Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweetwater Unified High School District didn't follow the rules in spending half a million dollars on PR

The Fine Print on Sweetwater PR
August 18, 2011
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

Sweetwater schools spent more than half a million dollars on communications and outreach for their facilities bond, we reported today. Tracking those communication costs can be difficult because they're part of a bigger contract to manage the bond.

It's also tough because the contract itself never mentions the firm that got the work, Marston + Marston Inc. That surprised me: The bond management contract says if the company hires subconsultants like Marston + Marston, it will submit a written request that describes the work and name the subconsulting company and its hourly rates. Sweetwater then decides in writing whether to approve the deal.

That didn't happen with Marston + Marston. Program manager Jaime Ortiz said Marston was not brought up separately for written approval because its workers were already covered under a staffing plan that was automatically approved along with the bond management contract.

But Marston + Marston isn't actually named in that plan. The staffing plan just includes the names of positions like "communication specialist" and "outreach manager" and their fees and hours, which correspond to the hourly rates that Marston employees have been paid.

To read the contract for yourself, click here. The staffing plan is on pages 56 through 58.

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