Friday, June 23, 2017
[Santa Cruz County] PVUSD committee takes issue with critical Measure L report
WATSONVILLE >> The Citizens’ Oversight Committee has taken issue with a scathing June 13 civil grand jury report deriding the group as “mostly ineffective” in its role supervising and reporting on the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s use of Measure L funds.
“Much of the grand jury report about Measure L was true two years ago,” said committee chair Bill Beecher. “It fails to recognize the many changes that have taken place since.”
The Citizen’s Oversight Committee, a group of seven unpaid community volunteers, is tasked with informing the public, reporting to the board and overseeing whether bond funds have been spent in accordance with the terms and conditions approved by the voters.
Measure L is a $150 million facilities bond passed by voters in November 2012 to repair and upgrade the district’s campuses.
In response to Beecher, civil grand jury foreman Rocco Chappie said the report was based on an investigation undertaken in the last year.
“All of the interviews conducted as part of the investigation took place in person in the last 12 months,” said Chappie.
Beecher called the civil grand jury process flawed because the committee was called in to testify with little information about the interview subject matter.
“During my testimony, I pointed this out to the grand jury. They wanted details and expected us to respond from the top of our heads. This is difficult when there are so many projects being done,” said Beecher.
Chappie said that it would be illegal for the civil grand jury to provide anyone testifying before it with prior information about the questions.
“That’s the nature of the process,” said Chappie. “It’s not in the grand jury investigation’s best interests to telegraph the questions beforehand.”
Among other issues, the report criticizes the degree of transparency regarding Measure L funds. Beecher, who assumed the position of chair in September 2016, said the Citizens’ Oversight Committee requested more transparency two years ago.
In addition, Beecher said that most of the issues in the report have already been addressed without any direction from the civil grand jury.
“The report suggests that we have been asleep at the wheel. Nothing is further from the truth. Have we made mistakes? Yes. We have also been learning and improving as we have moved forward. There is no recognition of this in the report,” said Beecher.
Chappie maintained that the report was an accurate depiction of PVUSD’s use of Measure L funds and the Citizens’ Oversight Committee’s performance.
“If something had changed midstream during the investigation, the report would reflect that,” said Chappie.
Chappie said he is looking forward to receiving PVUSD Board of Trustees’ formal response to the civil grand jury report, which is due Sept. 11.
June 22, 2017
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Ryan Masters