BEVERLY HILLS, CA 2024/2/11 – The Beverly Hills School Board (BHUSD) has settled the case brought against them for withholding public records, Superior Court Case No. 19STCP00706. BHUSD paid the Center for Investigative Reporting for their attorney fees, and promised not to lose or destroy public records in the future. BHUSD wasn’t only incompetent and negligent, there’s a much bigger story of millions of dollars of public funds misused and wasted on a failed plot to block the Metro coming to Beverly Hills…
BHUSD diverted $16 million of Measure BH funds earmarked for school building renovation to launch a series of lawsuits at the County, State and national level that opposed building the Metro. BHUSD argued that routing the Metro under the Beverly Hills High School would cause the ground to burst into flames. BHUSD lost all lawsuits. Los Angeles County Metro construction could proceed in Beverly Hills.
Due to a series of previous bad decisions by the Beverly Hills School Board and the Beverly Hills City Council, the Beverly Hills High School had been constructed on top of an oil field. The 19 oil wells on BHUSD property resulted in a series of lawsuits in 2003, when parents of students at the school attempted to have the oil wells shut down for causing students to develop cancer. However, the Superior Court was not persuaded that the facility caused harm, and the case was dismissed.
In 2016, the oil company Venoco extracted the last barrel of oil from BHUSD land. As part of Venoco’s $1.1 million annual lease deal with the City and BHUSD, the oil company was obligated to cap the wells in 2017, and to continue monitoring them for safety. Abandoned oil fields can leak and cause fires. Instead of doing clean-up, Venoco declared bankruptcy. The responsibility fell to BHUSD to monitor and plug the wells. By 2020, BHUSD had spent $40 million on abandoned oil well clean-up.
In routing the subway under Beverly Hills High School, Los Angeles would become responsible for maintaining the safety of the the school’s abandoned oil field. A task the County was much more capable of doing than the School Board. However, instead of taking this as a win, the Beverly Hills School Board, with the urging of the Beverly Hills City Council, fought strenuously to prevent the subway being constructed. Beverly Hills City Council and School Board officials explained their opposition to the Metro was it would be bad for Beverly Hills, that it would bring the wrong sort of people, that poor people and criminals would ride the subway to Beverly Hills. Conservative City Council candidates currently campaigning are predicting a crime wave when the Metro opens in Beverly Hills, and want to to project a heavy police presence to intimidate visitors.
It may be considered fortunate that BHUSD, and their supporters at the Beverly Hills City Council, lost their fight against the Metro. Otherwise, there would be no Beverly Hills Metro and the School Board would continue to be responsible for the monitoring and safety of the Beverly Hills High School abandoned oil field. However, Metro construction was delayed by two years and Los Angeles County spent at least as much on lawyers, another $16 million, defeating BHUSD. Total cost to taxpayers, $32 million plus, equivalent to giving every resident of Beverly Hills $1,000.
In 2018, news reports named BHUSD president Lisa Korbatov as orchestrating a BHUSD paid for campaign against the Metro. In addition to lawsuits, BHUSD bussed children to protests against the Metro, and paid for School Board trips to Washington to lobby Congress and the President to block the Metro.
BHUSD Sued by Center for Investigative Reporting
In 2019, BHUSD was sued by the Center for Investigative Reporting, attempting to compel BHUSD to disclose records of how BHUSD paid for their campaign against the Metro. BHUSD swore they had no records at all of their extensive efforts to block the Metro. In declaring that they had lost or destroyed all related public records, BHUSD admitted they were incompetent and negligent. Delayed by the COVID pandemic, the lawsuit finally concluded with BHUSD paying attorney fees and promising that in the future they will not the lose or destroy public records.
Whether the BHUSD misuse of public funds was criminal misappropriation has not been determined. Misappropriation of public funds, Penal Code section 424 PC, is the act of using public funds for an unrelated public benefit or personal use, a felony punishable by up to 4 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $10k. That BHUSD lost or destroyed all records of what they did with the money results in a lack of evidence to bring them to court.
BHUSD and the Missing Funds of Measure BH
In 2018, Beverly Hills voters alarmed by crumbling BHUSD school buildings passed Measure BH, increasing annual taxes for the average Beverly Hills homeowner by $1,565. Voters didn’t want Beverly Hills school buildings to be condemned or collapse. The BH money, $385 million, was earmarked for school building renovation. The BHUSD debacle of the $1 million per year oil revenue deal resulting in a $40 million clean-up bill was swept under a rug. To pay for their mistakes, BHUSD had let buildings fall into disrepair and underpaid teachers.
The influx of BH money was a boon for school construction companies. Under the management of BHUSD, school building repairs were slow and seemed hard to get right, some repairs done multiple times, enriching construction companies. When COVID hit, and good ventilation could be a lifesaver, some school buildings had ventilation systems that hadn’t worked in 20 years. BHUSD ordered teachers back anyway.
Measure BH included a clause that taxpayer oversight and annual audits of all funds was required. While running for BHUSD School Board in 2020, a current Governing Board Member of BHUSD listed as a qualification that she had served on the BHUSD Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee overseeing school development and public funds since 2016. The BHUSD misuse of public funds, and the destruction of BHUSD public records, happened under this City Council candidate’s oversight.
Beverly Hills City Council Election March 5th
After their unreasonable and strenuous efforts to obstruct the Metro, and vocal objections to having public transportation come to Beverly Hills, BHUSD officials running for Beverly Hills City Council are not appropriate to oversee Metro operations or security in Beverly Hills. That would put them in position to make come true their dire predictions of disaster when the Metro opens in 2025.
Beverly Hills City Council progressive candidate Robin Rowe believes in the Metro and would increase Beverly Hills public transportation by constructing the Beverly Hills Skyway, capable of moving 2,000 people per hour, to connect the Metro Rodeo subway station with Beverly Hills hotels and shopping that are too far to walk. Beverly Hills citizens have until March 5th, 2024, to vote. Ballots have already been mailed to registered voters.