College sues construction contractors

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After nearly two years of absorbing negative publicity and turmoil related to Proposition R construction contracts, the new board majority of Southwestern College announced that it will hit back. Following a unanimous decision in closed session, the Board President Norma Hernandez announced the board’s decision to pursue litigation against BCA Architects, Inc., Seville Construction Services and Echo Pacific Construction.

“The substance of the litigation will include challenge to the procurement of contracts related to the Corner Lot Project,” said Hernandez.

Superintendent/President Dr. Melinda Nish said the college is pursing litigation for reasons of principle as well as monetary compensation.

“The principle is that if contracts were not appropriately procured than there is an issue, and that could lead to questions of money,” said Nish. “So both issues are being looked at legally.”

Issues of litigation were brought up following the board’s public release of its internal investigation in March, which disclosed possible illegal activity related to the original bids for the corner lot project during the administration of former Superintendent Raj K. Chopra.

“We recognize the public interest surrounding this project,” said Board President Norma Hernandez. “We also want to ensure we are fulfilling our duty to properly safeguard public funds in this project.”

Work on the corner lot has been suspended for at least a year, pending an update to SWC’s master plans. Contracts with BCA, Seville and Echo Pacific were severed in February following sweeping charges issued by the San Diego County District Attorney. DA and law enforcement officers raided the homes of suspended employee Arlie Ricasa and former board members Yolanda Salcido and Jorge Dominguez. Former Prop R architect Paul Bunton and former construction project manager Henry Amigable have already pled guilty. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said more charges are possible, and additional persons may be investigated. Investigators have been unable to locate Chopra.

Bidding for reconstituted Proposition R projects is planned for April 2013.

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