With the recent indictment of current and former college officials in the South Bay Corruption Scandal, the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) required Southwestern College to submit a 15-page “Special Report” on April 15. ACCJC’s president gave SWC a thumbs up.
“As a result of the review, the college developed recommendations and action plans to ensure institutional integrity in all business practices,” wrote ACCJC President Barbara Beno. “All seven recommendations have been implemented, and 18 of 20 action plans have been completed. The commission commends the college for its work to improve institutional business practices.”
Dr. Mink Stavenga, accreditation liaison officer, said the purpose of the report was to describe the findings of the San Diego Court Grand Jury investigations on construction bonds and demonstrate how SWC would verify the integrity of internal controls on construction funds in the future. Seven SWC officials were indicted by the San Diego County District Attorney on felony corruption charges, including former superintendent Raj Kumar Chopra. Former Vice President for Fiscal Affairs Nicholas Alioto has also been charged for bribery and perjury. They were forced out when a new governing board majority took office in December 2010. Arlie Ricasa is the only remaining SWC administrator indicted by the District Attorney still employed at the college.
Although they supplement each other, Academic Senate President Randy Beach said the Special Report is not the same as the Midterm Report required for continued accreditation.
“The report does not carry with it the same amount of scrutiny that the Midterm Report would because there’s nothing in this report that’s directly tied to academics,” he said. “It’s primarily business and finance policies and procedures.”
SWC President Dr. Melinda Nish said she was pleased that SWC received a positive response from ACCJC. In addition to explaining the findings of the Grand Jury, she said, the report details what SWC has done internally to assure institutional integrity to prevent another Grand Jury investigation.
“We feel we’re going to get something back from them saying ‘thank you very much,’” she said. “And we just found out that this is going to be a new standard. They’re going to develop new standards in 2014, so we’ll use them for our next self-evaluation because ours is 2015. And the new standard I.C. will be institutional integrity.”
In the report, seven recommendations and 20 action plans were created to improve the college’s internal business and fiduciary controls, while ensuring public trust. This includes appropriate documentation of all decisions, including review and strict enforcement of SWC Conflict of Interest codes. SWC’s board and administration are also required to make any necessary modifications to SWC’s Code of Ethics.