CHARGE: Several recent newspaper articles have implied that the College District improperly used Measure A Funds to build a “members-only” “spa.”
The District did not build a “members only spa”. We built a new Workforce Development building that houses nursing, dental assisting, cosmetology and a fitness center that is used: 1) for credit classes; 2) to train fitness professionals by providing a variety of certifications ( in Pilates, Spinning, first aid, water safety/lifeguard, personal fitness training, etc); and 3) as a community fitness club. Revenues from the Club are used to maintain the building and for equipment replacement, which frees up operational funds to be used to provide classes.
The San Mateo Civil Grand Jury recently found that “the expenditures of Measure A funds conformed to the project list itemized in the ballot measure” and that “operating a private athletic club on campus was consistent with other College District enterprise activities, and that the private use of public facilities on a fee basis is a widespread and generally accepted practice in San Mateo County.”
Link to Grand Jury Report: http://www.sanmateocourt.org/documents/grand_jury/2010/bond_measure.pdf
District’s Complete Response to the Grand Jury Report:
Dear Judge Bergeron:
We are pleased that the Grand Jury concluded that the College District’s expenditure of bond funds conformed to the bond projects list presented to the voters. This conclusion is consistent with nine years of findings by the Bond Oversight Committee and nine years of financial and performance audits conducted by an independent auditor. We also agree with the Grand Jury’s observation that operating a private athletic club is consistent with other enterprise activities – like bookstores and cafeterias – operated by the College District. The Grand Jury also correctly pointed out that other public universities operate centers like the San Mateo Athletic Center and that the private use of public facilities on a fee basis is a widespread and accepted practice in San Mateo County.
Regarding the Grand Jury’s comment that the Bond Project List language was “vague.” We do not believe it is vague and it is our strongly held belief that, when embarking on a 6-10 year construction project, it is important that the bond project language be both comprehensive and broad to allow for modifications to the “Master Plan,” on which the Bond Projects List is based. The Master Plan presents a “big picture view” of what projects need to be undertaken on a campus to achieve a vision that is outlined in the Master Plan. Once detailed planning begins, new information may emerge – about building conditions, costs of construction, or other matters – that could cause the District to modify its earlier plans. As an example, in the College District’s 2006 Master Plans, we had indicated that we would demolish Buildings 15 and 17 at CSM and build a new facility for faculty offices. During detailed construction planning, we learned that it would be more cost efficient (and less disruptive to the campus) to remodel these two buildings and add space in the planned Building 10 to accommodate the need for additional offices. Conversely, in our Master Plan, we had planned to remodel Buildings 5 and 6 at CSM. Detailed planning revealed that the building was seismically unsafe and it would be much more expensive to remodel and make the building seismically safe rather than to demolish and build new – which is what we did. The Bond Projects List language that allowed both these changes is; “Demolition of outdated, non-compliant structures” and “Repair, modernize and construct interior and exterior instructional and support facilities,” which intentionally did not identify specific buildings.
We appreciate the fact that the Grand Jury acknowledged that the College District made a “reasonable effort” to identify a BOC member from a "bona fide taxpayer association." When the BOC was first formed, there was a representative appointed from a taxpayer’s association, but that member never attended a meeting of the BOC. We are pleased to report that we recently were successful in identifying a new member in this category who currently is serving.
Regarding the formal recommendations:
1) The Grand Jury recommended that the Board communicate clearly to the “public and to the BOC the intended uses of funds prior to and during the course of expenditures.” We concur and we believe we have consistently done this – through development and widespread distribution of the Facilities Master Plan; through frequent facilities program updates at public meetings of both the Board of Trustees and the BOC; and through our website which includes copies of all the presentations, our Master Plan, and detailed information related to our bond funded (and state funded) projects.
2) The Grand Jury recommended that the Board ensure that all bond funds are spent in compliance with the Bond Projects List. We concur and, in paragraph 4 of the report, the Grand Jury concludes that we have done so.
3) The Grand Jury recommended that the BOC "publish timely reports" to inform the public regarding the use of bond funds.” We concur. The law requires an annual report which our BOC does complete – usually in January of each year. This report is released to the media and posted on our website. We would like to comment that, in nine years of public meetings conducted in compliance with the Brown Act, members of the public have attended only two BOC meetings.
4) The Grand Jury recommended that the College District identify BOC members by their term and affiliation in meeting minutes. We will implement this recommendation at the BOC’s next meeting on August 4.
5) The Grand Jury recommended that the College District publish a “detailed and specific list of the remaining projects to be funded by Measure A.” We concur and we have maintained this listing for the last 5-7 years: http://www.smccd.edu/accounts/smccd/departments/facilities/DistConstInfo.shtml. This includes all projects – past and present.
President, Board of Trustees