County Has Call to Make on Condo

Outraged! Angry! These two emotions were prevalent last week after Mercury News reporter Sharon Noguchi broke the story that former county superintendent Dr. Chalres Weis wants the county to take back a condo the Board of Education loaned him money to buy in 2008. It is conceivable that this loan might cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, as I said last week, I feel strongly that “the primary interest in this matter is to guard the financial interests of the taxpayer, and the fiscal integrity of the organization.”

Many self-censored expletives were elicited when I found out in August that Dr. Weis had vacated his Axis condo on June 30, 2012, after leaving his superintendent post officially on the same day. Weis requested the county recorder validate the transfer of property back to the Santa Clara County Office of Education by Quit Claim Deed in July. Fortunately, this recording of the transfer could not be done without the Board’s acceptance, therefore the property is still in Weis’ name today. Due to the burst of the housing bubble in Silicon Valley, the property is worth significantly less than when it was purchased in 2008.

Last Wednesday night, the SCCOE Board met in closed session with its legal counsel from Lozano Smith regarding terms that would be applicable to Dr. Weis’ offer to return the property. After closed session, as Board President I reported that the Board had directed counsel to research the situation further and return to our meeting on Oct. 3 with recommendations on how the Board could proceed to protect its legal and financial rights.

After the story first surfaced on the Mercury News, the negative public reaction was directed more at Weis than the Board.

Leif Christiansen wrote, “Awwwww. You not only have one home, but two—and we’re supposed to have sympathy for you? Pay your bills like the rest of us—you’re the one that bought the million dollar condo. Idiot.”

Patricia Lockyer wrote, “Boo Hoo. He gambled and lost. I’m sure he has some of the $330,000 plus per year to tide him over. What a Bozo.”

However, in the Merc’s Internal Affairs column on Sunday it was reported that “many readers chafed at the former SCC school’s chief Charles Weis’ plan to stick the taxpayers with his underwater luxury condo. Some called Weis … ungrateful. A few said unprintable things. … But they may want to aim some of their ire at the SCC Board of Education for putting them in this position in the first place.” One such example was blogger Kane Cotton, who wrote: “Welfare for the rich, government class paid for by everyone else. If the board approves this move, those that vote should be recalled.”

In the end, however, the recent housing boom might end up on the Board and taxpayer’s side. Not only are prices increasing, but the condo Weis bought is one of the most sought after floor plans on the prestigious 18th floor. The lease income could bring in $3,500 per month minus expenses. From my perspective it is essential we stridently guard the public’s financial interest in any legal approach by which the majority of the board agrees.

More to come after next Wednesday night.

Joseph Di Salvo is president of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

13 Comments

  1. Joseph,

    Stick with education, your financial acumen is abysmal.  It will be five to ten years before that condo is worth more than what Weis paid for it.  And $3.5K gross per month doesn’t even cover the mortgage.

    Besides, few people want to own/live in the downtown money pit… violent crimes, drugs, hookers and politicians abound.

  2. How much did the Superintendent make and why was he given a loan?  The new Superintendent makes how much again?

    We are all for the County making money on Real Estate transactions.  But the coddling of executives and the absurd salaries and benefits given to them at all levels of government have got to stop. 

    Taxpayers are not going to vote for bonds or increased taxes for education or local governments when this kind abuse persists.  It amazis me when Boards say they must pay extra to get good people at the top, while teachers, firefighters, cops, librarians, janitors, counselors take the hit.

    Even when the executives take a pay cut, there is a false equivalency in the numbers.  Losing 10% of you pay when you are making $400,000 a year is less severe than when you are making $50,000 a year. 

    The Grover Norquists of the world eat this stuff up.  How can you argue for more money from taxpayes when Boards squander this type of money?  Those of us know it is a “drop in the bucket” versus the entire budget, but that’s what the voters and taxpayers see and they are tired of this feather-bedding. 

    Who is ultimately hurt?  Our students, teachers, librarians etc.  Yet Boards, City Councils and other agencies continue to make these decisons based on some “market” theory—that in government is inapplicable. 

    I

    • Everything you wrote makes total sense RR, UNLESS Charles Weis is a lawyer who passed the California Bar exam. If that’s the case then we should sacrifice everything to get the benefit of his immense talent!

      • Never said he was not qualified, just that he made too much. . . a law degree always helps.  But there are quite a few esquires who would trade private practice for $200,000+ salary and a 2% home loan.

        Many would be smart enough not to try and give it back. . .wink

    • RR, you are right. ‘Squander’ is the right word.
      And the high salaries and perks for management hurt our kids when it comes time for voters to decide whether or not to support Props 30 and 38, funding for our public schools.
      What did Chuck Weiss do to earn his high salary? What improvements did he make in education controlled by the county board?  How have the children in SC County benefited by the enormous loan the county board gave Chuck Weiss?

    • I for one will be voting no on the County measure to increase sales taxes.  As well, I’ll reject the SCC Water Board parcel tax extension. 

      Everywhere I look, I see waste and more waste: the Weis condo deal, Shirakawa building a “safe house” and hiring a private body guard at the County’s expense, and the egregious waste of money paying Water Board members extravagant sums for attending meetings and events having absolutely nothing to do with water. 

      I’ve had with these public servant buffoons.  They’re nothing but self-serving crooks in my mind.

  3. You might be thinking you got a free pass on the stupidity you and your board displayed in granting Weiss and more recently, De La Torre those loans, but you are wrong.

    Unfortunately it will be the kids that will pay for your stupidity.  People will not vote for the taxes necessary for decent schools, because they believe that all the money is being p*ssed away by the numb skulls running the show.  And you can’t blame them.

  4. Joe, many of the other commenters are spot on; more than the financial losses, the way your Board handles this situation might negatively affect the school funding proposition on the November ballot; which would be a disaster for all children in the County.

    What I’d like your board do immediately:

    – issue a public and official rebuke of Mr. Weis behavior. Make it clear that this is not what your Board expect from the former face of public education in our County.

    – re-open immediately Dr. De La Torre’s contract and collaboratively rework it to insure the County is never put in this situation ever again.

  5. If we’re to believe the current mythology, Joseph DiSalvo is the evil banker who knowingly lent money to a poor sap that he knew couldn’t afford to pay it back. We’re supposed to now feel a wave of sympathy for Mr. Weis who is in danger of ‘losing his home’.
    The truth is this situation is typical and belies the spin that the media has put on this whole ‘mortgage crisis’.
    And we also can see in microcosm what our public education bureaucracy consists of- irresponsible, financially illiterate managers like Joseph DiSalvo wasting millions of taxpayer’s dollars hiring people they’ve been duped into believing are “the best and the brightest”  but turn out in real life to be greedy, dishonorable cheats.

  6. I read about this in the Merc yesterday and was amazed at the foolishness of the County on several accounts- 1)  loaning a sum for a private residence of a superintendent who will certainly move on. When loans are given out on a 15-30 year basis, why would anyone in their right minds “loan” a large sum at 0% for a short term?

    2) It is even more strange that the title was in Dr. Weis’ name and not the County Board. They can now make that condo the “official” residence of the County superintendents and if a future sup does not like that deal, they keep searching for a sup who does! (That is how things work in India- if you, say,  become the Inspector General of Education, then you get the “official residence” meant for that position but if you choose to stay in your own residence, you can- but we call Indian system, a socialistic democracy). But what did they do, they gave yet another low interest loan to the current sup. Wow- this is now entering the realm of beyond foolishness unless there are certain under the table dealings that we, the general public does not know of.

    In Tamil we say- “moonu pattai naamam”- meaning you got thoroughly hoodwinked. That is what this entire situation represents.

    Coming to Dr. Weis, seeing the temerity of this person, I am amazed that such a person was even chosen for the job of protecting the education rights of our children. The values reflected by this fiasco clearly shows his personal character where greed won over basic social justice and equity which are basic cornerstones for public education.

    My final comment echoes several teacher voices that wonder why we even have a County Board of Education. We can do away with this extra layer of bureaucratic red-tapism and save millions of Dollars by not funding any of these positions.

    Local school districts can directly interact with the State or Federal as the case may be and by eliminating the “middle man” we can all save a lot more. We are not living in the paper driven world of the 1900s. With electronic communication, there is no need for an extra layer of governance in many spheres including education. Local school boards have improved methods of communicating to the local community they serve and the local community can hold them responsible directly. They can communicate with each other locally to support each other in their curriculum delivery etc. because their focus is comparatively more student oriented than political. There is less room for such stupidity and wasteful spending of tax dollars.

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