again offered my help for fund-raising for this project, as I do not support the use of public funds for the interior renovations. I am not a contractor but the condition of the interior of the property is bad and the work needed is extensive.

I will support the use of grants, fund-raising events and other methods of raising funds for this project.
Based on my tour and the bids I have seen, I expect that the cost for renovation will cost no less than $400,000.

Citizens Bond Oversight Committee Vacancy
The WCCUSD CBOC seat is vacant.
I served on the CBOC for 6 yards, 3 as Chair and believe it was one of the most important use of my time.
The work this committee is doing is important and necessary.
A representative from Pinole is needed.
Application Here

Pinole Valley High School Project Status Report, 6/30/16

Have a safe and happy weekend.

Go Team USA!

 

 

National Night Out Tonight

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I have been busy enjoying family and life but it has been brought to my attention that the Annual National Night Out event has changed its traditional format here in Pinole.

The mission of National Night Out is to bring together neighborhoods and to have the community meet and spend time with their public servants.
Let’s always support the men and women who serve and protect us.
Pinole_pd_history
This was accomplished in the past by having the public servants caravan thorough the community to several pre-arranged locations.
However, this year there is a major shift in that tradition as National Night Out will be consolidated to one location, Fernandez Park.
nightout
National Night Out is today, Tuesday August 2, from 4 to 8 at Fernandez Park.
The following activities are planned:
K9 Demonstration
DUI/Command Center
Crime Prevention
Traffic/Motor Unit
DJ Music by Pistello
Bounce House
Snow Cones
Local Vendors

Pinole Approves Purchase of the Faria House

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FariaHome

July 20, 2016
Ok, the dust has settled, the votes are in and the Pinole City Council, by a vote of 4-0 (Council member Banuelos was absent) has approved the purchase of the Faria House for $30,000.
The Council did agree to pull this Consent Calendar item as I requested so that the community could express their opinions.

After spending the last three years of my life as Chair of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee and arm wrestling with the School District to get information that the public should be entitled to, I am hyper-aware and sensitive to organizations that are reluctant to share Public information with the Public.

The Appraisal link is below.
2100 San Pablo Ave Pinole – (Credit Bid)_Redacted-2

I received the Faria House Appraisal via email yesterday about 3 hours before the meeting.
The Council did not appear to be concerned that the appraisal had not been made available to the public along with the Agenda packet.
I had consulted a Real Estate attorney on the question of appraisals as public documents.
He replied, “an appraisal is normally a private document belonging to the party that hired the appraiser. If the appraiser was hired by the City, then presumably it is a City document subject to public review to the extent available for such City documents.”
The Appraisal is dated June 15, 2016, I believe the Public should have been able to review this document no later than July 14, 2016, when the Agenda was posted.
This transaction does not involve negotiations between two different parties, the City is both the Buyer and the Seller, therefore the document should have been made public in a timely manner.

Assistant City Manager, Hector De La Rosa mentioned during the discussion that the renovation bid of $322,000, was prepared by a contractor, not by the Appraisal firm, he also stated that another estimate for renovation is in the range of $500,000.
I did not see a separate document that backs-up that estimate.
I would like to see the cost estimates before the Council moves into the next phase of this project.

Members of the Faria family were there to express their desire to have the Faria House become the City of Pinole Historical Museum.  There were some touching and comical moments as members of this family and, other, not so young citizens expressed their frustration at the time it has taken to get this far.
Council member Toms explained the Successor Agency process to everyone, it is the same process I have outlined in my original post (below).
Members of the Historical Society were also there to express their desire to designate the property for use as a Museum.

However, Mayor Swearingen correctly pointed out that the agenda item under discussion was not about the use of the Faria House, but rather about the Purchase of the property.
By pulling this item from the Consent Calendar it afforded the Council the opportunity to explain to the public why the property was given a Fair Market Value of $30,000.
A productive discussion before a decision is made should never come under fire.

The use of the Faria House will be taken up at a later date, the Council did not set a date for that discussion.

My suggestion to allocate space in the Faria House for other non-profits that serve the community has been questioned because there are concerns that the floor plan and the square footage of the Faria House will not accommodate anything more than the Historical Society and its artifacts.
I am planning to tour the Faria House to get a better sense of exactly how limited that floor plan is. I am offering my support and my services to the City to work towards a reasonable and responsible solution.

I have no beef with the Pinole Historical Society. I am not at war with anyone, I am simply expressing my point of view, and my concerns as a 45-year resident of Pinole and as a community advocate and a taxpayer.

There is enough acrimony in politics today, isn’t it better to be open, inclusive and think of this City as ours?

July 19, 2016

Sometimes one just have to wonder how things get so distorted and “spun”.
The following email was sent to members of the Pinole Historical Society and others regarding my position on the purchase of the Faria House as stated in this post.
The funny thing is those who received the email are reading my post and asking why has my position on the Faria House been so misrepresented to them?

“Hi all,”

“Ivette Ricco announced on her blog that she will oppose the purchase of the Faria House at Tuesday’s council meeting. Her blog post is here:
https://riccofreako.com/2016/07/18/will-faria-house-be-sold-to-city-for-30000/”

“Please attend the council meeting and speak in favor of the purchase of the Faria House for the purpose of establishing a museum. The council needs to hear that there is public support for this project. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. This will be among the first items on the agenda.”

“Thanks.”

Jeff Rubin
President
Pinole Historical Society

So what did I clearly state below?

I support the establishment of a Museum in the Faria House.
But, the Pinole Historical Society is just one of the local non-profit organizations in Pinole who seek a home that is affordable and offers them a place where the public can easily interact with them; among them the Pinole Chamber of Commerce and the Pinole Artisans. These organizations serve this community and have served the community for many years and if the Faria House is to serve all, then these organization must be included in the plan.
Other potential uses could also be considered.
The Faria House could also serve a great venue for meetings and small private events.

Asking that this Consent Calendar Item be pulled until the public has had an opportunity to discuss this is a reasonable and responsible request.
These are public funds, the initial purchase of the Faria House and Property was made with Redevelopment Funds, taxes paid by all of us. The General Fund is also taxpayer money.
What’s unreasonable about asking to have this transfer of title tabled for more public discussion?
Bewildering.

July 18, 2016
The Pinole City Council will consider the Purchase of the Faria House for $30,000, from General Funds tomorrow.

Agenda
AG-2016-07-19-2

Resolution
07C – Pinole City Council 7-19-2016 -Faria House-2

What’s happening?

In 2011 the Legislature dissolved Redevelopment Agencies in California.
That action allowed the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Pinole to create a “successor agency”. The City decided to be the “Housing Successor” to the former agency.
That transferred certain housing assets to the City.
Among the properties transferred as a Housing Asset was the Faria House.
The property was transferred for affordable housing and if subsequently sold would have the proceeds, by law, used for affordable housing purposes.

In March 2016 the City sought direction on properties formerly owned by the Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and specifically the Faria House.
The City had three options:
1. Purchase the Properties at Fair Market Value.
2. Continue to Use the Faria House and land as affordable housing (it’s current designation).
3. Preserve the property as open space.

In June 2016 the City received the Fair Market value appraisal on the Faria House.
The Faria House was appraised as a mixed commercial/residential use consistent with the zoning and based on its “highest and best” use.
The appraisal took into consideration the location, amenities, size and parking, and the known factor that the property has been vacant for many years.

The appraised value of the Faria House and its land was estimated at $350,000 with a credit for renovations in the amount of $322,000.
This property has been given a Fair Market Value of $30,000.

If the City is to purchase the Faria House at the Fair Market Value, according to this appraisal (no data has been offered on the Appraiser nor has a copy of the Appraisal been offered as part of this agenda item), the funds for the purchase of the Faria House will be taken from the General Fund and the proceeds from the sale will be deposited in the Housing Fund to be used for Future affordable housing projects/programs.

In a recent article in the Pinole Historical Society Newsletter, several projects in the City were mentioned to point out how the City has helped finance various projects and serve the needs of the community.
It reads in part:

“Do we need a community museum?”

“Did we need a library when we forked up the money to build it?”

“What about the new Pinole Skate Park for those who enjoy that activity?”

“Our Community Playhouse is undergoing an interior rebuilding to better serve its audiences.”

“The Senior Center opened in 1990 to meet senior citizens’ activity needs, and is undergoing a quarter-million-dollar re-roofing project.”

“The money spent on these projects demonstrates how the city addresses the lifestyles and interests of all people who live in Pinole.”

Yes, the City does attempt to address the lifestyles and interests of all the people who live in Pinole, it should.
It’s the role of government to serve its community, all of its community.

The Pinole Historical Society has long wanted to establish a Museum in Pinole.
They have artifacts that need to be stored and preserved.
The roadblock has been the cost of such an endeavor and the difficulty in finding funds to not only purchase a property (Faria House), but to also determine how to fund the renovation of an old structure in need of major and costly renovation.

There is major difference in the use of Public Funds and the use of other, special funds allocated.
As an example, it is my understanding that the Pinole Library is county owned and funded.
The Skate Park used Measure WW funds and Measure S funds.
The renovation of the Community Playhouse used Measure WW funds and Measure S funds.
The Senior Center roof replacement is being funded with 2014 Measure S funds.

I support the establishment of a Museum in the Faria House.
But, the Pinole Historical Society is just one of the local non-profit organizations in Pinole who seek a home that is affordable and offers them a place where the public can easily interact with them; among them the Pinole Chamber of Commerce and the Pinole Artisans. These organizations serve this community and have served the community for many years and if the Faria House is to serve all,  then these organization must be included in the plan.
Other potential uses could also be considered.
The Faria House could also serve a great venue for meetings and small private events.

I am in favor of creating a space that serves the community, celebrates its history, its present and its future and affords the various organizations in the community a place to call home.

But It is Always About the Bottom Line
The use of public funds for the purchase of the Faria House (general fund) means that the Faria House must belong to everyone.

So let’s think about this.

The cost of $30,000 is considered by many observers as extremely low, based on the location of this property in Downtown Pinole.
I have heard that other property owners in the area are concerned that this evaluation can affect the value of their similar properties in Pinole.
I’m not a realtor or an appraiser, but I sure would love to see the comps for this appraisal.
Either way it is really just moving the money from one City fund to another.

This is a consent calendar item on tomorrow’s agenda, July 9.
That means that unless this item gets pulled, there will be no in-depth discussion and will simply pass with a majority vote.
The Resolution is to Transfer Title of the Faria House Property in exchange for the Fair Market Value, $30,000 and move this asset out of  Affordable Housing.

I think we are entitled to see the full appraisal, and learn who conducted the appraisal before the Council agrees to the purchase of the Faria House.
In addition if the Council moves ahead with this, they will have set a precedent for the remaining Successor Agency properties, among them the Historic Bank Building.
That’s why it’s important for the community as a whole to know the specifics of the appraisal.
The appraisal should be a public document and be available online just as the agenda is.

If after due deliberation and consideration and feedback from the community, your elected officials deem this is an appropriate use of public funds, the next step should be to create a committee of citizens that includes all the non-profits in Pinole seeking a place to call home.

Thereafter, a plan should be established to determine how funds for the renovation of the Faria House can be raised.
$322,000 is just an estimate, that cost is likely to change and frankly it is certain to rise.
Suggestions for raising funds for renovations should include grants and fund-raising events.

There needs to be a very public conversation about the  use of public funds for renovation of this property and the decisions made should be very carefully scrutinized.
I am not convinced the City can or should use public funds to renovate this property.

I ask the City Council to:
1. Remove this item from the Consent Calendar.
2. Place the full Appraisal on the City Website.
3. Identify and meet with local non-profits to garner their input.
4. Fully vet this purchase before making a decision that impacts the community and use of public funds.

 

 

Pinole Summer Sounds

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Summer time and the living is easy.
We have great weather in Pinole and I love it.
Now that you are either on vacation or taking time to relax with family, you should remember that you can have a pretty darn good time without going very far from home.

Pinole’s very popular Cinema in the Park and Summer Sounds return!
There are two concerts and three movies on tap.
Pack a meal, chairs, and a blanket for those chilly nights.
Or enjoy a fine meal in Old Town, The Pear Street Bistro, The Pinole Creek Cafe, and Tina’s Cafe, are among the restaurants neighboring Fernandez Park.
The Youth Center will have concessions available for purchase.
salsa.jpg
Summer Sounds: 6:30-8:00 pm
Fito Reinoso & Los Classics de Cuba
Cuban Salsa, July 14
Margie Turner & Outback Blues Band
American Blues, July 28

Summer_Sounds

Pinole Cinema
Movies begin at Sundown
Captain America, July 30
The Good Dinosaur, August 6
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, August 13
For more info contact Rochelle, 510-724-9062 or via email, Recreation@ci.pinole.ca.us

Community Playhouse – “Legally Blonde”
The Teen/College Company will produce the Broadway musical Legally Blonde in July.
Performances
Friday, July 22nd at 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 23rd, at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sunday, July 24th at 2:00 pm
Pinole Players

Pinole_Swim_Center

The Pinole Swim Center is Open
What better place to be than the Pinole Community Pool when the temperature rises?
Here is the Schedule

City Business:
City Council Meeting
Tuesday July 19, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

City Manager’s Administrative Report, July 7, 2016

See you around town.

 

 

 

 

WCCUSD – CBOC Annual Report

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books

Recently, I have received requests to speak to organizations and members of the community about the WCCUSD Bond Program, and specifically about the role of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. Many of the questions I have been asked are answered in the CBOC 2015 Annual Report.
I now present to the community at large the CBOC 2015 Annual Report.

The WCCUSD and all California School Districts that finance school facilities with voter approved Bond Funds have the expenditures for those Bond funds overseen by a Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
On November 7, 2000, California voters approved Prop 39, the Smaller Classes, Safer Schools and Financial Accountability Act.
In exchange, for passage of Bond Measures with only 55% of the votes, instead of 66 2/3%, the Legislature created the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee to assure the community that bond funds are expended as outlined in the schools district’s bond resolution.
The Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) issues an annual report in accordance with Prop 39.

The 2015 CBOC Annual Report was approved by the CBOC on June 22, 2016.
As the longest-serving member of the WCCUSD CBOC (three terms 2010-2016), and having the distinction of being the longest-serving Chair in the history of the WCCUSD CBOC, (2013-2016), it is with great pride that I present to the community the CBOC 2015 Annual Report.

Please take the time to read it thoroughly.

WCCUSD 2015 Annual Report.

Ivette Ricco
Former Chair, WCCUSD, CBOC