South Bay Construction Contract $ to Be Returned

Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to be returned to school officials under deal struck in school corruption investigation

Contractors, who were awarded multi-million dollar construction contracts under an era of what prosecutors and current school officials say was a "pay to play" culture, will repay $642,000 of taxpayer-spent funds.

Under a deal struck this week, the construction and architect firms of Echo Pacific Construction, BCA Architects and Seville Construction Services will refund money to the community college district, a college official confirmed Friday.

A college spokeswoman said the South Bay community college district was planning on releasing a written statement later today, and she legally could not comment on the matter.

“The action is settled without an admission of fault,” said Jeff Baird, an attorney for Echo Pacific Construction.

None of the other contractors could immediately be reached for comment, and further details on which firm is paying what, remain unclear.

In 2011, Echo Pacific Construction was awarded a construction project with a budget of $55 million. A discrepancy in paperwork listed the project's construction budget as $59 million, which meant a $1.475 million fee for the firm's work.

A college administrator who recommended Echo Pacific received the work, at one point, moved into the contractor’s 5-acre Poway estate.

Seville Construction Services won a $2.7 million contract to do work under Southwestern College's Proposition R bond program. Court records show the president of the company had an inside track working with Southwestern College officials on the project before it was officially bid. Some emails in the court affidavits indicate the contractor was allegedly involved in writing the bidding documents for the college official.

Those "requests for proposal" are typically written by the college and kept confidential until they go out to all firms interested in bidding in the project - a process meant to promote fairness.

In 2010, BCA Architects was awarded a $3.1 million contract to design the “corner lot,” a 9-acre gravel field at the intersection of East H Street and Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista. Court records and Grand Jury testimony show the firm's president won the contract after spending thousands entertaining college officials, including a trip to Pebble Beach and Napa Valley.

Not all of the funds agreed to in the contracts were paid out to the contractors. Some of the agreements were terminated around January 2012 after an internal probe conducted by the college, and during an investigation and prosecution by the San Diego County District Attorney’s office that alleged relationships between the college officials and contractors were too cozy.

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