Just last year, California voters approved allowing local school districts to borrow $28 billion for various projects. Local governments borrowed even more for other projects. Taxpayers, of course, will pay the money back. Who’s minding the store to make sure the money is spent as promised? Watchdog groups are supposed to, but a new report by an independent state entity says they lack something important: Teeth.
In general, the overseers “have proven ineffective and some committee members have told the Commission that is at least in part, by design,” writes the Little Hoover Commission. “Most of the concerns revolved around bond oversight committee members who lack training, have conflicts of interest, either real or perceived, and the difficulty committee members have receiving required documents from the districts.”
As our Ashly McGlone reports, “those same issues have surfaced in San Diego County, where some appointees represent workers building bond projects and others get paid to lobby the very government officials they oversee.”
Groups that oversee San Diego Unified’s school bonds and SANDAG’s Transnet tax, for example, have had members who also work for contractors by day, the same ones who get the work from the bonds.
Opinion: Open Up on Scandal, SANDAG
In a VOSD commentary, local lawyer Gil Cabrera takes note of the unfolding scandal at the San Diego Association of Governments we uncovered regarding last year’s transportation ballot measure: “The public is entitled to know what the board members knew, when they knew it and what they did or did not do about it. Transparency and accountability go hand in hand. Those at SANDAG who are responsible for this monumental mistake must be held fully accountable.”
Cabrera, who unsuccessfully ran for city attorney last year, is former chairman of the San Diego Ethics Commission and current vice chair of the San Diego Convention Center Board of Directors.