Welcome to the MiraCosta Watchdog!
This site was created by members of the public to increase the community's awareness of certain concerns raised since November 2017 regarding MiraCosta's use of public funds, lack of public Adult Ed Block Grant meetings, potentially discriminatory campus practices, and other issues.
How this started: State law (Ed Code § 84905 and the Brown Act § 54950) requires that public organizations making decisions about the use of public funds must have public meetings. In November 2017, the public met with a MiraCosta administrator to ask why the Adult Ed Block Grant Consortium (overseen by MiraCosta) had not held public meetings since April 2016 after members of the public first appeared to support the Consortium's Adult Education improvement plan. For unknown reasons, someone at MiraCosta decided to stop the public meetings after the public appeared. It is unknown at this time who made this decision but it must have been made at the administrative level given its significance. (As early as November 3rd, 2017, document requests have been submitted for all emails, texts and other documents discussing the discontinuation of the public meetings but they have not been produced yet.)
The MiraCosta administrator in charge of supervising the Consortium took the position that no public consortium meetings were required even though this same administrator had been attending state meetings talking about how public meetings were required and had signed the Consortium's governance rules filed with the state and posted on MiraCosta's website acknowledging public meetings were required (see state filings under Year 1 titled "Governance"). Efforts were then undertaken to alert the board and other administrators about the lack of public meetings. At the time the public alerted MiraCosta administration of its oversight, the consortium had been having private meetings for over a year and a half -- undetected -- yet it had filed documents with the state that it had been following state law.
A state investigation was launched, a program review was initiated and at least one administrator has resigned. A public consortium meeting was not scheduled until the public brought the matter to the attention of the MiraCosta Board. Finally, a meeting was scheduled on December 2017, with only two members of the consortium attending. Several members of the public attended, along with a member of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, but when the public asked the Consortium members to share the documents they were discussing, those members refused stating that the documents would be available only after the minutes were posted.
Since November, as a result of the inquiries prompted because of the Consortium's lack of public meetings, light has been shed upon other practices which have raised concerns. Concerns on numerous items have been shared via public comments and emails with the Trustees, administrators, and the Academic Senate. This website was created because administration chose not to reflect the substance of the comments in the Board minutes and, in some circumstances, has publicly shared inaccurate information relating to the issues.
In December, the state investigator found that the Consortium had not had the required meetings and called into question the use of AEBG funding for the salary of an employee for the federal grant program known as "WIOA." The lack of public meetings calls into question the legitimacy of the funding decisions made after April 2016 until December 2017 because decisions can only be made in public meetings. At this time, it is not clear what MiraCosta will do to address the funding allocations made during the period when public meetings were not held.
Sample concerns that have been raised (and updates):
Questionable funding practices by the Consortium: The adult ed block grant consortium may have used funds for expenses that are not allowed. The grant cannot use more than 5% of its funds towards administrative costs and funds can only be used for items approved in the 3-year plan. Funding decisions also have to be made via publicly noticed meetings per state law, and funds cannot supplant or replace other of MiraCosta's existing expenditures. One of the expenditures specifically challenged was MiraCosta's approval of a personnel requisition dated May 16, 2017, that changed the funding source for a $71,500 federal WIOA grant supervisor position so that the consortium's state funds could be used instead to replace the original funding source retroactively to June 1, 2016. AEBG funds have been paying for the WIOA grant supervisor position for almost two years (totaling approximately $143,000) even though this position was not approved in the consortium's 3-year implementation plan or approved in a public meeting. The public has also raised issues about whether the consortium used funds in a manner that exceeded state law's 5% cap on administrative costs. The AEBG administrator's salary alone (and in addition to other administrative expenses) exceeded 5% amount of the grant allocation received each year.
•12/19/17: A program review conducted by a representative of the State AEBG office confirmed that the required public meetings had not been held and found that MiraCosta's use of the consortium's state funds to pay for a supervisor for the federal WIOA grant was a questionable use. MiraCosta is in the process of being eliminating the position on the basis that payment for the position with AEBG funding was "not an allowable use" (see, the Board's March 15, 2018 agenda).
• MiraCosta still needs to address whether it will refund the consortium for the funding given that a MiraCosta administrator approved it.
• MiraCosta has not yet addressed whether the consortium exceeded the 5% cap on its own administrative costs.
Failure of the Consortium to hold public meetings for a year and a half: The Brown Act and the California Education Code require that decisions by public organizations regarding the use of public funds be done in public meetings, that the meetings be publicly noticed, that the public have an opportunity for public comment, and that the decisions be made available to the public. The Adult Block Grant Consortium did not have the required public meetings from May 2016 to December 2017. The failure of the Consortium to hold public meetings had been undetected by MiraCosta's administration and was brought to the attention of MiraCosta by the public starting in November 2017.
•12/11/17: The state AEBG office issued a memo confirming that AEBG consortia are subject to the Brown Act.
•12/19/17: A program review conducted by a representative from the CA AEBG office confirmed that the Consortium had not held the required publicly noticed meetings.
•2/28/18: The Consortium announced that it will draft new governance rules and procedures.
It is still unclear what will be done about all the funding allocations made for a year and a half without the public meetings required by the Brown Act and the Ed Code.
Lack of public access to governance committees covered by the Brown Act. MiraCosta started using portals that prevent the public from accessing the agenda and minutes of various MiraCosta groups subject to the Brown Act (see, e.g. the Academic Affairs Committee website). These and other practices are being questioned.
Lack of inclusion of Adults with Disabilities: Despite MiraCosta's goals of student success, diversity, equity and "inclusion," and President Sunny Cooke's public statements that discrimination will not be tolerated, allegations of discriminatory practices concerning adults with intellectual disabilities have been raised without any follow-up by MiraCosta's administration.
April 2019: Reference to the adults with disabilities program was removed from summer and fall catalog cover.
Seniors: MiraCosta offers classes to seniors in both the northern and southern part of the district. Allegations have been raised that MiraCosta may be charging seniors in the southern part of the district for classes it does not charge residents in the northern part.
Disclosure of Public Records: Concerns have been raised regarding how long it takes MiraCosta to produce records responsive to the public's document requests for financial records, minutes and other public documents.
Have information, issues or documents you want to share with us? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
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