LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District governing Board President Robert “Bob” Davis and Vice President Victoria Ruffin are targeting the Antelope Valley Press, following a series of stories detailing the new Board majority’s actions at their Jan. 24 meeting.
Ruffin singled out a purchase order item at Thursday’s meeting concerning $2,000 in legal advertisements to the Valley Press for the Partners in Nutrition Cooperative, or PINCO.
PINCO is a food co-op of 38 school districts in California, led by the High School District under a Joint Powers Agreement.
The PINCO purchase order schedule listed more than $1.4 million in items, primarily for food-related goods. In addition to the Valley Press, the schedule included $1,500 to Croad Electronic for repair and maintenance and $2,700 to Sage Software for software renewal.
“All of the purchase ordering under here looks like it’s for food and then these three just kind of stand out,” Ruffin said. “So is there an explanation as to what legal ads went out for the PINCO?”
Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Brian Hawkins explained when PINCO does bidding, the District has to do it through legal ads.
“These are for ads in the Valley Press that advertise our bidding or bids,” Hawkins said.
Ruffin asked how often the District does those bids.
“Annually,” Hawkins replied.
Ruffin repeated, “Annually? So this is our annual timeframe right now, just this one window.”
He then asked for a budget history of the District’s legal advertisements for the past two years.
District counsel Bridget Cook asked whether that was specific to the Valley Press.
“It says here, this is specific for one company,” Ruffin said. “But if there’s any vendors that we solicit or market legal ads for, for PINCO, I would like to see a copy.”
Davis asked whether the District already placed the advertisements and are paying for what has been published.
Hawkins said yes.
“Are there any other news agencies that we can use in the future, or can we bid out any of the (ads)?” Davis asked.
PINCO Chairman Joe Cook said the District uses the Valley Press and the Bakersfield Californian for legal advertisements because they cover the majority of the PINCO member districts.
The Requests for Proposals also are placed on the PINCO website. PINCO vendors are also noticed.
“We place it per Ed Code and guidelines,” Cook said.
A second PINCO ad was scheduled to run in today’s newspaper.
Ruffin also questioned Hawkins regarding a proposed contract for Lancaster-based Steven’s Construction Inc., which submitted the lowest bid for a composites lab at Knight High School.
“It’s supposed to be a third of those contracts that are supposed to go out to minority bidders,” Ruffin said. “Did we have an opportunity to bid this out to minority bidders at any point?”
The District had five construction firms conduct a walk-through of the proposed project, of which two firms submitted a bid.
Hawkins explained the District is required, under public contract code, to advertise the bid in a paper of general circulation.
“And which paper was that?” Ruffin asked.
The bid was advertised in the Valley Press over two Sundays.
“Do we have a contract with the Antelope Valley Press?” Ruffin said.
Hawkins replied, not to his knowledge.
“We pay for each one of these as we’re required by law to do,” he said.
“We just pay for each one, so there’s no contract with the Antelope Valley Press,” Ruffin said.
Superintendent David Vierra said they can check to see if the District has a subscription.
Ruffin asked how the District selects where they place such advertisements.
The District is required to publish, in a newspaper of general circulation in the community, where the high school district operates.
The Valley Press is the newspaper of general circulation, Hawkins said.
The Board majority of Davis, Ruffin and Board Clerk Amanda Parrell, has been criticized in letters to the editor published in the Valley Press, following the stories detailing actions they took at the Jan. 24 meeting.
Those include awarding a contract worth up to $75,000 to Kathleen Van Antwerp, an associate of Davis, for about four months’ work to implement her company Full Circle Consulting Systems Inc.’s S.T.O.P. educational model.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell also voted to award a contract to D’Vacor Entertainment Group, a northern California-based events and entertainment planning company led by Ruffin associate Rose Lyles, to create an individual website for the trio, at an estimated cost of up to $5,000 each and $1,000 a month for maintenance.
The open-ended contract also includes travel expenses.
Trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush voted against the contract with Full Circle Consulting Systems and D’Vacor Entertainment Group.
D’Vacor Entertainment Group created campaign materials for Ruffin, who was elected to the Board last November, for a four-year term.
When asked by McGrady how she found the District Lyles replied, “I have online methods.”
However, Lyles and Ruffin are listed as contacts for Diverse Communities in Action Movement, described on the entity’s website as “a group of people, working together to advance shared social and political ideals.”
Lyles is also listed as the chief editor, CEO and senior designer for California Black Expo.com for last year’s California Black Expo, of which Ruffin is listed as part of the Southern California Expo team.
The Board also heard a school security proposal by Bruce Frank, a former co-worker of Davis, for K12 Secure at the Jan. 24 meeting. He could not provide a cost estimate at the meeting possibly because he only started the endeavor in December.
When the proposal for K12 Secure’s services came before the Board at Thursday’s meeting, the estimated cost was $62,240. However, Davis announced at the start of the meeting, an amended cost of $48,500.
The Board majority approved that amount with McGrady and Ruffin dissenting.
Rod Penner, a former Palmdale City councilman, addressed the Board at Thursday’s meeting as a former elected official, the father of two graduates from the high school district and the grandfather of a current high school student and two up-and-coming students.
“I learned a lot of lessons,” Penner said. “I can tell you that it’s not only important to do the right thing; it’s important on how you do it.”
He mentioned articles in the Valley Press regarding actions taken by the Board majority.
“I have to concentrate these comments to what’s been described as the Board majority,” Penner said. “You’ve been in office for a little over two months and you’ve not made a good name for yourself.”
Penner deemed the articles “straightforward and pretty factual.”
“And they’re concerning,” he said. “When I compare those to opinions submitted to the editor, I’m really troubled.”
Penner said the opinions cover people from various walks of life and political affiliations and leanings.
The terms he highlighted were collusion, nepotism, follow the money and failure to properly discuss items.
“There’s even be two or three times with people asking is it time for a recall,” Penner said, “Two months and people are already saying the recall word. It’s not important not only what you do, but how you do it.”
He noted the Board was in the process of handing out what appear to be questionable and lucrative contracts to friends and associates.
“Are they most qualified to receive those contracts?” Penner said. “Are they the appropriate people to receive these contracts? Are these contracts financially responsible?”
He suggested the Board’s personal websites could be done for less by a student, as a senior project.
“I’m just sitting back and watching right now,” Penner said. “But I’m troubled by what I’m seeing and what I’m reading and what I’m hearing. You need to really rethink the way you’re doing things.”
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