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L.A. Community College District to fire a third contractor

Los Angeles Community College District is cracking down after a Los Angeles Times series found millions of dollars in waste and abuse in the district's $5.7-billion, bond-financed construction program.

November 10, 2011|By Gale Holland and Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Community College District is moving to fire a third major contractor it has accused of mismanagement in its $5.7-billion construction program as part of a crackdown spurred by a Times series on waste and abuse in the campus rebuilding program.

In a letter released Tuesday, the district accused Turner Construction Company, which supervised West Los Angeles College's construction program, of failing to inform the district that approval of projects at the campus would cause a $123-million budget shortfall. Four major buildings on the Culver City campus had to be abandoned or cut back when officials realized they couldn't afford them, the district said.

The Times reported in February that the nine-campus district wasted as much as $39 million on design and construction preparation work for buildings at West Los Angeles that were later canceled.

The district also accused Turner of having contractors perform more than $1 million of work without contracts, insurance or bonds guaranteeing the projects' completion, which the letter described as a "failure to follow the most basic contracting procedures."

Turner was also alleged to have recommended paying a contractor for adding thousands of square feet to plans for a classroom and theater project without the Board of Trustees' approval.

The district also said Turner had failed to provide evidence that a construction company, DRW LLC, was a licensed contractor or that its work was monitored by school safety inspectors.

"We are making it clear that no waste or mismanagement in our building program will be tolerated," Chancellor Daniel LaVista said in a release announcing the Turner action.

The district set a December hearing for the New York-based company to respond to the accusations. Kevin Dow, vice president and general manager of Turner's Southern California office, said Turner had "operated in the best interests of the college" and was confident it would be able to resolve its contractual issues with the district.

The Times' series earlier this year found that tens of millions of dollars had been squandered during the campaign to modernize the district's nine aging campuses with bond money approved by voters in 2001, 2003 and 2008.

Last month, the district initiated proceedings to bar FTR International from campus work for up to five years, and to fire Mission College's construction management firm, Gateway Science and Engineering. FTR was accused of shoddy workmanship and fraud in construction of a Valley College classroom complex, and Gateway was alleged to have mismanaged its supervision of an FTR project at Mission College. Gateway and FTR denied the allegations.

gale.holland@latimes.com

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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