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El Rancho Unified Trying to Clean Up Mess After Crucial Resignations

17th July 2019

BY BRIAN HEWS

The last thing El Rancho Unified School District needs right now is to give the impression of impropriety in the current process to award the new construction management services contract for Measure ER, the $200 million bond passed in 2016.

With the resignation of HPLE, the construction services company owned by Jaime Ortiz, and more recently ERUSD Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort, some of the more questionable characters are out of the way.

But the district is now facing many crucial deadlines related to construction of El Rancho High School and other projects, and must have a management firm in place by the end of June.

On May 28, the district published, mailed, and posted a Request for Qualification (RFQ) inviting management firms to send their management qualifications into the district for review.

But there were immediately two problems with the RFQ that hinted at impropriety; the RFQ gave companies an unheard of ten days to respond, and, as Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News discovered, the RFQ was the exact document sent out in 2015 by the district, including a 2015 date and response emails to people who no longer work for the district.

“That was our fault,” ERUSD Chief Business Officer Alex Rojas, who was hired Feb. 20, 2019, told HMG-LCCN, “so much has been going on around here we neglected to update the document, we are in a hurry because we are facing major deadlines and cost escalations, as soon as we found out we issued an addendum, but we can’t change the RFQ online.”

When asked about the ten day window to respond Rojas said, “the departure of HPLE put us in a difficult position, our plans for El Rancho High were already submitted to Division of State Architects (DSA).”

Normally it takes six months for DSA approval, during that time, management firms are performing pre-construction preparations, once the DSA gives final approval, districts can break ground and begin construction.

 

 

“In addition, we were in the middle of the RFP process for general contractors.  We needed to replace HPLE as soon as possible so that the project would not be delayed resulting in additional cost escalation.”

Many district residents are wary of the upcoming selection process after the RFQ closed today.

“We know the impression residents have of the district, we are trying to be completely transparent, the selection committee will not have district Board Members and I have invited expert personnel from LACOE (Los Angeles County Office of Education) to observe the entire selection process.”

According to Rojas, the selection committee will consist of the LACOE experts, ERUSD Director of Maintenance and Operations Carlos Jimenez, ERUSD Purchasing Director Jeff Fritchett, Rojas, and Rick Musto from LPA Design Studios.

“Jimenez and Fritchett are top-notch long-time district employees,” said former ERUSD Board President Dr. Aurora Villon, “they will do a great job as members of the selection committee, I was very happy to hear they were included, I just recently had a brief conversation with Mr. Rojas and I liked what I heard, I have never met Mr. Musto.”

The proposals for the RFQ were due today at four, HMG-LCCN has learned that seven firms responded, they are:

“I hope they keep the selection  process as open as possible,” said Dr. Villon, “the district, teachers, staff, students, and parents deserve it.”

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