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MEGATAXERS Shackle Whittier Union High School District to a $416 Million Bond

 

 

 

December 20, 2021
By the Irishman and Brian Hews

As the noted and most distinguished Armenian lawyer the world has ever known says, “The more the money, the less the argument.” Karabian always had his jeb filled with pearls of wisdom. He occasionally quoted Balzac: “Behind every great fortune lies a crime.”

 

Thus far, our Megataxer series has proven Karabian was right.  Inglewood Unified accessed $240 million in funds with projected costs at $469 million, a 95% mark-up in costs. Bassett Unified was right behind getting $50 million at a cost of $96 million, a 92% mark-up. Duarte Unified was next, accessing $79 million at a projected cost of $147 million, or 86% in costs. Citrus College, $298 million costing $503 million, a 69% mark-up. LAUSD, where it paid to have a finance guy running the Empire of Ethnic Studies, accessed $7 Billion in funds at a projected cost of $11 Billion in taxes, or 57% in costs. (No wonder the Board let Buetner leave.) Pasadena Unified accessed $516 million in funds at a projected cost of $798 million in taxes, or 55% in costs, Pasadena Unified beating out LAUSD in savings.

We waited to report on Whittier Union High School District because they are the champs when it comes to stiffing taxpayers.

In 2020, the WUHSD Board of Education and Superintendent gained access to $183 million in funds at a projected cost to taxpayers of $416.3 million, inking a staggering 121% in costs.

Well over more than twice the price. Who on earth is teaching math there? Mephistopheles. Much like trading coal for diamonds with a mythic lesson on the virtue of patience.

Over the Megataxer series, the bond-passage learning curve has ramped up. School district resolutions have been examined, along with the tax measures themselves and the ballot questions put to voters. And, of course, the tax rate statement. But who reads these things? We have shown that no one does.

Witness Whittier Union.

On June 9, 2020, the Board passed the Resolution, Full Text of the Measure, and the Ballot Label giving birth to a tax measure for the residents of the WUHSD to authorize the issuance of $183.5 million in public school bonds at a tremendous cost of $416.3 million.

As Deputy District Attorney Alan Yochelson said, “We don’t prosecute bad business decisions.” If so, he would be way too busy. Just ask his former boss, Arnold Glassman, Esq.

We also pointed out that L.A. County Counsel Mary Wickham, did not scrutinize any of the resolutions, measures, ballot labels, or tax rate statements.

They were all approved to move forward into the voter information guides and onto the actual ballots used at the time of voting even though every resolution, measure, and ballot label violated California law, specifically Education Code section 15272.

But no one in the Los Angeles mainstream news hemisphere has picked up our exposé.

Back to WUHSD. From June through July of 2020, the WUHSD bond measure was slithering its way onto the ballot. The public received notice, but who knew?

By the middle of August, arguments for and against the measure were invited. Once again, who knew? Those who attend board meetings, read agendas, action items, and scrutinize documents. That means no one knew.

Neither the District Attorney nor County Counsel has the staff to monitor school board resolutions, let alone the measures and ballot labels. Thus, the power to tax remains unbridled and unchecked. Are we back in England again? Forget the tea. How did the passage of such a cost bond happen?

Here’s how.

On August 24, 2020, Monica Oviedo, the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services at WUHSD, started soliciting campaign funds.

On September 8, 2020, Erickson Hall Construction from Escondido delivered $30,000; a week later TDM Architects of Los Angeles dropped off another $12,000. Two days later, Educators for Better Schools boosted the coffers by another $5,000.

$47 Large, all for the campaign.

First Report

On September 20, 2020, Christiana Kraus, Treasurer, and Monica Oviedo, Assistant Treasurer of the Committee to Support AA filed its California Form 460 Campaign Donations report. Someone signed off as the Signature of Controlling Officeholder, Candidate, State Measure Proponent or Responsible Officer of Sponsor, scribbling their signature thereon.

The conflicts of interest were blatant, Oviedo was WUHSD Assistant Superintendent and Christiana Kraus, at the time, served as Assistant Principal at Whittier Union High School.

The team reported expenditures of $61 along with the $47,000.

Second Report      

Oviedo and Kraus were donation machines, continuing to bank the dough. Martin Plourde, Superintendent of WUHSD and builder of stadiums, poured in $500. Sandra Thorstenson gave $300. Matt Blackbourne, V.P. of Universal Waste Systems added another $500. Kevin Jamero, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, popped for $250.

And Cathy Warner, current Mayor pro tem of Whittier, joined the party with $250.

The conflicts of interest were again blatant, Warner’s home address was the address of the Committee to Support AA 2020; Oviedo’s home address was used as the Treasurer.

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ALL IN THE FAMILY: Campaign documents showing current Whittier Mayor pro tem Cathy Warner using her home address as the campaign committee’s address while WUHSD Assistant Superintendent Monica Oviedo was Treasurer and Christiana Kraus, who was at the time the Assistant Principal at Whittier Union High School, was Assistant Treasurer using her home address.

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The flow of contributions in Los Angeles County often equals the flow or measure of trash, Athens Trash was next, contributing $2,500.

As the esteemed and Honorable Judge Mel Red Rencana said in his infinite wisdom, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Lorrie Ruiz, President of CL Consulting, who “specializes in providing school planning and facilities funding for school districts”, contributed $500. Ruiz was a Facilities Planning Manager at Irvine Unified for sixteen years, then moved to CL.

CL Consulting is part of the Megataxer Club, CL’s website boasts a who’s who of Megataxers as clients, including  WHUSD, perennial bond campaign donators Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo and BCA Architects.

Yet again blatant conflicts of interest, did Ruiz provide any advice to WUHSD?

And yet another questionable bond advice company enters the fray.

CL’s website keeps the company off the radar; it does not display a corporate office. A check of corporate papers on the internet shows CL’s address is 8504 Firestone Blvd #406; a P.O. Box in a Downey UPS Store; their Instagram account pictures have nothing to do with their business.

Their website search page, which has “Greek Type” has not been changed.

Yet another shady company found by HMG-CN’s exposé working California’s lucrative school bond process.

Back to the committee, Oviedo and Kraus subsequently contracted with Direct Connections in La Verne for $8,500 in postcards with teacher endorsements and $9,800 in postcards with business endorsements.

First and second reports combined, the duo collected over $53,000 and spent only $18,000.

Questions remain as to what happened to the remaining $34,700. Professional services? Perhaps bonus time? Not done yet.

Prior Election and Post Election Report

On October 28, 2020, Robert Banuelos gave $2,500. On November 3, 2020, DRL Group from Omaha pushed $7,500 in at the last minute to boost the successful measure. To top it off, Pasadena-based Pacifica Services, who was involved in several Central Basin Water scandals exclusively reported by HMG-CN, swept in with $7,000.

What was the money for? It was too late to influence the election.

No further reports

WUHSD’s tax measure and the campaign committee provide yet another instance of the corruption inside California’s public school bond process.

Committees are supported principally by the same architects, same contractors, same lawyers, waste haulers, and worse, a few residents who work for the District adding their personal funds to the campaign committee.

The donations are filled with concealment and deceit, promising higher grades and no increase in existing taxes, just prolonged siphoning.

What a great way to secure the endorsement of teachers and businesses throughout the community.

At this juncture, reviewing the Board of Education’s Resolution, the Full Text of the Taxing Measure, and the ballot label is passé. Like the other bonds we have reported on, they are all inextricably intertwined and violate California law, especially Education Code section 15272 and Elections Code section 13119.

Tax Rate Statement    

What is important to note is that the Board of Education and the administrators at WUHSD published a tax rate statement that revealed the cost of the issuance and sale of $183.5 million in public school bonds, and an estimated true cost of $416.3 million.

Where is Dale Scott when you need him? Probably up north raising funds for affordable teacher housing. Be patient, not in Los Angeles County yet. Aye, but in San Diego as if Miguel Itrubide himself sought the contract.

L.A. County Counsel Once Again  Rubber Stamps 

County Counsel reiterated – or rather regurgitated – the tax rate statement without any review or impartial analysis.

After 1997, ballot measures are required to include:

  1. A brief statement of the measure,
  2. The amount of bonds being voted on,
  3. The maximum rate of interest,
  4. The purposes for which the bond proceeds shall be used.

County Counsel Mary Wickham did opine that “the bonds shall not exceed the maximum rate of interest or maturity as allowed by law.” California Government Code section 53531 provides that “bonds may bear interest at a coupon rate or rates as determined by the legislative body in its discretion but not to exceed 12 percent per year . . .”

Admittedly, Wickham stated or shall we say restated: “According to the District’s Tax Rate Statement, the best estimate of the average annual tax rate required to fund the bonds, based on assessed valuations available when the District filed the statement, is $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. The final year the tax is estimated to be collected is 2050-2051. The estimated total debt service required to be repaid if all bonds are issued and sold is $416,300,000, including principal and interest.”

She should have added .00 to really drive the amount home.

Compared to Bassett, Citrus College, Duarte, Inglewood, Los Angeles and Pasadena Unified School Districts, which all have their own problems, the residents, or shall we say the voters, of the Whittier Union High School District are going to be paying well over twice the price.

With interest rates falling precipitously amid a pandemic, why would anyone support such a monster?

Here’s one major way.

In response to our Megataxer series, Heather C. Messner, President of the Duarte Unified Education Association, provided her opinion and dispatched a letter to her Members stating:

“With the advice of California Teachers Association, we gave membership information provided by the District and then put out a secure vote [on the bond] on SimplyVote. The result was in support [of the bond.]

“We informed the District and the District then asked if our logo and name could be used for social media posts, and mailers; CTA also asked that we promote the campaign on our social media pages and among our contacts/union leaders that live in Duarte.”

President Messner continued, “it appears the District not only failed to disclose information legally required on the ballot, but donors, including the Campaign Treasurer, former DUSD Chief of MOT, Brad Patterson, Little Diversified Architects, and Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, the law firm that lays off our staff and sits with the District at negotiations, have since been rewarded with contracts. We feel manipulated and regret asking our members to vote on support.”

Perhaps the Teachers Union at Whittier Union High School District owe the residents an apology as well.

Just ask W.C. Fields. Or Stradling Yocca, Norton Rose Fulbright, or even El Segundo-based Keygent, LLC.

Stay tuned for our conclusions; embrace the whirlwind. More corruption will be revealed.

 

 

 

 

One Response to MEGATAXERS Shackle Whittier Union High School District to a $416 Million Bond

  1. Pingback: MEGATAXERS Shackle Whittier Union High School District to a $416 Million Bond - Cerritos Community News - Corruption Buzz

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