Flap previously reported about Los Angeles Unified School Distict, Roy Romer’s dipping into the special interest money to form a secret non-profit slush fund, praising his and the school districtâ€™s accomplishments.
Now the Los Angeles Daily News and the Los Angeles Times have pieces:
Romer reveals donors
The nonprofit organization Superintendent Roy Romer set up to defend Los Angeles Unified’s image against political attacks relied almost entirely on contributions from construction firms, textbook publishers and other school contractors, records released Tuesday showed.
Friends of L.A. Schools Inc., which Romer formed in February just days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his support for plans to break up the district, received single donations of $10,000 from investment bank Goldman Sachs, DMJM building consultants, Turner Construction and publishers Harcourt Inc. and Pearson Education – all of which have contracts totaling millions of dollars with the school district.
An ol’ Pol who formerly headed the Democrat National Committee, Romer has committed a major blunder – A QUID PRO QUO or at least the appearance of one.
Romer defended the more than $146,000 in total donations, which he sought personally, saying his fundraising never influenced LAUSD business.
“I have absolutely no issue of ethics in doing what I’m doing here. I’m clearly representing the district here and I have no hesitancy in going to people for money,” Romer said after releasing the list. “I’m not going to skinny down in some hole like I did something wrong.”
The LAUSD Board deserves answers to pointed questions as to the ethical conduct of its Superintendent.
“It’s an ethical question,” said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies.
“The question is why are these companies giving? They’re giving because they want to curry favor from the school district and by giving money to this fund they will gain an advantage. Decisions are supposed to be based on the merits, not on who’s giving to Roy Romer’s fund. The perception is that you have to give if you want to receive benefits from the school district – that money has an impact.”
Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said Romer’s fund and its activities raise serious ethical and legal questions and should probably be investigated or audited by an outside authority, although she was not certain whether county or state officials would have jurisdiction.
“The problem of somebody who is holding a public service office soliciting money from people who are vendors to that office – that raises serious questions about the ethics of the relationship between the officeholder, Roy Romer, and the vendors,” Feng said. “It raises serious concerns for us that there is pay-to-play politics involved.”
You betcha it is an ethical concern (PAY TO PLAY) and do not be surprised to see Romer called before a Los Angeles County Grand Jury soon.
Romer’s office will release by the end of the week a detailed account of the fund expenditures, but the money was spent on the district’s State of the Schools address in May and related community forums to get its accomplishments out to the public, special assistant to the Superintendent Gritzner said.
Friends of L.A. Schools Donors
Here is a list of the contributors to Superintendent Roy Romer’s nonprofit agency, formed to promote the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Donor, Connection, Amount
Francie Alexander Unavailable $500
Suellen Atkinson Unavailable $355
Celeste DeCuir Publishing representative, Glencoe/McGraw Hill $500
Chet Foraker Vice president, SRA/McGraw Hill $525
J. Stuart Horsfall President, Sopris West Educational Services $375
Theodore Mayer Unavailable $500
Shirley M. Owens Unavailable $500
Patricia L. Williams Unavailable $1,000
Apple Computer Inc. Computer equipment and curriculum software $10,000
Bovis Lend Lease Inc. Construction and project management $10,000
Cambium Leaning Inc. Instructional materials, services and technology $12,500
CCG/Harris Construction management $10,000
DMJM H+N Architecture, engineering and construction services $10,000
Goldman-Sachs Investment banking and securities $10,000
Harcourt Inc. Educational publisher $10,000
HMC Architects Construction planning and design $10,000
Parsons Corp Construction and engineering $10,000
Pearson Education Educational publisher $10,000
PinnacleOne Inc. Construction and consulting $10,000
Scholastic Inc. Educational publisher $10,000
Time for Kids Time Magazine children’s publication and Web site $2,500
Turner Construction Co. Construction $10,000
William J. Yang & Association Provides minority- and women-owned business directories $10,000
SOURCE: Superintendent Roy Romer; Daily News research
The Los Angeles Times piece, Firms Tied to Schools Gave Money is here.
Former California Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg asked yesterday for full disclosure, An Open Letter to Superintendent Roy Romer.
RE: PUBLIC RELEASE OF “FRIENDS OF L.A. SCHOOLS” DONORS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Dear Superintendent Romer:
I am writing to urge you to comply with the spirit of the state Political Reform Act and the Los Angeles City Ethics ordinances by immediately releasing to the public information with respect to donors and contributions made to Friends of L.A. Schools, Inc.
Mayor Frank weighs in here.
Boi From Troy adds this, Builders, Booksellers buy influence with Romer slush fund