October 13, 2000
By John de Beck
Trustees Ron Ottinger and Ed Lopez listed Erickson-Hall Construction and other school builders on their recently filed Fair Political Practice reporting forms.
Voters should be outraged that two members of the San Diego City School Board who voted for millions of contract cost overruns for contractors this Fall have accepted maximum contributions from some of these same contractors for their current reelection campaign.
Erickson-Hall has done more than $6 million dollars of work for the district during the past 12 months and in two cases the board awarded additional contract additions without bidding... using emergency clauses in Public Contract Law. The total of cost overruns for Erickson exceed $1,000,000 according to district records. The jobs included 100 portables and a contract for work at Sherman Elementary that exceeded original estimates by $800,000 because of change orders.
In the past, school board candidates have only accepted contributions from residential developers who want to influence school location and school fee attitudes of local board members.
The combined cost of the local school board race including independent expenditures by committees appears to now exceed one-half million dollars. Television commercials slamming incumbent Francis Zimmerman, whose opponent also accepted Erickson-Hall contributions, are reputed to be costing in excess of $300,000. "Special interests are drooling over lucrative construction change orders with unlimited profits, with Lopez and Ottinger always voting to approve.
It is a sorry event in San Diego History when elected officials pander to special interests. We have the ticket guarantees, the ballpark fiasco, and now the unacceptable support of excessive school construction profits by Superintendent Bersin, whose board majority looks the other way and takes contributions from school construction firms.
I have asked the Grand Jury to investigate violations of public contracting law.
(John de Beck is a school Board Trustee of the San Diego Unified School District).