Last fall, an argument emerged in between authorities at San Diego Unified and Southland Electric, among the district’s service providers.
The district was being audited and had concerns about the pay rate of a Southland worker who worked on a job at Garfield High School.
Andy Berg, who works for Southland and dozens of other electrical contractors as the head of their association, wrote district staffer George Harris III on July 30, 2014: “George, Any idea why it would be a problem if the professional paid too much a worker? Andy.”.
Berg ultimately looped in Lee Dulgeroff, San Diego Unified’s chief centers preparing and building officer, and Harris’s employer.
“I have a concerned professional to solution to,” Berg composed.
Over the next a number of weeks, more emails followed without resolution.
On Dec. 18, Berg composed Dulgeroff with a threat: “If you can not rectify this, my recommendations to Southland will be to ignore the demand (you can’t pay more than double time) and take legal action against the District instead.”.
2 and a half hours later on, Berg, as chair, assembled a conference of San Diego Unified’s Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee, and gone over school bond tasks with Dulgeroff, the district’s point guy to the committee.
The committee is the state-mandated regional watchdog of taxpayer dollars collected through voter-approved bond steps to pay for school facilities and improvements. The volunteer group is needed to report their conclusions to the school board and public.
Berg lobbies public and private agencies for electrical contractor jobs by day, and by night he chairs the bond oversight committee, a group charged with guaranteeing the district’s $4.9 billion in bond dollars are spent as assured to voters without waste.
Berg has actually held these dual functions– advocating for contractors and taxpayers alike– for several years, and not simply at San Diego Unified. He’s likewise served on school bond oversight committees at Poway Unified, the Sweetwater Union High School District and the San Diego Neighborhood College District over the last decade.
Berg, who resides in Rancho Peñasquitos in the Poway Unified district limits, states his familiarity with building makes him preferable to the school board members who select him. He’s likewise been a friend to elected officials and stumped for the very bond steps that end up being an advantage for his members.
Not only do schools need the money but, “We develop here,” Berg said, sitting in a conference room at the local head office of the National Electrical Contractors Association. “If it’s passed there’s going to be more construction in the basic market which cannot assist however be good.”.
He’s also safeguarded districts when criticisms emerge over innovation purchases, in the case of San Diego Unified, or over high bond payment ratios, in the case of Poway Unified.
Prop. 39, passed in 2000, lowered the limit needed for school bonds to pass– from two-thirds to 55 percent of voters. As part of the procedure, bonds that pass are needed to have a citizens’ oversight committee as an extra protect.
“Follow the cash,” as Berg puts it. “I’m chair of a committee that’s in charge of ensuring money is invested as laid out in the bond.”.
That following San Diego Unified’s bond money leads you to the pockets of a number of Berg’s electricians and his bosses, he states, is inconsequential.
Electrical experts Win Huge Bond Bids.
As chief executive of the San Diego chapter of the National Electrical Professionals Association, Berg earns $160,000 a year. Almost all of the association’s $1.2 million in yearly revenue originates from member dues from over 50 electrical firms, IRS tax return show.
Berg’s 11 employers on NECA’s board of directors are the heads of several local companies that frequently work for the district and have actually gotten school agreements, in some cases without a competitive bidding procedure, district records show.
Tim Dudek, for instance, is both president of NECA San Diego and Saturn Electric Inc., a business that has actually acquired lucrative Prop. S and Prop. Z contracts in recent times as part of the district’s Integrated 21st Century Interactive Class initiative, a major focus of both bonds.
Records reveal Saturn initially won four competitive bond bids worth a combined $6.47 million to provide and install wireless internet, audio-visual equipment, electronic white boards and student devices in hundreds of district classrooms. Those agreements, each with an one-year term, were then restored without competition a minimum of 4 times for another $4 million.
Southland Electric, similarly, won a $1.3 million i21 classroom bid in 2010 and then saw that agreement renewed twice for another $2.6 million without competition. Southland won two more bond quotes worth $2 million in 2013 for i21 class work. The business has actually likewise done a minimum of 18 non-bond district tasks given that 2008 on an emergency no-bid basis– often after power outages– to the tune of $800,000, records show.
The district pays electrical companies for other projects too– like theater lighting, hand dryers and air-conditioning units– through smaller sized purchase orders that do not need bids.
NECA member San Diego Stage & & Lighting has actually been paid at least $220,000 that way for 19 tasks since November 2011. Another firm EMCOR Group, likewise referred to as Dynalectric Company, has been paid at least $73,000 for 7 jobs in the last 4 years through no-bid order, simply among others.
Still, the majority of the district’s electrical work is performed by subcontractors paid by basic service providers, not the district, making the true amounts paid to NECA service providers evasive.
Exactly what is clear in district files is NECA members Berg represents work for the district and its bond program on a regular basis. Those that do not are competing for district work, frequenting bid strolls and sending propositions.
‘2 Hats But Just One at a Time’.
Ask Berg about his work as both professional booster and taxpayer watchdog and he provides 2 views. On one hand, he says he keeps the tasks separate, putting on various hats depending upon the room he remains in.
“When I sit at a Chamber conference, it’s, ‘OK. Exactly what’s best for the business neighborhood?’ When I sit here, it’s, ‘Exactly what’s finest for my professionals?’ When I’m on the oversight committee, it’s ‘Exactly what’s best for the district and the students?'” Berg stated. “I try to just consider where I am and what I am expected to do.”.
Dulgeroff, San Diego Unified’s centers planning and construction officer, said he’s observed the exact same. Dulgeroff also served along with Berg on Poway’s bond oversight committees for numerous years.
“Andy wears two hats but just one at a time. I have not seen him attempt to take advantage of his ICOC subscription to benefit NECA electrical professionals,” Dulgeroff stated. “If he attempted I would not tolerate it.”.
Berg likewise stated there’s no fundamental dispute in between the 2 tasks due to the fact that what benefits the district is good for the contractor, and vice-versa. Serendipity.
“We have to promote what’s best for society,” he stated. “If it’s excellent, it’s good and we’ll make it work. I securely believe that.”.
“I’ve never ever truly seemed like, ‘Oh my God I cannot advocate for the taxpayer because this could hurt my (professional).’ I’ve never ever felt that method,” Berg stated. “If anything, I would be helping my professionals by assisting the district do things as cost-effectively as possible.”.
But Berg does consistently engage the district on behalf of his electrical contractors, particularly when they are at probabilities with the district or aren’t making money, emails from the school district program.
When Phazer Electric authorities complained to Berg last July they weren’t earning money by basic contractor Adams Mallory Construction for work at Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks and Jefferson elementary schools, Berg forwarded the issues to Dulgeroff and Harris 4 minutes later with a message.
“Is there any genuine reason that Adams Mallory would be holding cash from Phazer Electric for the contract noted below? If not, is it possible for you to step in prior to there is a need to submit a stop notice?” Berg composed July 21.
More just recently, Aug. 24, Berg forwarded concerns from Southland Electric relating to payments withheld by the district for air-conditioning work.
“Lee, On the COOLING AND HEATING IDIQ’s are you launching retention for each school or are you requiring the professional to wait up until the entire region is total?” Berg wrote.
“Like numerous specialists we experience, Andy can be assertive when advocating for the interests of contractors,” Dulgeroff said of Berg’s suit threat in 2014. “District Facilities staff protects the public interest while treating our vendors, contractors and subcontractors relatively. Occasional conflicts, claims and suits with specialists are proof that district staff is watching out for public interests and holding specialists liable.”.
Berg said his warning was more about his bond oversight role than his NECA one.
“The issue being dealt with in the emails were of more importance to my function on the ICOC than they were to my day job. The district had a severe problem with their labor compliance department, so severe that many specialists (mainly non-NECA specialists) were threatening to stop bidding,” Berg stated. “The ICOC definitely has a duty to make sure the district is not preventing specialists from bidding work because this would have the effect of driving up expenses. My function as chair is to be as powerful as I need to be when the district has to understand that actions they are taking are negatively impacting the bond program.”.
Michael Turnipseed, president of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees and executive director of the Kern County Taxpayers Association, stated the exchange where Berg threatens to advise a specialist to take legal action against the district shows “He’s bringing his day task into the arena.”.
“If he is sending out emails like that, he ought to step down, in my simple viewpoint, because you are going way beyond your scope as a bond oversight committee member,” Turnipseed stated. “There’s asking the concern and there’s getting involved.”.
“You have to have individuals that do not have actually a viewed or vested interest in the outcome of their considerations,” stated Nick Marinovich, a League of Bond Oversight Committees board member and chair of the Sweetwater Union High School District bond oversight committee. “They have to be independent of any outdoors influences that could cloud their judgment. … The master is the taxpayers on these committees. That’s who the boss is.”.
Districts Seem Fine With the Arrangement.
California law prohibits staff members as well as “A vendor, specialist, or consultant of the school district” from serving on a bond oversight committee.
Berg said he’s been verbally advised by each government firm he’s served that he does not have a conflict given that neither he nor NECA receive district payment. Just the NECA members he serves do.
But after we asked, only Sweetwater’s Prop. O oversight committee minutes from 2007 reflect such guidance, although Poway Unified officials this month offered the very same viewpoint.
Minutes from Berg’s first conference at the San Diego Community College District in 2007 do not reflect such advice. The college’s Prop. S and N committee ethics policy bars members from making or influencing district choices associated with “any building job which will benefit the committee member’s outside work, company or an individual monetary interest.”.
“We don’t see a problem of interest,” said Jack Beresford, a spokesperson for the district, after examining Berg’s resume this month. College oversight committee “members are advisory in nature and don’t deciding.”.
San Diego Unified’s records from Berg’s first committee meeting Feb. 24, 2011, also make no reference of such a request, and district authorities did not react to questions about whether such a decision had actually been made.
For a couple years, a NECA training center Berg helps oversee was likewise receiving district funds.
San Diego Unified contracted with the San Diego Electrical Training Center for two years– $75,000 a year– to offer a Renewable resource Leadership Institute that 20 students participated in. The center is collectively run by NECA and the local electrical employees union through a trust supervised by an eight-person board of trustees that includes Berg.
The student program was gotten rid of throughout a round of budget cuts prior to the 2011-12 school year to conserve $130,000.
“The $75,000 hardly covered costs,” Berg said. “It was a great program for the students and I want it was still in impact.”.
San Diego district authorities did not react to a concern about whether the agreement must have disqualified Berg from the oversight committee at the time.
San Diego Unified’s bond program has not lacked its debate throughout Berg’s tenure.
One of the oversight committee’s primary tasks is seeing to it bond dollars are spent only on jobs noted in the ballot supplied to voters. San Diego Unified got a disrespectful awakening in March 2013 when a court ruled that field lights were not acceptable Prop. S expenditures. The court also identified, nevertheless, that schools didn’t need to pay back the money that had been incorrectly invested.
District expert Larry Goshorn wondered earlier this year if, provided the ruling, the oversight committee can still report bond funds were properly expended.
Berg replied: “I don’t necessarily disagree, however if the court is not demanding the payment of funds, then was the cash invested inappropriately? If it was, wouldn’t the court have bought the money paid back?”.
Close Ties With Specialists.
While oversight committee members typically do not have district decision-making power, Berg was asked to help score the construction management companies contending for a $12 million contract to oversee the Prop. S bond program in 2011.
The winning partnership in between San Diego-based Gafcon Inc. and Sacramento-based Vanir Construction Management dissolved four months later on. Gafcon CEO Yehudi Gaffen had actually served on an unsuccessful San Diego parcel tax project committee with Berg in 2010.
Berg’s familiarity with regional specialists who work with or hire his electricians is both a “Plus and a minus,” Berg said. He recalls telling district officials, “‘You know, I understand all these individuals extremely well. I indicate the (six finalist) people that exist the entire regimen. Is that an issue?’ And the answer that I got was fairly the opposite. ‘We such as the fact that you have some intimate knowledge about the companies,'” district staff stated.
On other oversight committees, Berg has actually attended specialist choice interviews, including 20 designer interviews at the college in 2007, according to fulfilling minutes.
Not everyone is as comfortable with Berg’s dual roles as Berg and city government officials.
Ron Noble, a San Diego local who’s been at odds with San Diego Unified over Clairemont High’s field lights and noise, compared Berg’s committee function to “the fox enjoying the henhouse.”.
“This thing is so incestuous it’s not amusing,” Noble stated. “It’s coming out of my taxes … How can someone legitimately be in there playing both sides of the fence?”.
I asked Turnipseed, the California League of Bond Oversight Committees president, whether it’s typical for a service provider association agent to serve on a bond oversight committee.
“We have never ever had that … not up here,” he stated. “However the air and water are various in San Diego.”.
This short article relates to: Education, School BondsTags: Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee, National Electrical Contractors Association, Proposal S, Proposition Z, San Diego Unified.
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