The governing board is required to establish and appoint an Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (the “Committee”) within 60 days of the date that the governing board enters in its minutes the election results, pursuant to 15274.
Composition of the Committee
The Committee shall consist of at least seven (7) members to serve for a term of two (2) years without compensation and for no more than three (3) consecutive terms. The legislation is silent on how and under what conditions a committee member may be removed prior to expiration of his or her term.
The Committee must include [Education Code 15282(a)]:
- One member who is active in a business organization representing the business community located within the College District;
- One member active in a senior citizens’ organization;
- One member who is active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization;
- One member who is a student enrolled in the district and active in a college group, such as student government;
- One member who is actively involved in the support and organization of a college or colleges of the district, such as a member of an advisory council or foundation.
The Committee may not include any employee or official of the district or any vendor, contractor, or consultant of the College. [Education Code 15282(b)]
Purpose and Activities of the Committee
The purpose of the Committee shall be to inform the public concerning the expenditure of the bond proceeds. The Committee shall engage in the following activities to carry out this purpose:
- Active review and report on the proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money for school construction;
- Advise the public as to whether the district is in compliance with the requirements of Article XIIIA, Section 1(b)(3) of the California Constitution; and
- Convene to provide oversight for, but not limited to:
- Ensuring that bond revenues are expended only for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities;
- Ensuring that no funds are used for any teacher or administrative salaries or other school operating expenses. [Education Code 15278(b)]
It is the express intent of the Legislature that the members of the Committee “promptly alert the public to any waste or improper expenditure of school construction bond money.” [Education Code 15264]
The Committee is authorized to engage in any of the following activities in furtherance of its purpose:
- Receive and review copies of the annual independent performance audit required by Article XIIIA, Section 1 (b)(3)(C) of the California Constitution;
- Receive and review copies of the annual independent financial audit required by Article XIIIA, Section 1 (b)(3)(C) of the California Constitution;
- Inspect school facilities and grounds to ensure bond revenues are expended in compliance with Article XIIIA, Section 1(b)(3) of the California Constitution;
- Receive and review copies of any deferred maintenance proposals or plans developed by the district; and
- Review efforts by the district to maximize bond revenues by implementing cost saving measures, including, but not limited to:
- Mechanisms designed to reduce the cost of professional fees;
- Mechanisms designed to reduce the cost of site preparation;
- Recommendations regarding the joint use of core facilities;
- Mechanisms designed to reduce costs by incorporating efficiencies in school site design; and
- Recommendations regarding the use of cost-effective and efficient reusable plans. [Education Code 15278(c)]
The Committee shall at least annually issue regular reports of the results of its activities. [Education Code 15280 (b)]
Governing Board Support of the Committee
The governing board shall provide the Committee with any necessary technical assistance and administrative assistance in furtherance of the Committee. No bond funds may be used to pay any of these expenses. [Education Code 15280(a)]
Accountability – New Legal Actions to Prevent or Restrain the Expenditure of the Funds
The legislation creates a form of legal action called a “School Bond Waste Prevention Action.” A citizen residing in a school district who is assessed and liable to pay an ad valorem tax on real property within such district or who has paid such a tax within one (1) year before the commencement of an action may bring a “School Bond Waste Prevention Action” to obtain an order restraining and preventing an expenditure to the 55% Vote Procedure. Such an order will be granted if it appears by the complaint or affidavits that any of the following conditions are present:
- An expenditure of bond proceeds is for a purpose other than for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities;
- The expenditure is not in compliance with Article XIIIA, Section 1(b)(3);
- An expenditure in violation of Article XIIIA, Section 1(b)(3) will be made or continue to be made during the litigation that would produce waste or great irreparable injury;
- The governing board of the district has willfully failed to appoint the Committee.
If such an order is obtained, the court may award attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. Also, the legislature declared its intention that upon receipt of allegations of waste or misuse of bond funds, appropriate law enforcement officials shall expeditiously pursue the investigation and prosecution of any violation of law associated with the expenditure of those funds.