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By Brian Hews
Talk about a slippery slope.
This newspaper has found through a public records request via the Freedom of Information Act that several high-ranking Cerritos College officials, including Superintendent Dr. Linda Lacy, pressured Mark Logan, Director of Purchasing at the College, to remove HMG-CN from a large advertising purchase for the Cerritos College Bond Construction Outreach Program.
And now they don’t want Logan to talk to us about the emails, or any employee at the College for that matter.
The conspiracy and removal was likely a result of a series of articles citing Lacy’s salary and perks, which total over $300,000, and articles on Robert “Bob” Chester who subsequently resigned from two positions at the college.
Sources also tell HMG-CN that Cerritos College Trustees Bob Hughlette and Bob Arthur pressured Logan not to place advertising in HMG-CN and to “delete them from all future advertising.”
When told of the emails, one Cerritos College Trustee, who declined to be identified, said, “it makes sense, Bob Arthur, Bob Hughlette and Dr. Lacy hate you guys, it’s almost an obsession.”
All newspapers in the area, big and small, along with their websites were included. Even a local publication in existence for only 6 months, with very little circulation and that publishes every other week got in on the buy.
But somehow this paper left out. I would have been fine if they would have bought my newspaper and Benedict Bernstien’s 6-month old rag, but to leave this paper out is very suspicious.
Even more so given the fact the college placed advertising last year for the same bond measure and included my newspaper, with no problems during the entire process.
Over 60 incriminating emails
In the series of emails, Logan, Dr. Lacy and several other Cerritos College officials communicate at length about the bond measure advertising and contractor outreach.
An October 13, 2013 email between college administrative assistant Stephanie Barlow showed the list of advertisers to be used that included all my newspapers publications and its affiliate websites, loscerritosnews.net, lmlamplighter.com, and downeybeat.com.
In fact we were on the top of the list, with a long description of my newspaper/website group included.
The email was then forwarded to College CFO David Al Fattal, Logan, and Dr. Lacy.
Several Trustee meetings occurred after the Oct 13 email, with no objections to the list that included HMG-CN.
We then published two articles about Robert “Bob” Chester in January 2014, who resigned soon thereafter, and articles about Dr. Lacy’s salary and perks, totaling $300,000 in March.
On April 15, 2014, three weeks after our article on Dr. Lacy, Logan once again sends the advertising list to CFO Fattal.
Fattal emailed back saying “call me to discuss.”
Four hours later, Logan emails the list back to Stephanie Barlow “deleting those (newspaper and websites) not to be used for future advertising.” No reason was given for the removal.
HMG-CN’s newspapers and websites were the only names removed from the list.
The entries were crossed off by hand, extremely unusual because the list was on an Excel spreadsheet and could have been eliminated by deleting electronically, much like someone uses the backspace button to delete sentences.
I brought the omission to the attention of Trustee Sandra Salazar who then formally asked why we were deleted at the June 4 board meeting. She did not get an answer.
On June 13, a Logan email response in answer to Trustee Salazar’s question indicated that Los Cerritos Community News was not included because of “potential billing problems.”
That is very interesting. There was no communications between the college and me about the advertising program so, unless Logan has a crystal ball, I have no idea where he got his information about ‘potential billing problems.’
What Mr. Logan does not know is that I always carefully check invoices for errors; errors will lead to lost customers.
I called Logan for comment about the removal, no answer. Then I received a phone call from Miya Walker, the new Public Relations Director at the college.
In that conversation, Walker asked for questions to be given to Logan, which I immediately sent the next day.
Walker’s reply completely and conveniently contradicted her conversation with me. She said, “per Campus Media Procedures, District staff, employees and faculty are not officially authorized to speak on behalf of Cerritos College or about college affairs to external media publications unless approved. This includes Mr. Logan. Lastly, the allegations referring to pressure from college trustees – are unfounded.”
Similar to when we caught Bob Chester, we have caught Lacy and others in the act, they know it, and their solution is to place a media clamp down on all employees.
When we caught them the first time they wanted to charge me $250,000 for emails I asked for under the Freedom of Information Act related to Bob Chester, effectively stonewalling that investigation.
Now they place the communication clamp down on everyone at the college, stonewalling another investigation.
I have dealt with three Superintendents and Lacy has by far been the worst. With the accredidation fiasco and now this new round of clamping down on the press, she has no where to go but up. Yet she starts by hiring a new PR Director over a perfectly competent Aya Abalon to insulate the school even more.
Talk about a slippery slope.
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