Grossmont CBOC Member Nick Marinovich Resigns After Pressure From Asking Tough Questions
By Sharon Penny
July 13, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--The Grossmont Union High School District’s (GUHSD) Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) serves on behalf of San Diego County taxpayers to “independently review the planning and execution of the Proposition H and Proposition U bond programs to validate to the public and the Governing Board that bond funds are spent within the intent of the bond measure.” East County Magazine has raised questions over problems with the CBOC’s watchdog role in a radio interview a few months ago.
Since his appointment to CBOC in June 2013, Nick Marinovich has a history of questioning the GUHSD Board about what many view as its inadequate responses for plans for an Alpine High School (funded by Proposition U) and for not properly addressing the Grand Jury’s report criticizing the Boardm as ECM has reported.
Effective June 19, Marinovich “resigned” from the CBOC. GUHSD Board member Priscilla Schreiber has told East County Magazine that she believes Marinovich was ”indirectly forced” to resign due to his probing questions and failure of the board to respond to his follow-up efforts.
“When Nick tried to bring his brand of leadership, professionalism, and proper oversight to our CBOC, he was disrespected, marginalized, put off, and eventually denied requests,” said Schreiber, who has a history of speaking her mind and frequently voting against the majority of the GUHSD Board.
Marinovich said Schreiber’s statement is accurate.
“I felt pushed out through an attempt to frustrate me so I would eventually pull out my ‘life is too short’ card. It worked,” he said.
He presented a formal exit letter to the GUHSD Board on July 10, summarizing his concerns.
“The Grossmont Bond Oversight Committee continued to frustrate, stonewall and find ways to discourage active citizen bond oversight as required by state law under Prop 39 School Facilities. Tough questions were asked and fell on deaf ears,” said Marinovich. “For months I had requested an expanded performance audit and it was rejected or delayed for further action. A district should welcome an expanded performance audit because either they are doing things properly or they want to find a way to improve their program. What are they afraid of?”
Rob Shield, the president of the GUHSD School Board, said that both Marinovich and Schreiber are incorrect in their views.
“The personal opinions reflected in the statements attributed to Mr. Marinovich are not accurate reflections of the actions taken by, or the purpose of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee,” said Shield. “Additionally, the comments attributed to GUHSD Trustee Priscilla Schreiber are not reflective of the perspective of the Board majority.“
Other school districts with school bond funds have put out bids and gotten companies to do performance audits in addition to the traditional fiscal audits. The results are remarkable and very useful for the school board and the community.
In particular, much of Marinovich’s frustration grew out of the stonewalling by the board of questions about the proposed Alpine High School and the Grand Jury report criticizing the district.
“The fact that I was told by committee member Mark Zacovic (who is also the President of Cuyamaca College) that I was wasting the committee's time by requesting a comment on the Alpine Grand Jury Report is unfortunate,” said Marinovich. “Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Alpine High School decisions, it is the role of the CBOC to comment on the expenditures whether spent on building the high school or projects done instead. The issue is one of ethics and just doing the right thing. Based on State rules for Fair Practices and a Commission in Sacramento that is responsible for monitoring the ethics of public institutions, these kinds of questions are needed more often.”
Marinovich questions the board’s decision to place Cuyamaca’s President Zacovic on the CBOC in the first place. “When the district had a “Community Member at Large” position open they chose the president of a community college district affiliated within the high school district,” he said. “There are ties between the two districts. Do we really think he can be objective and ask tough questions on district behavior?”
Marinovich emphasized this is not directing his objections to Zacovic personally, but at having a person in that position be a Bond Oversight Committee member. Marinovich mentioned that when he told his professional friends who follow Bond Oversight about having a community college president on the committee, the universal reaction was ‘Are you kidding me?’
Board member Schreiber said there is audio coverage from a meeting in which Zacovic stated they “need an intervention on Nick.”
East County Magazine contacted Zacovic for a statement but he did not reply.
“This CBOC does not operate as intended by the law,” stated Marinovich. “The CBOC is operating largely to support district decisions or downplay significant issues. Up until the last annual report, there had been no revelation that the tax rate for Proposition H is well above the voter-approved rate in the ballot language.” Marinovich emphasized he is not attacking the character of persons on the CBOC. He said it is the system that is set up to operate in its current manner and the collective lack of understanding of the role of the Bond Committee that is an issue.
“The district has been so aggressive in its borrowing and spending that all future Proposition U Bond issues are projected to be Capital Appreciation Bonds. While the District must now comply with more stringent laws for Capital Appreciation Bonds, the mere fact that all future bonds must be of these type is an indication that bond program spending has been too aggressive and there is no rainy day fund/allocation set aside.”
Marinovich was unquestionably qualified for the position, also serving on the statewide board of directors for the California League of Bond Oversight Committees (CALBOC) and as chair of the Sweetwater School District CBOC.