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.