City College of San Francisco has once again found itself in trouble. Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb claims that years of neglected maintenance has led to various unsafe conditions in CCSF properties around the city, and has successfully convinced the Board of Trustees to designate the need for repairs an "emergency situation." The result? The administration must no longer heed rules requiring that contracts go out for bid, allowing officials to potentially award millions in no-bid contracts.
This, reports the San Francisco Examiner, has led to concerns that school officials' inability to manage college facilities is being used as an excuse to skirt rules meant to prevent favoritism and fraud.
How much money is potentially at stake? The paper notes that repairs at CCSF properties around the city could cost up to $270 million.
Cathryn Hillard, who in her role at the non-profit Construction Industry Force Account Council watches how public money is spent on construction projects, explained to the Examiner why the Trustees' move is so troubling.
"This is a real black eye for the administration," noted Hilliard. "They knew about the problems for quite some time and did not act. That does not qualify as an 'emergency' and all of these projects should be bid.
"A lack of planning is not an emergency and these are not maintenance issues," she continued.
And what are these "emergency" problems? A leaking water main, a failing air conditioner, and a diesel storage tank leaking fuel are just a few examples the paper highlights.
City College of San Francisco was most recently in the news when a report by the San Francisco Chronicle showed that school officials couldn't fully account for extravagant meal and travel expenditures. One school official repeatedly spent over $500 of school money on meals without being able to explain in what way they benefited the college (or with whom she ate).
Regardless of how CCSF got into this position, the school's Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration told the Examiner that the facility problems are real, and that they need to be addressed quickly — putting jobs out for bid just won't cut it.
"Even if we were to do that now, given the urgency needed to get these things fixed as soon as possible, we wouldn't be looking at closing out the bid until probably February," noted Ron Gerhard.