In an interview conducted in one of the airy corner offices in question, Dixon says that, yes, more than a few desks were moved around in order to create the new space, but not much else. “There used to be a wall here; it was taken out,” he says. “It was two offices before.” Dixon says converting the former offices into new office space for his team “has created synergy,” and, he says, he’d be surprised if it cost more than $7,000.

But upgrades to the conference room used by the Facilities department team, which sits right next to the converted office area, cost nearly $6,000. Dixon and Olsky vigorously denied there had been any changes made to the room, known as “Conference Room 8.” Invoices later obtained by the Weekly specifically list $5,147 in audio-visual equipment for that room, as well as $690 for “painting, preparation and undercoating” for “Conference Room 8 and a room next door.” When asked for specific records pertaining to Dixon’s and his team’s offices, the district turned over an invoice for “various patching and wall repairs,” amounting to $7,120. If the conference-room upgrades are included as part of the Facilities department’s conversion, then the invoices total well more than $7,500.

Records later obtained include vague descriptors for renovations and construction bids at district headquarters made between May and October 2008 and paid for by the Relocation Project fund. The invoices are dated well after the originally planned relocations of other departments to the district office had been completed. It’s unclear if these invoices were for work done to the Facilities department or other internal office conversions, such as Business Services and Purchasing, which have also been added to the original Relocation Project. Among the invoices are: $8,481 for “heat and a/c for two new offices”; $1,588 for “window tinting” in “area of C135 in district office” (Area C135 refers to one of the old Building Services offices that was converted into part of the Facilities department offices); a total of $21,920 spent between June and July for “various patching and wall repairs”; two bids totaling $16,819 for two sets of double doors submitted in late October; $13,849 for a heating pump and cooling system for a “new Plan Room building at district offices.”

(Burrell says the “Plan Room building” is a newly converted room that now houses two building inspectors and is used to review bids, plans and architectural drawings. She had not responded to a request for comment about the other expenditures by press time.)

Ron Murrey, associate superintendent for Business Services, points to the report that states the Relocation Project loan would be used “primarily” to construct a new warehouse, refurbish district-owned facilities for a student-testing center and other non-administration-building renovation-related projects. “It says ‘primarily,’ not ‘exclusively,’” he says. Because the district is still (narrowly) within budget, there are plans to move and convert other departments, such as his own and Purchasing. He says the board has been updated of such changes along the way.

Board president Jose Hernandez says he has been kept abreast of all the changes made within the administration building and doesn’t object to them. “I was told the renovations were minor, between $5,500 and $7,500,” he says of the Facilities department changes. But he doesn’t recall, he says, if the information for those renovations, as well as others, were ever disclosed publicly.

Palacio believes the public is owed a presentation and cost breakdown of additional changes being made at the district office. “If these things are no big deal, then why wasn’t the public told?” he asks.

 

daltan@ocweekly.com

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