Officials in Huntington Beach’s Ocean View School District weren’t the only ones hoping for the passage of Measure R on Tuesday. In August, Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company, Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga donated $25,000 to the district’s $319 million tax increase campaign.
“Many contractors will contribute to campaigns in an effort to show that they are interested in being hired,” OVSD board president Gina Clayton-Tarvin wrote on Facebook. “The only legal way to raise money in a bond campaign is to ask for contributions. OVSD wanted to avoid a ‘pay to play’….”
L&M’s business relationship with the district began in November 2014. District officials have extended that agreement four times, and the company now oversees multiple school construction projects. The latest extension runs through the end of 2016. By then, Ledesma & Meyer’s work in the district will have earned the firm almost $3.5 million.
In the most recent campaign cycle, Ledesma appeared among other firms who contributed to school bond measures in more than one location.
There’s no evidence that Ledesma won district contracts because of its political contributions, despite Clayton-Tarvin’s assertion. But noting similar patterns in contracts has the attention of California State Treasurer John Chiang. In July, Chiang issued a press release warning that “municipal finance firms, including bond counsel, underwriters, and financial advisors, are offering to fund or provide campaign services in exchange for contracts to issue the bonds, once approved by voters.”
California State Public Contract Code Section 100 establishes the framework for “a fair opportunity to enter the bidding process, thereby stimulating competition in a manner conducive to sound fiscal practices” in order to “eliminate favoritism, fraud, and corruption in the awarding of public contracts.”
In May, Ledesma & Meyer made the cut as one of three construction firms under the OVSD board’s consideration for school facility projects under Measure R.
Catrin Thorman is a California Policy Center fall Journalism Fellow. She is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University, and a former Teach for America corps member in Phoenix, Arizona.