Dolores Marquez-Frausto, a longtime trustee of the troubled Alum Rock Union School District, got walloped with a $7,000 fine by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission for some pretty flagrant legal violations.
Chief among them: reporting a $5,000 cashier’s check to her 2016 re-election committee as a loan from herself without proving where it came from, and despite state law expressly prohibiting legal tender for donations over $100.
The Aug. 15 FPPC ruling also cites the 11-year trustee for transferring surplus campaign funds from a failed 2014 bid for the Santa Clara County Board of Education to her 2016 committee for re-election in Alum Rock. On Aug. 8, 2016, Marquez-Frausto and her daughter Anjelica Frausto, who served as campaign treasurer, moved $5,021 left over from 2014 to that year’s re-election committee. That’s also against the law, which prohibits surplus funds from being used in another state or local election.
Further, the FPPC found that Marquez-Frausto and her daughter failed to report 9 percent of contributions and 19 percent of expenditures for the 2016 committee. Undisclosed donations included $500 each from SMT Property Services, the IBEW 332 Education Fund and Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters Local 383.
Now, back to that $5,000 check.
In addition to blowing through the $100 cap on cash donations by a whopping $4,900, Marquez-Frausto never substantiated the source of that money. Not even to the authorities. When the FPPC asked for proof that it came out of her own pocket, she reportedly “failed to produce documentation.”
Marquez-Frausto did not return requests for comment. Neither did her daughter.
The trustee’s inability, or unwillingness, to verify the origin of that $5,000 seems highly suspect. Especially from someone who told the FPPC that she cut the check herself. What makes it more fishy is the timing of the contribution.
The mysteriously sourced check was deposited a month before the 2016 election and comprised 26 percent of the committee’s reported contributions. A month later, the school board went against the advice of Alum Rock Superintendent Hilaria Bauer by re-upping a contract with Del Terra Group, an ethically challenged contractor handling hundreds of millions of dollars in bond-funded construction projects for the district.
Del Terra’s shady dealings would go on to become the subject of multiple audits and allegations, including that it billed the district for work it never performed and that it cut a side-deal with an Alum Rock employee to get millions of extra taxpayer dollars.
While controversy over Del Terra roiled the district over the next few years, Marquez-Frausto continued to enable the company. As part of a bloc that became known as the Alum Rock Three, she voted time and again to keep Del Terra on board.
Marquez-Frausto also chaired a Bonds, Facilities and Finances Subcommittee that’s been widely criticized as a farce. She was previously called out for scheduling its meetings on weekday afternoons when even some fellow committee members, including trustee Andres Quintero, couldn’t attend. Since the election, she hasn’t held them at all.
Under her purview, most of the subcommittee’s work has involved accepting progress reports from Del Terra without much in the way of discussion, and then relaying that information in perfunctory updates to the board.
A Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury went so far as to name and shame Marquez-Frausto and the other two members of the Alum Rock Three—Khanh Tran and Esau Herrera—and call for the trio to relinquish their seats on the board.
In a report the grand jurors issued last summer, they point out that after the public approved $265 million in bonds to upgrade the district’s aging schools, the Alum Rock Three pushed through a decision to put Del Terra in charge of both construction and management. Basically, Marquez-Frausto and her cohort set up the company to manage itself. And all that without competitive bidding.
None of the three hewed to the grand jury’s advice by resigning. But voters ousted two—Herrera and Tran—in the last election. Marquez-Frausto managed to hang on to her seat.
Though there’s less name-calling, shouting and theatrics at Alum Rock’s board meetings with Herrera and Tran gone, the district still grapples with problems created by past dysfunction and ongoing inaction. Construction delays mean the district will get a lot less bang for its buck on those years-old bonds while the facilities they’re meant to upgrade fall further into disrepair.
That doesn’t reflect well on Marquez-Frausto, who in 2016 ran on the promise of guiding the district through the “most ambitious facilities upgrade campaign in its history.”
Claims of deception and dysfunction have haunted the 68-year-old official for ages, though; those who voted for her re-election should’ve known what they were getting into.
Long before they became chummy on the Alum Rock board, Marquez-Frausto and Herrera sued each other for harassment. In a lawsuit filed by Herrera in 1994, he accused then-trustee Alex Salazar of trying to run him over with a car while Marquez-Frausto egged him on from the passenger seat.
Even her tenure as trustee got off to a rocky start.
After three decades working for Alum Rock Union, including as a child welfare and attendance liaison, she was forced out in 2007 amid claims that she used district time and resources to campaign for her husband, then-trustee Joe Frausto. Ultimately, she litigated and won a $17,700 settlement for the trouble and agreed to the condition of staying away from district property and staff during work hours.
When she showed up to her very first board meeting in 2008, police escorted her off the grounds. For practicality’s sake, and for better or worse—but mostly worse—the district agreed to waive the restraining order.
Dolores-Marquez is now on her third term, which is up in 2020.