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Search warrants served on two Pasadena City College officials

Investigators remove documents and computers from the homes and offices of the officials. The D.A.'s probe focuses on the alleged solicitation of bribes.

June 08, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

As part of a criminal bribery probe, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office served search warrants at the homes and campus offices of two high-ranking Pasadena City College officials Thursday morning, authorities said.

Investigators removed documents and computers belonging to Richard Van Pelt, vice president of administrative services, and Alfred Hutchings, the college's facilities services supervisor, said Dave Demerjian, head of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division.

The investigation of Van Pelt, of Altadena, and Hutchings, of Rancho Palos Verdes, focuses on the alleged solicitation of bribes last year for a competitive contract for the school, Demerjian said. That contract was never awarded, he said. Demerjian declined to name the company involved in the allegation but said the company is based in Los Angeles County.

The office received the complaint in March. No charges have been filed against the two men.

Neither Van Pelt nor Hutchings could be reached for comment Thursday.

The D.A.'s office is also investigating possible conflicts of interest related to the men's financial interests in other campus contracts, Demerjian said.

In a document known as a Form 700, which elected officials and top administrators must fill out to disclose potential conflicts of interest, Van Pelt did not report in 2011 any possible investments, property, businesses, income or gifts that could be a conflict in his position. Hutchings' job does not require him to complete the form, said Juan Gutierrez, a college spokesman.

The college has placed the two men on administrative leave and has launched an internal investigation, said Mark Rocha, the college's superintendent and president. Should the internal investigation reveal any improper conduct or violation of district policy, Rocha will recommend to the college's Board of Trustees that they be fired, he said.

The allegations have "angered and saddened all of us, as I know it will for all of you who care about Pasadena City College," Rocha said at an afternoon news conference.

The college has hired an outside accounting firm to conduct an audit and oversee all business and fiscal operations. A preliminary review of the college's finances indicated that all funds were accounted for, Rocha said.

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