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I talked earlier this week with Stuart Markey, the San Diego Unified czar for its new facilities bond, about the debate over the role of the oversight committee — a debate that is still unresolved after Wednesday’s meeting.

The school district has been criticized for arguing that the oversight committee for the $2.1 billion bond, Proposition S, should be limited to reviewing spending after it happens, not beforehand. One committee member lampooned the idea as turning the group into the “hindsight committee.”

Markey defended the district’s position.

“Once the [committee] wades into a political issue, they run into danger of being looked at as being political,” he said. Markey also argued that the California law that lays out the role of the committee chiefly as reviewing and reporting on spending, which would occur after the school district had spent the money, and would therefore not include making recommendations on the project labor agreement or other plans beforehand.

As an example, “it is in the purview of the construction committee (of the oversight committee) to make sure they are consistent with good construction practices,” Markey said. “But to take the bond apart and say you need to do this with your bond money” would be inappropriate, he said.

He said he was not ready to comment on a letter from the Taxpayers Association, whose president Lani Lutar wrote that the “hindsight” interpretation flew in the face of the purpose of an oversight committee. “We are at the very beginning of this process and I think that people need to be a little patient as we develop these relationships with each other,” Markey said.

The issue has grown heated as the oversight committee considers whether to weigh in on the controversial issue of a project labor agreement with unionized builders. Markey and school district attorney Mark Bresee have argued that the committee should not consider the highly politicized and sensitive issue. The committee decided not to follow its advice and is planning to assemble a report evaluating the costs and benefits of an agreement.

“To accept this opinion would in my view both be a violation of state law and an abdication of your responsibilities under the law, and would effectively eviscerate the oversight function of the committee,” said Bob Ottilie, an attorney who spoke at the Wednesday meeting. He added, “Your whole purpose is to protect the taxpayers who provide the tax dollars. … You have to do it before they make the mistakes.”

Hungry for more on bond oversight? Check out this segment from Michael Turko at KUSI for some footage of the meeting and the argument over the oversight committee.

EMILY ALPERT

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