I used to cover higher education and one of the issues here in Los Angeles is the neverending construction to expand facilities at community colleges. In 2007, I exposed how the Los Angeles Community College District quietly mishandled $2.2 billion in voter approved bond money. Four years after my story, the Los Angeles Times followed up with a series on the misuse I refered to. This week, a state audit confirmed what my story and the Times found: that the college district misspent more than $140 million. From my story (July 31, 2007):
Having used up the entire $2.2 billion taxpayers gave them to modernize nine campuses, Los Angeles Community College District officials failed to deliver many of the big projects and admit they spent a lot of money on little jobs.
While completing 70 percent of the 658 projects they promised, the nearly 200 projects that remain will cost an additional $2 billion or more – highlighting a focus up to now on design planning, project reviews and smaller efforts such as marquees, landscaping, tree trimming and exterior waterproofing.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ve mismanaged the money,” said former board of trustees member Patrick Owen, who served on the board from 1989 to 1993 and organized a slate of candidates that failed to unseat incumbent board members this year.
Big projects that never were built included a $45 million media arts building at Los Angeles Valley College, a $56 million consumer science building at Mission College and $37 million for a new technology center at Pierce College.
As district officials prepare for another school year, they’re examining these latest figures to determine whether they should go to voters for an additional $2 billion or cut projects from the list.
“I don’t think people expected a tsunami of construction to happen,” said Sylvia Scott-Hayes, president of the board of trustees. “I personally didn’t think we would quite reach 100 percent, but I didn’t think we would have had such a large gap.”