New Issues Arise in Alum Rock School District’s Bond Oversight

Voters in Alum Rock Union Elementary School District have passed $444 million in construction bonds since 2008. But the district’s inability to manage its bond-funded projects has led to a damning state audit, an investigation by the county District Attorney’s Office and a financial takeover by the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Raymond Mueller, a parent who monitors two of the past three bond measures as chair of Alum Rock’s Citizens’ Oversight Committee, says he unearthed yet another symptom of dysfunction. The committee’s bylaws were apparently penned in a way that undermines its state-mandated authority to keep the district’s bond spending in check. It’s basically a watchdog with no teeth. At least, so says Anton Jungherr, a member of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CalBOC), who spoke at Mueller’s committee meeting Monday night in his individual capacity as a lifelong school administrator. “The committee cannot meet when they want to meet, the committee members can be removed for any reason by the school board, they can’t have subcommittees and they can’t talk to vendors, staff or contractors,” Jungherr tells Fly. “So I don’t see how they could be independent, which is required by law.” The alarming assessment puts the volunteer oversight body in something of an existential crisis, says Mueller, who called for a special meeting next week to possibly start rewriting the bylaws. But Alum Rock’s newly appointed board president and longtime trustee, Esau Ruiz Herrera, seems far less concerned, if not dismissive. “I think Anton spent a lot of time noting that he’s not an attorney, and then proceeded to offer a legal analysis,” he says of Jungherr’s comments. “I don’t see any compliance issues at all.” Fly reached out to Alum Rock’s outsourced attorney, Luis Saenz, who reportedly authored the bylaws in question, but he declined to comment. “He’s very evasive,” trustee Andrés Quintero says of Saenz. “That’s why I called for the termination of his contract.” Jungherr, who co-founded CalBOC with David Ginsborg, says it’s all too common for school districts to undermine citizen watchdog groups, which, according to a 2017 report by the Little Hoover Commission, have overseen a combined $138 billion in local facilities bonds in California since 2000.

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5 Comments

  1. Good report, Mr. Fly.

    > But Alum Rock’s newly appointed board president and longtime trustee, Esau Ruiz Herrera, seems far less concerned, if not dismissive.

    Swamp creatures, bay area species.

    When Trumpus Maximus gets through with draining the Washington swamp, there will still be plenty of gators and lizards in California that need harpooning and skinning.

  2. Why do the same ole sleeze balls keep showing up as board president, board members and city appointees. I guess if you can make a life as a leech then what hell keep it up and shame on us the few that even take the time to vote. Can’t make it as a lawyer, run for some public seat for $$$$.

  3. I know of no other individual who has worked as hard or as long as Anton Jungherr trying to support the concept of independent citizen bond oversight committees. Anton co-founded the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CaLBOC) which is the only non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that voters get what they were promised in school bond construction projects.
    As the president of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, I appreciate Anton’s efforts, and know that he is long accustomed to nasty slurs from complacent and complicit school board members.

    • We need more people like Anton Jungherr. As a member of the Solano county Taxpayers Association I appreciate Jungherr’s help dealing with the Dixon Unified School District and their attempt to control the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.

  4. The situation at Alum Rock needs to be fixed and I wonder why The Fly has not interviewed the Santa Clara County Board of Education and ask the members their thoughts and solutions to this problem. Should residents in this school district determine a recall is in order who can pay for the cost? Darcie Green who represents Alum Rock has been very quiet on this matter and I wonder why. Please note she was a member of the Alum Rock Board and should have inside knowledge of the current players involved and how the Board runs.

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