THE BLOG
11/21/2014 01:41 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

The Beverly Hills School Board Is Wasting Your Money Fighting the Subway

Some days are better than others in the campaign to expand public transportation in Los Angeles. Which is why I was delighted to open an email yesterday from a woman I have never met. Mary Weiss, a Beverly Hills resident, must have read of my ongoing effort to get the Beverly Hills School Board to stop misusing voter-approved school construction funds on lawyers and 'experts' to fight the route of the Wilshire Blvd Purple Line subway extension.

Maybe now the Los Angeles County Counsel will sit up and take notice that not everyone in Beverly Hills is happy with the School Board's misuse of their hard earned dough. It is about government ethics, accountability and transparency. Something the Beverly Hills School Board could learn a thing or two about from Mary.

It is time the County Counsel put a muzzle on the School Board and sanctioned the Board and its members for its misuse of public funds. In these times of tight funding for our schools, millions of dollars in misspent school construction funds is more than a rounding error.

Thank you Mary!

Here's Mary's letter to the Citizens' Oversight Committee, which is scrutinizing the School's Board suspect use of voter-approved school construction funds.

Proposition 39/Measure E Expenditures for MTA Litigation

At the last several monthly meetings of the Citizens' Oversight Committee (COC), the
committee has discussed whether the Beverly Hills Unified School District's (District) use of Measure E funds for Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) litigation is an improper use of such funds and/or whether such use could expose the District to future liability. 1 Although MTA litigation is not among the project expenditures listed on Ballot Measure E, the District has already expended approximately $3 million of Measure E funds on MTA litigation. The District and/or some or all of its Board members have asserted that the language of Measure E is so broad that it encompasses the expenditure of funds for MTA litigation. They have also justified the use of Measure E funds by asserting that safety issues allegedly created by subway construction will necessitate much more expensive construction than would have otherwise been required.

As I have stated in recent meetings, the District's continued use of Measure E funds for MTA litigation appears contrary to recent case law, in particular Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School Dist. (2013} 215 Cai.App.4th 1013 (San Diego USD).

In light of San Diego USD, it is beyond dispute that expenditures for items not specifically enumerated on a ballot measure's project list are unlawful. (/d. at p. 1024-31; see also, Committee for Responsible School Expansion v. Hermosa Beach City School Dist. (2006) 142 Cai.App.4th 1178, 1188-90 (Hermosa CSD).)

As the Court of Appeal explained, upon approval of Proposition 39 in 2000, the Constitution was amended to allow bonded indebtedness by a school district for the construction of school facilities. (Hermosa CSD, supra, 142 Cai.App.4th 1184-85; Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 1, subd. (b)(3).) The proceeds from the sale of the bonds may only be used for the purposes of "construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities .... " (Cal. Const., art XIII A,§ 1, subd. (b)(3)(A).) The bond language must include, as an accountability requirement, "A list of the specific school facility projects to be funded .... " (/d. at subd. (b)(3)(B).) Among the expressly described "Purpose and Intent" of Proposition 39 is "To ensure that before they vote, voters will be given a list of specific projects their bond money will be used for." (Prop. 39, eff. Nov. 8, 2000, § 3(c).)

The Legislature expressly requires a COC for each Proposition 39 Bond Measure. The Legislature's express intent in such requirement is that: The members of the oversight committees appointed pursuant to this chapter promptly alert the public to any waste or improper expenditure of school construction bond money.

(Ed. Code,§ 15264, subd. (c)., emphasis added; see also Ed. Code,§ 15278, subd. (b}(1) [the COC shall "Ensur[e] that bond revenues are expended only for the purposes described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 1 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution," emphasis added].)

The Project List for the Measure E Ballot specifically lists 21"health and safety projects," 13 "renovation, repair, upgrade and construction projects" and 5 "wiring and instruction technology" projects. (Attachment pp. A-4 to A-6 [the attachment appended hereto is a copy of the four page July 29, 2008, Resolution No. 2008-2009-002, together with its six page Appendix A and one page Appendix B, which authorized Measure E's placement on the Ballot.) MTA litigation is not among any of the 39 listed projects. Nonetheless the District is on track to use about $6 million in Measure E funds on MTA litigation.

Pursuant to the express purpose of COCs, I hereby notify the public that the District's use of Measure E funds may be an improper expenditure of school construction bond money. (Ed Code, § 15264, subd. (c).)

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1 As referenced herein, the MTA litigation refers to any and all litigation expenses the District is incurring for legal representation, technical reports, experts, and similar, relied upon in its lawsuits opposing the proposed subway route under the High School.