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VENTURA COUNTY

College Board Hopefuls Raise Little Money

Election: Donations are sparse in the Ventura County district, which has been rocked by a financial scandal.

October 08, 2002|AMANDA COVARRUBIAS and CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A financial scandal at the Ventura County Community College District dominated headlines for months, drawing a full slate of candidates seeking to take control of the problem-ridden college system.

But so far, the 13 candidates vying for three seats in the Nov. 5 election have failed to attract much financial support for their campaigns. Finance documents filed Monday show that five candidates intend to raise less than $1,000, and contributions to the others have also been light.

Cheryl Heitmann, a community activist who hopes to replace outgoing trustee Norm Nagel in the Thousand Oaks-based Area 2 office, raised close to $13,000--the most of any candidate.

That is far short of the $20,000 to $30,000 per candidate raised in previous college district campaigns, said Herbert Gooch, a Thousand Oaks political analyst. Gooch attributed the dearth of donations to a sagging economy and lackluster interest in the governor's race.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 10, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 13 inches; 478 words Type of Material: Correction
College district--A story in Tuesday's California section in Ventura County incorrectly stated that Service Employees International Union, Local 998, represents the Ventura County Community College District's non-teaching staff. The SEIU, Local 535, represents the so-called classified employees.

"The money is not there across the board. It's not just the college district," Gooch said. "People running for city councils and school boards say they are having a hard time, too. This election just isn't enlisting a lot of interest."

He cautioned, however, that late money could still be pumped into the races, as candidates push for crucial absentee voters in the weeks to come. The next round of financial statements is due Oct. 24.

District finances--and how closely trustees should monitor budgets--are major themes for many of the candidates.

Better oversight of dollars and other reforms are needed, challengers say, to fix problems in the 30,000-student district, which has been rocked by a financial scandal involving Chancellor Philip Westin.

He came under fire last spring for charging the district $119,000 between 1998 and 2001 for cars, meals and computers. The five trustees placed him on paid administrative leave in July--two months after giving him a $30,000 raise--while they investigate allegations that he misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

With no end in sight to the ongoing probe, trustee Art Hernandez has the most to lose. He was among four trustees who voted in May to renew Westin's contract, including a $30,000 raise, even though they were aware of the spending allegations.

Hernandez has raised $3,495 so far in his effort to retain his Area 5 seat, which represents Oxnard, El Rio and Port Hueneme. He received $1,000 each from two private companies outside Ventura County and from Rosales Calderon, a retired Whittier resident. The balance came from donors who gave less than $100 each.

Missing from his list of financial supporters is the college district's faculty union, the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, which decided not to support any candidate in the Area 5 race. The union played a crucial role in pressuring the board to remove Westin from his day-to-day management of the district during the investigation.

Sylvia Munoz Schnopp, a businesswoman challenging Hernandez, has raised $3,302, half in a loan to herself. The remainder came from individual contributions of $100 to $200.

Mental health worker Deshay Ford raised less than $1,000, and college instructor Ron Segovia Dyste's statement was not available.

Trustee John Tallman, whose Area 1 covers parts of Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme, has raised $2,600 and spent $1,500. The retired administrator within the district cast the sole vote against renewing Westin's contract and has the support of the faculty union. He received $100 contributions from several Ventura College teachers. Tallman loaned himself $700.

Tallman's strongest challenger in terms of contributions is Oxnard teacher Mary Anne Rooney, who raised $6,968 and spent $5,220. Challengers David Norrdin, a movie theater attendant, and Kevin Laird, an accountant, raised less than $1,000 each.

In the five-way race to replace Nagel, Heitmann, a small-business owner, leads the fund-raising pack. She raised $12,500 and spent $9,500. Half of her total came in a loan to herself, with the remainder collected from individuals and organizations, including $500 from Dist. Atty.-elect Greg Totten and $250 from Service Employees International Union, Local 998, which represents the college district's non-teaching staff.

Although she won the faculty union's endorsement, she has yet to receive a check from it, Heitmann said.

She is followed closely by retired Firefighter Sandy Patrizio, who raised $11,750, including $8,550 that he loaned to his campaign. He spent $3,500.

Dan Peate, an employee benefits consultant, loaned himself $1,400 and did not report any expenses for the period. The final two candidates, retired college professor Carroll Bowen and parent Linda Van Dolsen, said they will raise less than $1,000 each.

Bowen, a Thousand Oaks city councilman from 1970 to 1978, said he doesn't plan to solicit donations, even if it costs him the seat.

"I may very well lose by not doing that, but in this particular office, I would like to try to win on my qualifications and let the chips fall where they may," he said. "It's definitely a calculated risk."

After eight years on the community college board, Nagel decided not to run for reelection in Area 2, which represents Thousand Oaks, Oak Park and Westlake Village.

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