Khanh Tran’s war of words has prompted one of his colleagues on the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District board to threaten legal action.
In an email to constituents of the district, which is currently the subject of a District Attorney investigation into financial mismanagement, Tran accused board Vice President Andrés Quintero of failing to disclose a conflict of interest involving HarBro Emergency Services, a company hired by the district to repair fire damage at Mathson Middle School. Specifically, Tran claimed that Quintero’s brother works for HarBro and that nepotism factored into the district’s decision to work with the company.
Quintero called the assertion slanderous.
“I don’t know why the hell he would think that,” Quintero told San Jose Inside on Thursday. “He manufactured it. I even checked in with my brothers to see if there’s some link that I don’t know about. There’s nothing—no one in my family works for them.”
In a post Wednesday night, Quintero wrote:
“In light of the recent San Jose Inside article wherein Alum Rock Board Member Khanh Tran is quoted, in order to set the record straight, I want to make it abundantly clear that my family has no connection, personal or business, with the company that is referenced in said article. If Mr. Tran continues to make slanderous statements against my family and I, I will be forced to take legal action.”
In fact, Quintero told San Jose Inside, when an audit pointed out problems with the HarBro contract, including cost overruns and failure to ratify contracts, he was the first one to ask prosecutors to investigate.
“How would I reconcile that if I had any connections?” he said.
When asked what led him to accuse Quintero of nepotism, Tran told San Jose Inside that he heard his information “through sources,” but declined to elaborate.
The real concern, Quintero said, is Tran’s assiduous defense of Del Terra Group, a company hired to managed $265 million in bond construction for Alum Rock Union. Despite a state audit that pointed out poor internal controls that put dealings with Del Terra at risk of fraud, Tran has insisted that there’s no need to terminate or even revise the district’s contract with the corporation. He also called Quintero “overly emotional” for expressing concerns about the audit findings.
Though Quintero once had a collegial relationship with Tran and even supported his bid to unseat Rep. Ro Khanna (D-San Jose) in the 17th Congressional District, he has since rescinded his endorsement.
“I verbally told him that because of his behavior ... I can’t support him,” Quintero said.
Quintero said the so-called Alum Rock Three—a bloc consisting of trustees Tran, Esau Ruiz Herrera and Dolores Marquez-Frausto—have defended Del Terra at a tremendous cost to the public.
Because of the three board member’s refusal to hew to recommendations from state auditors, the district had to relinquish its fiscal independence to the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Meanwhile, concerns about potential insolvency led both S&P and Moody’s to downgrade the district’s credit rating, which means taxpayers will have to pay higher interest rates on future bond debt.
“We’re going into junk status because of their behavior,” Quintero said. “The stakes are fairly high, and these folks don’t really give a damn. [Tran] calls me emotional, but if I have to be emotional because of how this affects the taxpayers, then yeah, maybe I am. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s ultimately costing us, the people, the taxpayers.”