Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thunder, Lightning, and the Sun Is Out!

Not to be silenced by an oppressive administration, The Southwestern College Sun releases an independent issue of the newspaper today. Read more at The Sun Goes to Press!

Also on the illumination menu today is the Governing Board Candidate Forum, on campus tonight. See our previous post
for details.

Come out of the dark; see the light. Save Our Southwestern College.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SWC Governing Board Candidate Forum This Thursday!

REMINDER: This Thursday, CSEA and SCEA (classified and faculty unions) are sponsoring an open forum for all SWC Governing Board candidates on the November 2 ballot.

Invited candidates, listed in ballot order

Seat #2
Terri Valladolid
Jesseca Saenz-Gonzalez

Seat #4
Yolanda Salcido
Norma L. Hernandez

Seat #5
Tim Nader
William “Bud” McLeroy
Jaime Mercado
Jorge Dominguez

Where: Southwestern College, main campus, Room 751
When: 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:45 p.m.)
Cost: FREE; free parking available in Lot J
Campus Map

Format: The format will include a short statement from each of the candidates present and then questions from the public. Questions must be submitted in writing and be directed to the entire panel. Jordan Mills, SWC Speech and Debate coach, will moderate.

Also keep in mind these upcoming opportunities to meet, greet, and support our candidates: Have You Met These Candidates Yet?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All Are Invited: Meet and Greet for Norma L. Hernandez This Friday

As many of you know, Norma Hernandez, former Superintendent/President of Southwestern College, is running in the current SWC Governing Board election.

Here is another opportunity to meet her in person, ask questions, and gather with like-minded folks who are seriously concerned about the future of our college!

The event will be held on Friday, October 1, 5:00-8:00 pm, at the home of Chuck and Patti Charter in Coronado. The address is 442 I Avenue.

Wine and cheese are on the menu, and I know that Patti and Chuck have been cooking up other tasty delights as well.

Step up and eat the hors d'oeuvres. Talk, make friends. Sounds silly, and yet, ultimately, that's the only thing that works when it comes to real change. . . .

More info on the event.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Meet Candidate Norma Hernandez at Bonitafest!

Today only, the annual Bonitafest: food, crafts, and fun!

Norma Hernandez, running for Seat #4 on the SWC Governing Board, will be there from 10 am to 4 pm. Look for the Hernandez for Southwestern College Board booth on Bonita Road, and stop by and say hi!

Bonitafest takes place along Bonita Road, approximately two miles east of the 805 Freeway, between Willow Street and Otay Lakes Road. The booths are located in the Bonita Village Shopping Center, McMillin Realty parking lot, and the Bonita Plaza Shopping Center. Bonita Road will be open all day. Parking: Kaiser Permanente (Bonita Road & Willow Street) and Bonita Valley Community Church (4744 Bonita Road).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Award-winning SWC Sun Shut Down

Twenty-six press awards, and what does the college do to the Southwestern College Sun? Cancel the first issue.

As reported in Southwestern Board Must Go!, twenty-six reporters just received San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. The administration has responded . . . well, it hasn't responded. Nothing. No press release. No "way to go." Nada. (And given that faculty union president Andrew MacNeill sent an email informing SWC Superintendent/President Raj Chopra and PR man Chris Bender at 6:40 this morning, there's really no excuse.)

Shortly afterward, The SWC Sun released the statement, "Publishing Crisis Update: Issue #1 Canceled." The statement points out that district PR claims that they were working to quickly resolve the crisis were "misleading or false."

Also revealed in the statement are four areas of concern:

(1) Suspension of the printing of the Sun.

(2) The threatened arrest of Branscomb [faculty adviser to The Sun] and three students who were stopped by campus police for removing a journalism computer from the journalism lab.

(3) The district's plan to remove the Sun's link from the home page of the college's website.

(4) An administrative prohibition of campus employees from talking to Sun journalists without the permission of district spokesperson Christopher Bender.

By now, the first three are still shocking but familiar to most. The fourth is downright flabbergasting.

How many times does the administration and Board of Southwestern College have to be taken to task for First Amendment violations? And how can they be stopped?


Watch for mailers that should be arriving soon, and please share and display. Let's Save Our Southwestern College!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Context, Convenience, and Controversy

image copyright Gary TaxaliAs we pointed out in our last post, controversial events easily capture the community's attention--for the moment. A more complete understanding of an issue's scope, its causes and possible solutions, however, requires a fuller grasp of context: what led us to here? how have similar events been handled? how does the current situation compare to those that occurred in the past?

Obviously, the answers to these questions can't be found in PR hack sound-bites. In fact, it's part of the PR hack's job to place a small frame around complex issues, cutting out the context so that only one interpretation is possible: theirs.

used by permission
© Gary Taxali

Here, then, to hack the hack are two pieces submitted for your consideration:

1. How (In)Convenient

Citing a policy that hasn't been applied in over fifteen years, SWC administration has halted the publication of the number one college newspaper in the country because the contract ( for a measly $3,000) between the Sun and the company that prints it hasn't been approved by the Governing Board.

How convenient.

The District has stopped the presses just a few weeks before elections involving a majority of Governing Board members will take place. And this decision is even more convenient considering that the Sun has been critical of administration, particularly Superintendent/President Raj Chopra, and the Board.

The District has some funny ideas about what is convenient. Last summer, when the faculty union learned that some teachers had not been paid for their work in June, union leaders took this issue to the District. "It would be inconvenient to pay them for just a few days," the District responded. " We'll make up the difference in their next paycheck."

Convenience is not the issue, the union informed the District. The California Education Code--the law, in other words--requires that faculty be paid on time.

The Ed Code also requires that all District employees be informed of the amount of sick leave they have accrued on their monthly paystubs. This does not happen at SWC, even though the union has been raising this issue with the District for years.

When it is convenient, administration and the Board will dig out a decades-old "policy," which does not have the force of law. But if a law is inconvenient, the same people will simply ignore it.

How hypocritical.

2. (As of Yet) Unpublished Letter to the Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune:

RE: College newspaper threatened with publishing roadblock

Taken out of context, the decision by Southwestern College administrators to halt the publication of our award-winning student newspaper because a contract with a printer hasn't gone out to bid might seem a reasonable, responsible protection of taxpayer money. But the big picture reveals something much different.

First, the shenanigans and dubious ethics involved in awarding multimillion dollar construction contracts to firms who later kick back thousands of dollars to re-elect incumbent Governing Board members shows that District officials aren't particularly concerned about protecting taxpayer money. Giving a $100,000 contract to a public relations firm whose job is to "isolate extremists" reveals the mindset of the SWC Governing Board and administration: Anyone with a differing opinion must be silenced.

This latest attempt to retaliate against the Sun is simply part of a long pattern of retaliation. The faculty adviser, who last year received the most prestigious national award possible for college and university journalism instructors, had his reassigned time eliminated. Just a few days ago, student journalists were threatened with criminal charges because they were taking school-owned laptop computers off campus to do their work.

Criminal charges are not laughable, but administrators' logic is. Laptop computers are designed to be portable. Student journalists routinely cover stories outside the boundaries of the campus, and laptop computers--and school-owned digital cameras, as well--are the tools they use to do their jobs. If all students were forbidden from using school-owned equipment for off-campus school activities, then the the football team would have to leave its helmets and pads behind when it traveled on the road.

Finally, the timing of this latest move against the Sun is curious. The student paper--containing articles critical of administration and the Governing Board--will not go to press just a few weeks before elections involving a majority of Governing Board members take place. Dusting off a decades-old policy, one which has never been enforced, to justify this action is simply another way of silencing dissent.

Philip Lopez
Former President, current Secretary, of SCEA faculty union

Friday, September 17, 2010

Feels Like Old Times

It was just one year ago that the Save Our Southwestern College blog got its start. The issues at the time: ham-handed administration, threats to freedom of speech, accreditation headed for the rocks.

My, how things haven't changed.

One of our first posts linked to a News 10 story:
College President Accused Of Targeting School Paper

Sounds familiar, don't it?

Posted the same day was a set of links to coverage from The Sun documenting problems with Raj Chopra's management going back to March of 2009:
If No News Is Good News . . .

After that came a series of posts documenting the efforts of people on the ground--faculty, staff, and students--to get the college back on track. In
October 2009, nine documents were posted, including a copy of the Academic Senate's Vote of No Confidence in Raj Chopra and materials explaining the importance of Shared Governance (a key area that the Accrediting Commission later found lacking).

Also posted in October '09 were alternatives to the 25% class cuts, a timeline documenting issues with adversarial leadership, other cost-saving suggestions, and the first Governing Board meeting protest, including transcripts of some of the speeches.

But wait! There's more--much more, and if you care to take a deja vu walk down memory lane, just start back in September 2009 and work your way forward. It's a lot of reading, but a lot has been going on for quite some time.

Southwestern's issues (and this blog) didn't start with the teachers' suspensions. That event merely put both the college and the blog on the map. The people who care, the people who know, the people who work in the midst of mismanagement, greed, ignorance, ineptitude, and spite (to name just a few oughta-be deadly sins) have been trying to spread the word, trying to Save Our Southwestern College.

Will you help them? More importantly, will you help the thousands of students who depend on SWC for their education?

Please visit the sites of the candidates currently running against Board incumbents. Please contribute. (See left sidebar.)

Meanwhile, here's the roll call of press pieces on the most recent free speech mess at SWC:

Sun Under Attack (from the SWC Sun)

Southwestern College Bars Student Paper from Printing (from the Huffington Post)

College Newspaper Threatened by Contract Policy (from SignonSanDiego)

Students Claim Administrators Looking to Shut Down Newspaper (from 10 News)

Southwestern College Halts Publication of Student Newspaper
(from The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Student Journalists Say College Trying to Squelch Them
(from Inside Higher Education)

Now is the time for change. Es tiempo de cambiar. What will you do to make it happen?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Plot Thickens

While the SWC administration puts school newspaper The Sun on hold, SWC Vice President of Business Nicholas Alioto spams faculty at their private email addresses. Meanwhile, students rally to raise funds for independent publication of The Sun.

It's official: SWC admins have issued a "cease and desist" order, halting publication of the school newspaper, which is ready to go to press.

Senior staff writer Lyndsay Winkley will be speaking tonight at 7:00 pm at the Eastlake Bonita Democratic Club Meeting at the Bonita library (4375 Bonita Rd, Bonita). She "will be requesting the support, both financial and ethical, of the citizens in our community to help us, as student journalists, fully employ our constitutional rights." You can read more on this issue, including Lyndsay's full email, at Southwestern College Board Must Go!

As the news of this latest act of free speech suppression broke, many faculty were also shocked to find an email from Vice President of Business Nick Alioto in their private home email inboxes. At this point, no one knows how Alioto obtained these private addresses, but suffice it to say that faculty feel concerned and violated.

The email, which makes spurious, unsubstantiated claims about a candidate running against an incumbent in the upcoming Governing Board election, was sent from Nick Alioto's private account at, site of the Public Business Consulting Group, Inc., headquartered in Wisconsin. (According to the site, Nick Alioto is or was--it's not clear when the site was last updated--the president/CEO of that company.)

Is this the same company that caused so much trouble for Wisconsin school districts, bilking the public of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the result that Alioto was effectively run out of town? Why, yes it is! And, unlike Alioto's own specious claims about a candidate, this story is fully documented over at The Writer's Washroom.

Of further interest is Alioto misrepresenting himself as a licensed CPA. Typically signing emails, Nicholas C. A. Alioto, CPA, he implies that he is licensed in the state of California. However, a check at the California Board of Accountancy shows no Nick Alioto, Nicholas Alioto, Nicholas C. A. Alioto, or any other combination we could think of as licensed in the state. According to the California Board, "Only persons who are licensed by the CBA may call themselves a Certified Public Accountant or Public Accountant." (Incidentally, Alioto is not licensed in Wisconsin either; his license expired in 2009.)

The election is just weeks away. Please help Save Our Southwestern College!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stop the Presses! (says SWC admin)

Previously, we've discussed the ongoing harassment of reporters and the faculty advisor for The Sun, Southwestern College's award-winning student newspaper (for example, Muzzle, Muzzle and Censorship and The Sun).

Well, the administration is at it again.

Excerpted from an email sent globally to SWC full- and part-time faculty by Janet Mazzarella, SCEA Vice-President:

We want to inform the faculty of some recent actions that have taken place regarding the Southwestern Sun, its advisor, Max Branscomb, and the SWC students that work on college newspaper staff. First, a couple of the students were stopped by campus police when they were moving a journalism computer off campus. Even though this has occurred before when the students participate in competitions or students are pressed to complete a story after business hours, now the students are being threatened with criminal charges by our administration.

Second, we learned today that the administration filed a cease and desist order to stop the newspaper from printing. Apparently, there is a policy that says that the contract for printing has to be approved by the Governing Board. Even though this has never happened in the past, now all of sudden this administration feels compelled to stop the Sun from printing.

There are many other forms of retaliation that the Sun, its advisor, and our students have been forced to endure. While the district may try to claim that it is doing its due diligence in following all regulations, it seems to us like an opportune moment to shut out this important (and legally protected) voice.

Some are wondering if this recent article from The Sun has something to do with this latest act of retaliation. . . .

In the meantime, please also see "A Diagram of Big Construction Payoffs at Southwestern College" at This post links to a Reader article providing background on the conflicts of interest that drive administrative decision-making at SWC.

Stay tuned. . . .

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Make a Difference (damn it) ¡es tiempo de cambiar!

The November election is just seven weeks away. But the election doesn't begin and end on that first Tuesday. It's happening right now as thousands of absentee ballots are prepared for distribution. It's happening right now as voters make up their minds based on misinformation and spin funded by private interests eager to make a buck and, yes, public money misappropriated to sway the public's own opinion. It's happening right now as the fat cats and people with power pat each other on the back and say, "Don't worry, this one's in the bag!"

And our college's future hangs in the balance.

It's time to make a difference, to step up, to take a few minutes or an hour, to spend a little to get a lot in return: a college with integrity and vision, a college for the students, a college with accreditation. And it won't cost you a dime.

Here's an easy and fun way to help: devote an hour of your time to precinct walking. It's not nearly as off-putting as it sounds. Highly organized, the effort focuses on active voters identified as supportive of education--it's not "cold calling" or door-to-door salesmanship. And walkers have campaign info and work in pairs, so you're not alone. So far, folks whose doors have been knocked on have been very receptive, even inviting walkers in. Please contact Diane Gustafson at or 619-253-7298 for more info. Really, do it. Now. And tell your friends and family!

If you're still not convinced of the seriousness of SWC's situation, read the comments (below) given at last Wednesday's Governing Board meeting. And note that the ethics policy lingers, as the GB saw fit to adjourn before that issue could be addressed and also before the Academic Senate, Faculty Union, Classified Union, and Associated Student Organization reports could be presented in a public setting (a legal requirement).

Governing Board Comments, Sept 8, 2010 (Janet Mazzarella)

I would like to address the proposed policy on the code of ethics, which is part of the agenda for this evening.

Especially in light of our current status of “probation” from WASC, I find that this proposed policy does not adequately address Recommendation 10: The team recommends that the Governing Board establish and implement a formal procedure for handling potential conflict of interest and ethics policy violations and document adherence to the protocol.

Proposed Ethics Policy 2715 has some reference to the Governing Board acting ethically by saying it has an ethical commitment (#2) or should use independent judgment (#6) or avoid of conflict of interest (#12) but clearly these are just words on the paper that this board does not understand.

Twice in the past couple of weeks Trustee Salcido has said that I was unethical because I, in my role as president of the faculty union, sent a letter to various vendors and contractors asking for campaign contributions 4 years ago for Ms. Salcido’s opponent in the last GB election. I do not deny this, although I find it interesting that I cannot find the letter in any of my documents but she has a copy passed on to her by some unknown party. All the same, I agree I did it. I have brought my campaign contributions which show that I received exactly zero dollars from any vendor. And even if I had received campaign contributions, it would not constitute a conflict of interest as I do not vote on their contracts with district. I have no interest in who receives these large bids or any influence over items on the GB agenda. The faculty union is a private enterprise whereas the members of this GB are public officials.

Ms. Salcido on the other hand does have a conflict of interest. It is unfortunate that she cannot see the difference between a private enterprise and a public official that votes on contracts of her donors. Because this board seems to be unclear what constitutes a conflict, I am recommending stronger, more clear language in the ethics policy #2715.

Here are some of Ms. Salcido’s campaign contributions:

Campaign contribution from Christopher Rowe, Business Owner Echo Pacific Construction Inc. on June 2, 2010 of $1000. One month later on July 14, 2010 Ms. Salcido voted approval on a total fixed fee to Echo Pacific Construction of $4 million.

On May 12, 2010, Ms. Salcido voted to approve a contract to Rocky Coast Framers for $151,000. One month later on June 2, 2010 she received a $500 campaign contribution.

I do not see how the public can believe there is not a “pay to play” attitude between the vendors of Southwestern College’s construction projects for the use of the public tax dollars.

Here are just a few of the other construction dollars donated to GB members Yolanda Salcido and Terri Valladolid. I do not have these matched up with voting records, but I do find it interesting who is financing their election campaigns.

The Seville Group: 2500
Gould Electric: 1000
An engineer/Climatec Industry : 250
Able Heating and Air Conditioning: 200
La Jolla Electric: 400
TMT Tile/Marble Corp: 200
Richardson Steel: 200
Standard Drywall: 200
Advance Plumbing Co: 200
CJR Concrete: 400
Infrastructure PAC of the Asso of General Contractors: 2500
HAR Construction: 300

We know that this particular fundraiser on June 2 at the home of Nick Alioto, VP of Finance and controlling party of the bidding process, brought in $35,000 for these two candidates. If that is not a conflict of interest I don't know what is.

Previous faculty union president and current secretary Phil Lopez had this to say:

Last week, I emailed an article, "The Making of a Real College Newspaper," from one of the best sources of commentary on higher education--Inside Higher Ed--to all of you. I did so because of the comments from Trustee Jean Roesch that were published in the online edition of the SWC Sun.

Dr. Roesch was offended by some negative comments published by the Sun--and that's OK. The Sun has been critical--more than once--of me, and I didn't like it, either. But a crucial difference between Trustee Roesch and me is that I'm not a Governing Board member. I don't vote on reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun. Dr. Roesch does.

My concern is Trustee Roesch’s statement that negative articles are somehow bad and that the Sun has "a responsibility to put the college first." That is simply wrong. Southwestern College already has cheerleaders, and we pay their advisor. We have a brand-new PR person, Chris Bender, and we pay him, too. But a college newspaper and the role of its advisor is something else entirely.

Apparently, when student journalists do good work--the Sun was the number one college-newspaper in the US last year—something has gone wrong. We all know what happened: The faculty advisor to the Sun lost his reassigned time.

Let me quote briefly for the IHE article:

"Firing the advisor [or in this case, eliminating his reassigned time] is not the best way to produce a strong student newspaper. The difficult and mature choice is to learn to live with a free student press the same way the government must live with the professional press."

"The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment knowing full well that the press and the government would be at odds forever. The same healthy battle between leaders and the press must play out on campus, too."

I need to remind you that California has the strongest laws in the country protecting the independence of college newspaper advisors. We don't want to go there, but we will if we have to because the pattern and history of retaliation here is clear.

When the advisor to the Sun first lost his reassigned time, the explanation given to the SCEA was that he was "double-dipping" because he received both a stipend and reassigned time for his work. Compensation in the form of both time and money is a common practice in many California community colleges, and it is not unusual at SWC, either. Department chairs receive a stipend for their work over the summer as well as reassigned time, and Head Athletic Coaches get reassigned time and an eleven-month contract.

A few months later, when this issue was covered in local newspapers and on TV, both the Superintendent/President and the Vice President for Academic Affairs insisted that the ONLY issue was money. "We're in the middle of a budget crisis," they said. "The District simply cannot afford this reassigned time."

You've heard me say--many times--that there is no dire budget crisis at SWC. I'll say it again: We will end the past fiscal year with several million dollars in reserves over and above the seven percent Governing Board reserve that you insist on maintaining,

Furthermore, in late Spring and during the Summer of 09, you approved dozens of reassigned time positions at costs that were wildly inflated. For example, reassigned time for department chairs and Academic Senate officers was reported to cost $1.17 million. You approved this expenditure. The actual cost was only 1/3 of this. The $800,000 difference between what the Board approved and actual costs is one hundred times more than sufficient to pay for reassigned time for the newspaper advisor. So money is not--and never has been--the real issue.

Next, the SCEA and the Academic Senate tried to get reassigned time placed on the Board agenda so you would have the opportunity to make a clear and public decision about our student newspaper. Our requests were ignored twice, and once the issue was agendized as a discussion item, not an action item. No decision could be made.

Finally, in March at the Board meeting in Otay Mesa, reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun appeared on the agenda as an action item. It appeared that the Board was very close to approving it, but then someone pointed out that three other faculty members who had also lost reassigned time were not included in this agenda item. It would have been easy to approve one position in March and the others in April, but the Board decided to consider all four positions the following month.

In April, I thought this issue would be put to rest. Board members praised the Sun and the work of its advisor, and you praised the work done by the coaches of our award-winning debate team, too. "But we can't approve reassigned time for these faculty members," you said. "That would be micromanagement." You also indicated that these positions should be negotiated.

The SCEA agrees. Because reassigned time costs money, it is a form of compensation and is therefore a mandatory subject for bargaining under the provisions of the Education Employment Relations Act. The SCEA, following your direction, brought all current non-contractual reassigned time positions--the Puente Project English instructor and counselor, BSI coordinators, the swimming pool director, everything--to the bargaining table. That's what you said to do. We also included the position of the SLO Coordinator in our list, and we filed an official "Demand to Bargain" the job description and compensation for that position because it's a new one.

Realizing that the Sun position is controversial and that the SLO Coordinator is important for accreditation, the SCEA indicated that we should bargain these positions first. The District said no. We were told that the District did not want to bargain these positions on a "piecemeal" basis. We'd do them in a block, and, furthermore, the District wanted to bargain all contractual reassigned time positions as well.

Of course, that's a huge task that will require considerable time. In the meantime, we have no SLO Coordinator--a position that is crucial to accreditation.

[At this point in my speech, I ran out of time. GB President Yolanda Salcido would not allow me to continue. I ad-libbed for a bit, but I don't remember exactly what I said. What appears below is the remainder of the speech I had written. Please note that the important information the Board needs to know--the SCEA wants to to sit down and negotiate these issues as soon as possible because accreditation is at stake--was not heard by the Governing Board.]

Here’s where things get complicated and uncomfortable: Last week, the District posted an internal job offering for the SLO Coordinator, listing the job description and compensation for this position. However, neither of these has been bargained, much less agreed to, by the SCEA. Because we have filed a “Demand to Bargain” these issues, the District’s decision to move ahead without negotiating constitutes an Unfair Labor Practice. Of course, we will file a ULP complaint with the State, but this action also appears to violate the Board’s direction to negotiate all non-
contractual reassigned time positions. It is also entirely self-contradictory: The District says it does not intend to bargain these positions on a “piecemeal” basis, but by separating the SLO Coordinator position from the others, it is doing exactly that.

I need to be absolutely clear here. The SCEA is ready, willing, and able to sit down with the District’s negotiating team to discuss the SLO Coordinator position. We can begin tomorrow. But the SCEA must also insist that we discuss reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun at the same time.

In the language of interest-based bargaining, the SCEA and the District share a strong common interest in maintaining our accreditation by moving forward with the SLO Coordinator position. However, the SCEA also has a strong interest—one we share with students and our entire community as well—in a free press, students’ First and Fourth Amendment rights, and the independence of our college newspaper advisor. Apparently, the District does not share this interest. Apparently, the District is willing to do anything—even risking our accreditation—to eliminate reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun.

Let me be even clearer: The SCEA cannot and will not sacrifice one of these sets of interests to preserve the other. This is a battlefield we are willing to die on. But it is a battlefield the District has created.
This is it. If you care about the future of education in the South Bay, now is the time to act. Later will be too late. . . .

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SWC Faculty Union President Requests Records on Focuscom

Under the California Public Records Act, SCEA President Andrew MacNeill has requested from SWC any and all documents related to Focuscom compensation.

(For background on Focuscom, see our posts Money In, Money Out and Community Group Responds.)

Given the district's typical response to such requests, we're guessing this issue will escalate to the next level.

In the meantime, here's the actual request in full:
From: Andrew MacNeill On Behalf Of SCEA
Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 2:16 PM
To: Chris Bender
Cc: Michael Kerns; Nicholas Alioto; SCEA; Andrew MacNeill
Subject: Information Request

Dear Mr. Bender,

I am sending this request while bccing all faculty. It is important for the campus community to know how their SWC funds, Prop R or Prop AA funds, or any other funds are being spent. This email will let them know I have formally requested the records contained within the attached memorandum (see below) on their behalf.


To: Chris Bender, Community and Media Relations, Southwestern College

CC: Michael Kerns, Vice President of Human Resources, Southwestern College
Nicolas Alioto, Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs, Southwestern College

From: Andrew J. MacNeill, President, Southwestern College Education Association

Date: 9/8/2010

Re: California Public Records Act-Any and All Forms of Compensation Given to FOCUSCOM Inc., Dan Hom, Danny Hom

I am requesting all records and documents, which contain the following information: Any and all forms of compensation to FOCUSCOM Inc., Dan Hom, Danny Hom, paid or supplied by the Southwestern Community College District or its Prop R Project Management Contractor, Seville Construction Services, between November 1, 2009, and September 8, 2010. This request is legally made under the California Public Records Act (6250 ETSEQ-Government Code).

I am specifically asking for any and all forms of compensation including but not limited to the following: Consulting fees, Contract fees, health and welfare benefits, travel expenses, office
expenses, hospitality and entertainment reimbursements, car and mileage compensation, and any and all other forms of financial or in-kind compensation to FOCUSCOM Inc., Dan Hom, and Danny Hom, paid or supplied by the Southwestern Community College District or its Prop R Project Management Contractor, Seville Construction Services, between November 1, 2009, and September 8, 2010. I request the material to be made available in a timely fashion (within ten days) in accordance with Governmental Code 6257.

If the District claims that any requested records or documents are exempt from the California Public Records Act it is requested that the District provide the specific statutory information that supports its claim in this matter in order that I be able to attend to legal action in this matter.

You can contact me at 619-421-6700 x5567 and/or when the above materials are available for pick-up.

Thanking you in advance.


Andrew J. MacNeill
President, Southwestern College Education Association (SCEA)

Stay tuned!

Board Meeting Tonight! 7 pm on Main Campus

It promises to be lively one, as community group Crossroads II speaks out on the agreement with Focuscom.

Crossroads president Peter Watry sent the following email to supporters:

Date: September 7, 2010 2:55:34 PM PDT


We have heard from many of you that you are outraged that Southwestern College has signed a $100,000 contract with a company called Focuscom, Inc. to mount a PR campaign to convince the public that the College is spending Prop R funds appropriately. As far as we are aware, no one doubted that the funds were being spent appropriately. Ironically, we are now convinced that they are not being spent appropriately.

Prop R was a $389,000,000 bond measure that asked voters to raise their own property taxes to enable the college to upgrade its facilities. Prop R was passed in November 2008. The Crossroads II Board of Directors supported Prop R, and urged CII members to vote in favor of it. And we now know by reading the contract with Focuscom that our own property tax money is being spent to manipulate our views!

In response to the concerns of our members, I wrote a letter to the college president and board members requesting that an item be put on the agenda of the September 8 Board meeting to discuss this $100,000 contract. We have since reviewed the agenda of the September 8 Board meeting, and the item we requested be put on the agenda is not there. The college has not even afforded us the courtesy of a reply to our letter. So we urge you to attend the College Board meeting on Wednesday, September 8 at 7 pm and inform the Board members how you feel about this waste of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars. The details are below:

Southwestern College Governing Board Meeting

Wednesday September 8 at 7 PM

Room 214 at the College

Speak under Agenda item No. 10 - Oral Communication

To speak to the Board you must fill out a yellow request card after you arrive at the meeting. Then you can speak when Agenda Item 10 comes up.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Peter Watry
Acting President

For more commentary on this latest development, please see the blog SWC Board Must Go!

Also, please consider attending this Friday's fundraiser for alternative Governing Board candidate Tim Nader. We can make a difference!