Months after El Monte Union bond mismanagement accusations, many are still not speaking out

It’s been about three months since I returned to the good old San Gabriel Valley Tribune and since that time I’ve been following this very intriguing and very secretive agreement that keeps anyone in the El Monte Union High School District from talking about what really happened between the district and its former bond management company APM.

I’ve attended one Board of Trustees meeting, flipped through a couple of months worth of minutes and spoken to community members and have found very little evidence that the public is pursuing the whole issue.

A little background:

- After an internal audit, district officials in August cut ties with APM, which it accused of misusing money from the district’s $148 million Bond Measure D, passed by voters in 2008.
- In October, Superintendent Nick Salerno retracted those statements, citing a new settlement agreement with APM.
- Terms of the settlement kept APM and EMUHSD from elaborating on issues between the two entities. Further, EMUHSD paid APM $150,000 in back invoices and APM’s contract was not re-instated.
- EMUHSD since hired Industry-based Del Terra, which works with several surrounding school districts.

Now as I continue to follow up on the issue, even bond oversight members, who are charged with the task of ensuring taxpayer money is properly spent, are uninformed of what exactly happened in those few months.

Mike Felix, a former district employee and member of the district’s Citizens Oversight Committee, is one of few speaking up about the issue, although he knows very little about what went on.

“I really wasn’t comfortable with this whole thing. It’s shrouded in mystery,” he said, adding that he has asked district officials what exactly the accusations were, how much money was involved and which employees were placed on leave as the district continues to investigate their possible involvement in the whole alleged scheme.

When it comes to others in the community, he said they don’t want to get involved.

“I think a lot of people are apathetic and a lot of people who work here or are associated here are afraid to rock the boat. I also think there’s that group of people who hope that it will just go away. I’m none of the above. I want to know what’s going on. Sometimes I feel like I’m the black sheep.”

Board member Carlos Salcedo said that the settlement agreement keeps him and other district officials from elaborating.

“We agreed to that. It was mutual and there’s certainly things that we can’t share,” he said about the agreement.