Southwestern College has started the process to cut ties indefinitely with the program manager and architect involved with a $389 million construction bond.
The college’s governing board decided in closed session Wednesday night to direct school staff to commence the Request for Proposal process to find replacements for Seville Construction Services and BCA Architecture. The board also directed its legal council to take proper steps to terminate the contracts and return all construction information from the two parties back to the school.
Board President Norma Hernandez said the action taken “is consistent with the board’s commitment to proactively address past practices while maintaining Southwestern’s core mission of providing excellent education and maintaining the public trust.”
In a statement released by Seville Construction Services, the firm said it is working with Southwestern officials “toward a mutual solution to dissolve a contractual relationship. We believe SCS has operated and acted in good faith throughout our relationship with the district.”
No one from BCA Architecture, including the firm’s President Paul Bunton, could be reached for comment.
Two weeks ago, the board had voted only to suspend the two contracts in light of recent felony charges filed against school officials and a contractor hired by the college, as well as an internal investigation from Southwestern College.
Hernandez said that by severing ties with the two firms, the school can bid out the two contracts and find a new architect and program manager.
“With suspension we could not put out the Request for Proposals and bid out the contracts,” Hernandez said. “We want to get the project going.”
Hernandez added that the staff is expected to come back to the board on Feb. 8 with the Request for Proposals, unless the staff recommends the board take action sooner, in which case a special board meeting will take place.
Hernandez did not have an estimated date on when the internal investigation would be released, but said she wants to get it out as quickly as possible. A draft of the investigation has been given to the District Attorney’s office.
Construction has been delayed on the Corner Lot Project, which calls for a 9.4-acre vacant lot at the main college campus to be transformed into several buildings that would house classrooms, a new food court, offices, a new bookstore and a campus police station.
The project broke ground in October 2010. The corner lot is still vacant.
BCA Architects was the firm hired by the governing board to design the project in April 2010.
Seville Construction Services was the program manager in charge of Proposition R, a $389 million construction bond measure passed by South County voters in 2008 and the funding mechanism for the corner lot project. Seville was hired in November 2009.
To date, Southwestern has awarded BCA $4.67 million and Seville $4.49 million in contracted work, according to school records.
Proposition R is also scheduled to fund improvements to existing facilities at Southwestern’s main and three satellite education centers including purchasing equipment and furnishings, acquiring land and leasing property.
Echo Pacific Construction Inc. was the construction manager hired to build the project in July 2010. Echo Pacific was taken off the project by the board last October. Balfour Beatty Construction then took over as construction manager. Balfour Beatty had already been the construction manager on the field house and central plant, which is part of Proposition R work.
"The governing board is acting now to ensure the continued progress of work undertaken with Proposition R funds,” said Superintendent and President Dr. Melinda Nish. “It’s important for the public to understand that work is continuing during this process.”
Wednesday's action comes three weeks after current and former community college officials and a contractor hired by the community college were charged with criminal felonies by the San Diego County District Attorney for not disclosing gifts to the state. At a court hearing on Jan. 13, they all pleaded not guilty.
Henry Amigable worked at Seville Construction Services and Echo Pacific Construction at the time the firms were hired by the college. He has been charged with offering and giving bribes to school officials.
“The independent actions of individuals previously involved in the program, including a former employee who was terminated a year ago for inappropriate actions that included violation of our corporate code of conduct, are negatively affecting both organizations and the community," a statement issued by Seville Construction said. "It is important to note that the former employee is facing criminal charges for alleged actions while employed elsewhere, not SCS, on an unrelated project, not the college district."
Southwestern Community College Director of Student Development and Health Services Arlie Ricasa has also been charged with criminal felonies of perjury, filing false instruments and wrongful influence by a public official.
Ricasa is on paid administrative leave due to the ongoing internal investigation at the college. Her annual salary is $124,668.
900 Otay Lakes Rd.
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Reporter Carlos Rico attends the ribbon cutting for the new DeVore Stadium and Fieldhouse classroom facility at Southwestern College.