The Grade Blog

Monday, Jun 24 2013 10:31 PM

Tea party activist criticizes KHSD board

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

A member of the Bakersfield Tea Party criticized the Kern High School District's bidding and contracting practices at a school board meeting Monday night.

Bill Lind told the board he spoke as a "concerned taxpayer," and indicated there was a "strong possibility of kickbacks, bribes or improper gifts being given to district employees by the companies benefitting from these shady contracts."

Lind said he felt compelled to speak out against wasteful spending after reviewing court documents.

The same allegations are contained in a pending wrongful termination lawsuit against the district by two former employees.

The board at one point asked Lind to make his remarks in closed session after he singled out Superintendent Don Carter, saying a private meeting was the proper forum for allegations against specific individuals. Board members allowed Lind to go on after he said he would confine additional remarks to concerns about the district in general.

John Fox and Clemon Williams Jr., formerly assistant directors in the district's maintenance and operations department, two years ago filed lawsuits asking for several million dollars for lost wages, retirement benefits and emotional distress.

KHSD spokesman John Teves said after the meeting that he couldn't comment on Lind's remarks, citing the pending litigation. He referred further questions to the district's attorney.

In the lawsuit filed in September of 2011, the plaintiffs said they noticed a change in the way contract practices were being handled after the district hired Larry Patrick as the director of maintenance and operations in 2003.

Instead of putting construction and repair jobs out for formal bid or obtaining estimates for work in compliance with state law, the jobs were being awarded to particular companies.

For instance, nearly all roofing projects went to Garland Roofing Co. and its subsidiary, Commercial Roofing Systems Inc.; and all carpeting contracts went to Collins and Aikman, and Metro Floors Inc.

All of those companies have denied any wrongdoing.

Patrick died in 2009. A year later his successor, Steve Tolin, placed Fox and Williams on paid administrative leave after they received negative performance evaluations. They were replaced and forced out in 2011, according to the lawsuit.

The Kern County Superior Court complaint contends the pair were effectively terminated as retribution for whistleblowing.

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