Sinanian Development, based in Tarzana, has obtained contracts to construct a library and classrooms at L.A. City College and a family and consumer studies center at Mission College, among other projects.
In 2008, as the trustees were considering another contract bid from the company, they directed district officials to look into complaints about Sinanian's work, including its failure to meet deadlines, records show.
The company pledged to meet district performance standards and was awarded the contract, for which it submitted the lowest bid, according to minutes of trustee meetings.
About this time, Sinanian pumped more than $75,000 into one of the bond drives.
Trustee Georgia Mercer, one of those who expressed concerns about Sinanian's performance, said in an e-mail that the company's co-president, Sinan Sinanian, "assured us that his company was committed to improving." The firm has since "performed in a very adequate manner," Mercer said.
The district's fight with FTR stems from a health and science complex it built at Valley College. In a lawsuit against the district, FTR claims it is owed $1 million. The district is demanding that the company pay $1.5 million to cover the cost of repairing defects in the buildings.
FTR's chief executive, Nizar Katbi, said his firm was not responsible for the problems. Asked about his political donations, he said contractors were encouraged to contribute.
He recalled attending a fundraiser in Hollywood with scores of construction program vendors, trustees and other college officials.
"They asked all the contractors to come in," Katbi said. He declined to elaborate.
Sinan Sinanian likened his contributions to an investment. "Any time there is a bond measure, you just contribute and hope that it comes back to help you in one way or another," he said. "That's the process of our government."