Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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Assemblywoman Ma wants City College bond spending audited

Lance Williams
San Francisco Chronicle

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who has criticized City College of San Francisco for its expansion plans in Chinatown and expressed concerns about its political fundraising, wants the state to audit the college's spending of more than $441 million in bond funds.

In a letter made public Thursday, Ma, D-San Francisco, asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to investigate how the college has spent the proceeds of a $195 million bond measure approved by voters in 2001 and a $246.3 million measure approved four years later.

"Numerous news reports of questionable spending have fueled calls for performance audits," Ma wrote to the legislative committee. Among other things, she said she wants to track whether there was effective oversight of how money generated by the big bond measures was being spent.

If state lawmakers order an audit, that would mark the third official probe of financial issues at the college since April, when The Chronicle reported on a series of suspected political fundraising abuses in the 2005 bond campaign. In one case, the newspaper reported, a college official diverted a $10,000 lease payment owed to the college to the political committee promoting the bond measure. Experts said the transaction appeared to violate state law. The college said the official made an honest mistake.

Since then, the district attorney's office has reviewed thousands of pages of documents regarding companies that obtained contracts from the college and also made political contributions to the bond campaign, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

In addition, the college has hired Sacramento lawyer Steve Churchwell, a former general counsel for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, to conduct an investigation into political fundraising in the bond campaign.

Chancellor Philip Day said Ma had not consulted him before requesting the state audit of the college.

"If the committee honors her request, we will be cooperating," he said. "We have nothing to hide."

Earlier this year, Ma criticized the college's plan to build a 16-story, $122 million satellite campus in Chinatown near Portsmouth Square. Opponents, including owners of the nearby Hilton Hotel, say the project is too big, millions of dollars over budget and fraught with environmental problems. But supporters, including many Chinatown leaders, say it would bring needed educational opportunities to the neighborhood.

E-mail Lance Williams at lwilliams@sfchronicle.com.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle