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Late MDUSD campaign contributions reveal nearly $100,000 in donations

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 at 6:57 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington
Late contribution forms recently released by the Contra Costa County elections office show nearly $100,000 was donated to the Mt. Diablo school district’s Measure C campaign from May 26 to June 12.
As has been reported in the Times, Chevron gave $10,000 to the campaign June 12 and SolarWorld Corp. — which sometimes provides solar panels for Chevron projects — gave $5,000 the same day.

Here’s a rundown of the other late donors:
$25,000: Turner Construction in Sacramento
$10,000 (bringing total to $35,000): IBEW 302 Community Issues PAC
$10,000 (bringing total to $35,000): N. CA Carpenters Regional Council
$5,000 (bringing total to $10,000): Matt Juhl-Darliington (bond counsel)
$5,000: Suntech America, Inc., San Francisco (solar power firm)
$5,000 (bringing total to $7,500): Trico Pipe in Martinez
$5,000: Pellizzari Electric, Inc. in Redwood City
$5,000: Gilbane Building Co. in Providence, RI
$5,000 (bringing total to $30,000): Stone & Youngberg (underwriters)
$5,000: BEI Construction, Inc. in Alameda
$2,000: Jack Schreder & Assoc., Sacto (capital funding consultants)
$ 999: Foothill Middle School PFA
$ 200: Cheryl Kolano, Pittsburg (MDUSD Principal)
$ 200: Crosby & Rowell, LLP of Oakland (law firm)
$ 150: Trustee Dick Allen
$ 100: Edrington, Schirmer, & Murphy LLP, Pleasant Hill (law firm)
$ 100: Rene Coleman of Concord
$ 100: Lisa Anich of Concord

Expenditures included nearly $170,000 to political consultants TBWB Strategies, nearly $6,000 for campaign worker Paul Higgens, $6,250 to EMC Research for polling, $4,000 to pay 40 campaign walkers $100 each, $335 for a victory party at El Torito.
Expenses claimed by TBWB included $7,707 for paid phone calls by a call center in El Segundo and $910 for GOTV reminder calls by a firm in Washington DC.

I outlined earlier campaign contributions in this post: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2010/06/07/who-donated-to-measure-c-campaign/.

Are you surprised by the list of contributors?

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  • Doctor J

    The Bond Lawyer gets $15,000 in May and in June pays $10,000 to the Bond campaign. Is that right ? Pretty transparent. Now he probably will bill by the hour for everything. Grand Jury, didn’t you look at the legal billing issues a few years ago ? Time to do it again.

  • tharrington

    The board approved bond counsel Matt Juhl-Darlington on April 13, to be paid with bond proceeds if the bond was successful.
    However, Juhl-Darlington committed to some services to be rendered before the election, such as “legal advice to the district regarding its relationship with the bond campaign, including use of facilities and participation by district officials and others….review and comment on forms of argument and rebuttals, if necessary…oversight of the canvass of votes and assembly of the transcript of election proceedings for your permanent files.”
    According to the contract, he was not to be paid until the first series of bonds is issued: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=2331&mtgId=266
    The board also approved a contract with Juhl-Darlington on Aug. 11, 2009, along with contracts for Ruiz & Sperow LLP, the Law Offices of Peter Bonis, Crosby & Rowell LLP and Edrington Schirmer & Murphy (the latter two also contributed to the Measure C campaign, as noted above).
    The total amount of the contracts, which were for general legal services from July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010, was not to exceed. $865,960. The board approved increasing the billable rate from $175 to $185 per hour (Item 9.7 on agenda): http://www.mdusd.org/boe/Documents/agendas/0910/08-11-09.pdf.
    Juhl-Darlington was paid $31,746.75 on Feb. 2 for a case called “Kaylee H” and $222 for general legal work (page 2 of warrants): http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/8efb8528-15d5-4494-a519-a931d4408e29.pdf.
    I am submitting a request to the district for the total amounts Juhl-Darlington and the other law firms were paid in 2009-10.

  • Doctor J

    So Roundtrip by car from Chico to Concord is 5.5 hours @ $185 per hour equals $1017.50 per trip. Does he charge for travel time ? And mileage ? I hope not. And of course if he has to stay in the Marriott, add another $250 per day for hotel and meals. I thought that’s why we hired staff lawyers to avoid that expense.

  • Joe Smith

    This board is appears to be amazingly corrupt. I am just waiting for the next scandal to appear. How do we go about getting the Grand Jury to investigate?

  • Realia

    When a district’s actions and inactions cause as many legal challenges and lawsuits as MDUSD has going, outside help is sometimes needed.

  • Wait a minute

    Another thing to look at people, Turner Construction of Sacramento. There was at least one Turner family member who was a long time employee of the WUSD, Dr. Lawrence’s old district!

  • Wait a minute

    Forgot to mention, she worked in the district office under the Assistant Superintendent of HR Mr. Don Beno who is a big time buddy of Dr. Lawrence.

  • tharrington

    It will be interesting to see if Turner Construction and other contractors who gave money to the campaign end up being hired.

  • Don Gosney

    ARe you suggesting that there’s some sort of nexsus between contributing to a cause and reaping some sort of benefit from that contribution? If that’s the case, then by all means an investigation should be launched. The Grand Jury should be assembled.

    Of course it’s in the best interests of many of these contributors to support a project that might provide them more opportunities to bid for work or to put their members to work.

    To suggest, however, that there’s some sort of collusion wherein those people.unions/businesses that helped pass this bond measure might be given special favors later, then that would be misjustice and an abuse of the power of the press.

    Look at the posted comments to date and tell me that the seed has not been firmly planted by The Times suggesting something illegal or unethical.

  • Realia

    According to the list, Turner is not the only non-local business that contributed to the bond measure election. One must wonder why they would give – for the good of district students or in hopes that their investment will pay off with district contracts? It seems local businesses would have some priority, since more local jobs means increased tax revenue for the area, which, in turn, would help the district. The situation already feels not right to me.

  • tharrington

    In our live chat regarding Measure C and the solar projects to be built, First Amendment Coalition Executive Director Peter Scheer wrote: “Well, a law firm that gave money to the bond measure campaign should be the last law firm considered for the job of bond counsel. Same for the bond underwriters. At minimum, these firms and others should be subject to a competitive bidding process to protect tax payers.
    I’m troubled by the appearance of a ‘pay to play’ culture governing selection of contractors, consultants, legal, banking and other services for this huge project. This is similar to the culture of pay-to-play that has recently been exposed in CalPERS’ selection of investments.”
    Here is a link to the complete chat: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_15606906?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com&nclick_check=1

  • Inquiring Mind

    Unless people read this blog, how would people know who contributed? CUES is separate from the district so contributing to CUES is to help the campaign. IF the Times is suggesting that anyone who contributes to a campaign should not be considered for anything, then any PFC or PTA that contributed should be eligible to have work done at that school.

    I doubt if board members go out seeking who contributed to the campaign. Maybe you should ask them if they know about it.

  • Doctor J

    So how does Peter Scheer propose to stop the appearance of a “pay to play” culture ? If MDUSD wants to reward the campaign contributors, won’t they find a way ?

  • tharrington

    Competitive bidding.
    Tomorrow, the board is set to award a $25,000 contract to Jack Schreder & Assoc. of Sacto, which gave $2,000 to the campaign: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=2806&mtgId=272.
    The staff report doesn’t give any indication that this contract was competitively bid. It also doesn’t explain whose idea it was to request a school closure study or how Schreder & Assoc. was chosen for the contract.

  • Realia

    Jack Schreder and Assoc. certainly received an excellent return on its investment! I wonder, if I returned my teacher salary to the district, would I receive over ten times that in return? Or is that program only for out of town consulting firms? I can’t believe other firms can’t offer the same services. According to its website, school closure planning isn’t even listed among the firm’s areas of expertise. I suspect we’ll be seeing much more district money finding its way in Sacramento area companies, and more people from that area being hired by the district (such as Mr. Nugent). It was hoped that with the departure of McHenry and the cronies he brought in with him that the culture of the district would improve, but it looks like the district traded one corrupt superintendent for another. At least the school board is consistent.

  • Wait a minute

    We have major PAYOLA going on here folks!

    This is SO typical of Steve Lawrence and Greg Rolen’s arrogance and their undermining of the district and board. Its no wonder that Attorney Peter Strange is bailing off the board before these unethical actions come back to bite him and possibly his law license.

    Realia hit it on the head, Schreder and Associates from the Sacramento Area, the former stomping grounds of Stevie Lawrence are getting a pretty good return on their investment. Money mouth Cha-ching!

    Not to mention all the bond counsel and other legal counsel who “donated” and are being “rewarded” and are buddies of Greg Rolen!

    I wonder what Turner Construction’s (with their connection to Steve Lawrence through his former district) $25k investment will turn into???

    I think Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition in the CC Times online chat regarding this bond had it right when he said that is sure smacks of the same stupidity as the CalPers pay to play insider scandal that is currently doing so much damage to that institution and all of us taxpayers.

    Maybe the CC Times should also do a salary and pension cost analysis of the MDUSD management to see if their is anything else untowards like happened in Bell, CA?

    No wonder this country is in such bad shape with all these people in power. I hope someone in Contra Costa has made a Grand Jury request for investigation and hopefully a new MDUSD board member or two after the November election will break the “group think” going on in there and really shake it up.

  • tharrington

    In response to another Public Records Act request, I have learned that Juhl-Darlington’s firm was paid $405,458 in the 2009-10 fiscal year. However, the firm hasn’t been paid anything yet in relation to the bond contract.
    The district’s total legal services costs in 2009-10 were $915,556.42.
    Edrington, Schirmer & Murphy was paid $94,335.26.
    Ruiz & Sperow were paid $43,358.51.
    Crosby & Rowell was paid $1,654.80.
    The Law Office of Peter Bonis, which didn’t contribute to the Measure C campaign, was paid $104,034.70.

  • Doctor J

    How much was travel time between Chico and Concord ?

  • Doctor J

    MDUSD lawyers are charging driving time from Chico at over $1000 per trip — all contracts are up for approval on the agenda for Tuesday. Some lawfirms are not charging travel from their out of town offices. I didn’t see any competitive bidding. Were all these contracts approved last year ?