Interim Replacement Heads Company Found Guilty of Bribery in Three School Districts
By Ken Epstein
The new administration of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) seems to be in a rush to replace the widely respected, longtime head of the district’s facilities maintenance and construction department, Timothy White, although White has not resigned from his position.
After the Berkeley Unified School District contacted OUSD seeking a reference, OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson on Friday sent out an email to staff:
“I want to announce that Timothy White, Deputy Chief of Facilities, Planning and Management, has resigned to accept a position as Executive Director of Facilities in the Berkeley Unified School District.”
On Tuesday, Supt. Wilson announced White’s replacement: “OUSD is pleased to announce that Lance Jackson, Chief Operating Officer of the Seville Group, Inc. (SGI), has agreed to become interim leader of the Oakland Unified School District’s Facilities Planning and Management Department. Jackson will serve in this role pending the search and selection of a new Deputy Chief for Facilities Planning and Management.”
Under OUSD board policy, employees must submit a resignation in writing to be official. As of Thursday afternoon, White had not resigned and had not accepted employment at Berkeley Unified, according to White.
In the 14 years that Tim White worked for the school district, he was in charge of expenditures for school bond Measure J, $475 million; Measure B, $35 million; Measure A, $330 million; and before that Measure C, $169 million. He also brought in $300 million in state matching funds.
White said the issue that ultimately led to him being pushed out was his refusal to have his name associated with the school district’s “community engagement process,” surrounding the development and possible sale of the old district headquarters at 1025 Second Ave.
“A board member said the whole community process had been a ‘boondgogle,” White said, and the process was supposed to “reset” under White’s leadership and the leadership of his staff.
But it turned out that the changes were only cosmetic, and he was not willing to have his name and reputation associated with them.
“I didn’t want to be associated with certain outcomes that I saw developing,” he said. “I don’t want to be used by certain people. I told them I can’t operate like that,” White said. “I don’t want to be associated with the community process they had already rammed down the community’s throat.”
Seville Group, Inc. currently has a limited role in OUSD, providing program and project management services for the District’s Measures B and J bond and capital projects.
Several of the owners of Seville Group were recently found guilty in a San Diego corruption case that involved bribing school board officials and administrators. The case resulted in across-the-board guilty pleas, jail time, community service, home detention and fines.
According to the Office of the District Attorney in San Diego, 18 defendants connected to three school districts including Sweetwater Union High School District, Southwestern College and the San Ysidro School District – “who included administrators, trustees and contractors – were originally indicted by a grand jury in December 2012 on multiple counts including bribery, perjury, filing a false instrument, influencing an elected official and obtaining something of value to influence a member of a legislative body.”
Three of the defendants, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, were Henry Amigable, a former employee of Seville Construction Services; Renee Flores, an owner of SGI; and Jeff Flores, also an owner of SGI.
“For years, public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes in exchange for their votes on multi-million dollar construction projects. The public corruption was nothing short of systemic,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis.
According to the Bloomberg Business website, Lance Jackson was not CEO at time he was listed on the website but was in charge of oversight of all of SGI’s programs and projects. He had been with Seville Group since May 2002.
The Seville Group, Inc., founded in 1994, provides program, project, and construction management services for public agencies in California. Its projects include facilities, such as K-12, higher education, and municipal facilities; infrastructure projects, including water, wastewater, power, and highway projects; and transportation projects.
According to OUSD spokesman Troy Flint, White may “maintain” that he has not resigned. “But it’s a matter of public record” – it was reported at a Berkeley school board meeting that he accepted a job with Berkeley, Flint said
“We took that as a de facto resignation, given that he has accepted employment in another organization,” Flint said.
Flint said the district is aware of the corruption case in San Diego. “That did not affect Lance Jackson in any way. He was not involved in it. That was an isolated incident… The greatest fault lies with (those) public officials.”
A phone call to Seville Group’s headquarters in Pasadena was not returned to the Oakland Post by the time the newspaper went to press.
For information on the case published by the Office of San Diego County District Attorney go to www.sdcda.org/files/South%20Bay%20Corruption%20Case%20Ends%207-2-14.pdf
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 20, 1015 (postnewsgroup.com)