The Southwestern Community College governing board held a special closed-session meeting Wednesday night to address the San Diego County District Attorney’s ongoing investigation of school construction contracting.
Norma Hernandez, Southwestern College’s board president, said the school is working with the DA and has given the school’s draft findings of its internal investigation to assist the DA.
“Our own internal review is ongoing and to protect the integrity of the process, the findings will be shared with the public only upon completion,” Hernandez said after the closed-session meeting. The board expects one part of the internal investigation by the end of this week.
Southwestern began its own internal review in April, after the DA’s office contacted the school’s governing board in March.
The board directed the college’s legal counsel to hire an independent forensic auditor to investigate the concerns and to work with the district attorney. The auditor has been looking into two areas: construction contracts and the Southwestern College Educational Foundation. A report on the portion focusing on the school’s foundation is expected by the end of January.
Since a new board majority assumed the helm of Southwestern College in December 2010, the school has been evaluating district policies related to contracting, election conduct and ethics. Hernandez said several policies “have been rewritten and updated to strengthen them and close loopholes.”
On Dec. 20, 2011, DA investigators raided the homes of six current and former Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College officials and contractor Henry Amigable.
The affidavit of those warrants was released on Dec. 27 and stated that Amigable spent more than $10,000 in gifts, meals, wine tasting outings, sporting events, hotel accommodations and beauty pageant fees for South Bay school officials since 2008. In some cases these gifts reached more than $1,000 per outing.
The affidavit mentions Nick Alioto, former Southwestern College vice president for business and financial affairs; John Wilson, former director of business services at Southwestern; and Greg Sandoval, former vice president of student affairs at Southwestern from 1976 to 2008.
Sandoval, who also was on the Sweetwater school board from 1994 to 2010, was charged with felony counts of perjury, filing false instrument and wrongful influence Wednesday by the DA.
Amigable was the former vice president of Seville Construction Services Inc. The firm was hired by the college to be the program manager for the $389 million Proposition R construction bond measure. This program, passed by South County voters in 2008, was meant to transform a 9.4-acre vacant lot at the main college campus into several buildings that would house classrooms, a food court, offices and a bookstore.
In July 2010, Echo Pacific Construction Inc. was hired as the construction manager of this corner lot project. Echo Pacific has since been taken off the project after the school learned Amigable is also an employee of Echo Pacific and part of the DA investigation.
Seville Construction Services is still listed as the program manager for Proposition R. BCA Architects is the design firm for the project.
At a press conference Wednesday, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the investigation is ongoing, and possible charges could be brought up to other school officials and contractors.