Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
The saying is old, but it is more than enough to make the average Elan wonder why Los Angeles Community College District chancellor Daniel LaVista was so quick to dismiss the concerns brought up by the Los Angeles Times’s six-part investigative series on the district.
After 18 months of looking at district documents and interviewing officials, Finnegan and Holland concluded that “tens of millions of dollars” had been wasted or misspent across the nine LACCD campuses.
Once each article in the series was published, LaVista’s office issued a press release within a few hours.
These releases consistently call Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland’s reporting “sensationalist” and “biased,” insisting that they fail because they do not acknowledge the successes of the LACCD’s building program.
The quick responses were thorough in their dismissal of the Times’s claims, but they were so quick that they should have raised some eyebrows.
In fact, LaVista was not even chancellor until after the problems occurred, so his responses came as a surprise.
Regardless of how efficient the LACCD’s public relations department is, they must have already had specific ideas as to which pieces of their dirty laundry would be aired.
Elans should ask themselves a very simple question—if the district knew about its problems, why not come clean about them and what they had done to fix them?
If it had done so, they would not have had to worry about what the Times did or did not include in their stories.
What seems most likely is that the LACCD had kept its mouth shut in hope that Finnegan and Holland would accidentally leave some of the skeletons in the closet.
That way, the district would not expose more of itself than they would necessarily have to.
What it comes down to is that if the district had faithfully done its job of serving the needs of the people of Los Angeles, more than one side would not even exist.
In the reaction statements, LaVista says that he recognizes that the district had had problems with planning and oversight.
Statements like these were reasons to want to actually read the chancellor’s press releases.
What did he hope to gain, though, when he said, “in any construction program of this magnitude and scope there are going to be issues”?
No taxpayer wants to hear that they were signing up to lose money by voting for the bond propositions.
In addition, every one of LaVista’s responses insists that the district heavily audits itself, but in a memorandum to LACCD faculty and staff, District Academic Senate president David Beaulieu admits that the district was compliant with auditing regulations, but those regulations were so loose that the district did not oversee many aspects of their construction program.
This is not to say that the Times has acted completely in the public’s interest.
Had they published the news as it broke 18 months ago, millions of dollars could have been saved since changes would have come sooner.
Their investigation did spark numerous improvements by the district, but clearly more oversight would have been better sooner than later.
Beaulieu echoes the sentiment that should have shone through in LaVista’s ill-used public responses as well as the Times’s stories.
“Sadly, in spite of all we’ve accomplished—wonderful new buildings and renovations on every campus—we now face an angry public, and they have cause.
“What a shame,” said Beaulieu.