Whistleblower alleges LA community college system misled taxpayers on development project costs

Project manager says he was fired for exposing problems, overspending
May 09, 2019 03:00PM

Francisco C. Rodriguez, Ph.D. and David Salazar with Renderings of the new Student Services Center, a Measure CC-approved project

Francisco C. Rodriguez, Ph.D. and David Salazar with Renderings of the new Student Services Center, a Measure CC-approved project

An executive in charge of a massive construction program for the Los Angeles Community College District has filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging he was fired for outing cost overruns in the publicly-funded system.

David Salazar, chief facilities executive for the voter-approved $3.3-billion bond program, claims voters were misled in approving Measure CC in 2016 for campus upgrades, the Los Angeles Times reported. Salazar sounded the alarm earlier this year about cost overruns and unnecessary spending, which he now claims led to his termination in March.

Salazar said a study he approved found that many facilities on the citywide campuses were unused, costing $4.4 million a year. The study concluded the district did not need to build more facilities at the rate it projected to justify voter approval of Measure CC, “meaning the taxpayers were misled.”

Whistleblower actions are not uncommon among city employees, although this has attracted attention because it directly related to a public bond issue.

Salazar is on paid administrative lease and asking for a full reinstatement or $1.6 million for five years of pay and benefits. His complaint alleges Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez, general counsel Jeffrey Prieto and trustees Steven Veres, Gabriel Buelna and Andra Hoffman retaliated against him.

Rodriguez did not return requests for comment. Veres, in an email response to The Real Deal, said the district’s bond monitor, Exiger, is investigating the claims.

“As an individual trustee, I personally disagree with the accusations Mr. Salazar makes, but as I said Exiger and their investigation team will process and evaluate the claim,” Veres wrote in the email.

Salazar has asked for an independent investigator, according to the Times. [LAT]Gregory Cornfield