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MEGATAXERS Part 4: Tiny Duarte Unified Saddled with $148 Million in Debt

 

 

August 14, 2021

By The Irishman and Brian Hews

Duarte Unified is a school district that serves students from Duarte, Bradbury and the unincorporated southern portions of Duarte and Monrovia.

The tiny District has only one elementary (K-6) school, four K-8 schools, one comprehensive high school and one continuation high school. The population of students served in the District is socio-economically diverse and culturally rich.

So why would Bradley Patterson, a resident of Azusa, care about a school bond for DUSD?

The answer is Ken Bell, DUSD President of the Board of Education and Patterson’s boss; Patterson was the Senior Director of Facilities for DUSD.

The Start

In April of 2016, the DUSD Board retained Little Diversified Architectural Consulting firm to prepare a long-range Educational Facilities Master Plan similar to the EFMP’s for Bassett and Citrus we previously reported on in our Megataxer exposé.

Within three months, the DUSD Board approved the EFMP “as a guide for future campus facility development in support of a transformational direction in learning for current and future students attending Duarte Schools.”

Districts cannot pass a bond without an EFMP, and DUSD needed their EFMP lightning fast to keep the process going forward; they got it done.

Three years later, on Jul. 16, 2019, the architects produced the Facility Needs Assessment justifying a massive $79 million General Obligation Bond, triggering the next step in the bond process.

Just like Citrus, one year early, just the time needed to be successful.

The DUSD Bond Resolution had to be ready by the first week of August 2020. On Jul. 24, 2020, the Board adopted Resolution 3-20-21 at the last possible minute.

Los Angeles-based Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth authored the Resolution citing the Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000, indicating Stradling knows the California Education Code as it applies to bond ballot labels.

Stradling also knows the paperwork trail: the full text of the measure and ballot label must be printed in the voter pamphlet with the sample ballot.

The ballot question is the actual ballot label seen at the time of voting.

Strading attached the ballot label to the Resolution, “DUARTE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT CLASSROOM REPAIR/UPGRADE, STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT MEASURE. To upgrade all neighborhood schools, providing safe drinking water, remove asbestos/lead paint, improve fire safety, leaky roofs, natural disaster/emergency preparedness, retain/attract quality teachers by acquiring constructing, repairing sites, facilities, equipment, shall Duarte Unified School District’s measure authorizing $79,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, levying 5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, raising on average $4,475,000 annually while the bonds are outstanding, be adopted, requiring citizens oversight, all funds for local schools?”

Similar to our Bassett and Citrus stories, California Education Code 15272 requires ballot labels to state “the board will appoint a citizens’ oversight committee and conduct annual independent annual audits to assure that funds are spent only on school and classroom improvements and for no other purpose.”

That statement was not in the ballot label, nor was the rate of interest and the duration of the tax.

Documents show that L.A. County Counsel missed the omission.

By then, the County Registrar had approved moving forward with the tax and assigned “Measure S” even though the ballot label failed, on its face, to comply with law.

Since 2000, few school districts have followed the law. They have exceeded the 75-word limitation and with board members altering the language. The requirements of law have been avoided by school districts up and down the state, attributed directly to the Megataxer network.

MEGATAXERS: Time to Donate

The DUSD bond measure made it onto the ballot. On Sept. 22, 2020, Bradley Patterson and Ken Bell established the Committee for Duarte Schools – Yes on S 2020, with Patterson signing on as Treasurer and Bell as the Controlling Officeholder.

They used the address of 1191 Huntington Drive, #355, Duarte, California 91010, a P.O. Box in a UPS store.

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LET BROWN DO IT: Screenshot showing the UPS used for Measure S.

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And, like Bassett and Citrus, the money started pouring in.

Patterson donated $100; Castlerock Environmental in Santa Fe Springs gave $1,500; Charlie’s Fence Co in Duarte ponied up $250; Charlie’s was the first business in Duarte to donate.

Then came the Megataxers; dodging campaign finance report rules is their business.

The election was Nov. 3, 2021, but the full campaign finance reporting period ended Oct. 17, 2020. Any donations after that can be reported at the end of the year if under $1,000.

Any donations over $1,000 must be reported within 24 hours.

Those companies that donated prior to Oct. 17 included DLR Group from Omaha, Nebraska gave $7,500; they build “high performance buildings for a sustainable future.”

Meteor Construction from Gainesville, Florida, gave $1,000. Meteor designs “high-performance learning environments.”

Amin Salari, CEO of Fonder-Salari, part of the Megataxer network, gave $2,500. His other company, Fonder-Salari Management & Consulting, gave another $2,500.

Let’s move closer – to Orange County where companies donated a total of $14,500: Little Diversified Architectural Consultants, $7,000; Westgroup Designs Inc., Architecture, $5,000; KNA Structural Engineers, $1,500; KYA Services, Architects, $1,000.

Notice anything yet?  Charlie’s Fencing is the only company from Duarte.

With the election just weeks away, even more money came flowing in:

Erickson-Hall Construction in Escondido, a construction firm that “specializes in public projects,” gave $10,000.

Cerritos-based law firm Andelson, Loya, Rudd, and Romo, who, on Aug. 22, 2019 renewed their contact with DUSD, gave $6,500.

Orbach, Huff, Suarez & Henderson in Los Angeles gave $2,500.

Engineous Group, Pasadena, HVAC $1,500.

Sandy Pringle Associates, Torrance, donated $1,000.

Five other companies gave $1,000 each for a total of $36,000.

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Donations as of Oct_17_2020

>1000 Donation before Oct 17, 2020

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But the big payoff came after the Oct. 17, 2020 reporting period, where only Form 497’s are filed, and only the most informed researchers can find the $1,000 or more donations.

After Oct. 17, an eye-opening total of $30,500 came into the Measure S Campaign Committee.

BCA Architects in San Jose wrote a check for $10,000.

Phoenix-based Kitchell, Inc. gave $5,000.

Massetti Consultants from Long Beach gave $5,000,

Lord Architects in San Diego gave $3,000.

Architect Erik Hall donated $2,000 and architect HMC Rebekah Roth ponied up $2,500.

Balfour Beatty gave $1,000, two others gave $2,000.

But the big check came in on election day.

Documents obtained by HMG-CN show that WLC Architects, also known as PBK-WLC, beat down the UPS door and donated $47,500 to the campaign on Nov. 3, 2021.

As reported on the Oct. 17, 2021 campaign finance reports, the Measure S Committee listed $52,150 in donations.

But after that, unknown to DUSD residents, an additional $78,000 came in for a total of over $130,000.

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1000 Donation after Oct 17, 2020

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Where is the Money?

Those same documents show that the committee spent a total of $46,000 for the campaign with $10,000 going to companies out-of-state.

Data Genomix in Cleveland got over $4,000 for online advertising while DSPolitical in Washington, D.C. was paid nearly $6,000 for media buys.

Oakland-based Clifford Moss was paid $35,000 for digital data, Yes on S signs, Zoom Account Fees, and “campaign fees.”

What is apparent, manifestly evident, is that no residents of Duarte made a reportable contribution to the tax measure, except for Charlies’ Fence Company at $250.

Architects, engineers, consultants and lawyers; the Megataxers paved the way for the bond and now the residents of Duarte will be saddled with $148 million in long-term debt.

After the tax measure passed, Bradley Patterson left the District, but he still casts a long shadow.

In April 2021, the DUSD Board approved hiring Patterson as a consultant regarding new construction for school facilities related to DUSD’s Measures E (2010) and S (2020) bond programs for $40,000 through June 2022.

Meanwhile, sources are telling HMG-CN that current DUSD Board Members Ken Bell and Reyna Diaz are allowing Superintendent Gordon Amerson to run the entire district from his home on Zoom without administrative green-sheeting; filling in the green time reports.

The Megataxers count so far:

Bassett Unified, $50 million bond, cost to taxpayers, $96 million.

Citrus College: $298 million, cost of half billion.

Duarte Unified: $79 million, cost of $148 million.

Passed using compromised board members, and bogus ballots statements and tax measures.

Next up… Inglewood Unified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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