Tensions ran high on the subject of a solar agreement at a recent Peoria Unified School District Governing Board meeting.
Though it wasn’t what the district originally anticipated, PUSD will receive $375,000 from Constellation Solar as part of a settlement agreement.
“I think no matter what the board does it’s a no-win situation,” board member Judy Doane said. “If we accept the agreement, we are accepting $375,000, and in these troubled times that is substantial. But on the other hand, we would have to stay in a bad deal.”
According to the governing board agenda, “Solar panel systems were previously installed by the PUSD as an energy-saving and cost-saving measure.”
But an audit determined the guaranteed cost savings promised in the contract were not being realized by the district.
Michelle Myers, PUSD’s chief financial officer, presented an overview of the settlement agreement. Meyers said the solar company disputed the district’s allegation; the matter went to mediation, resulting in a $375,000 settlement offer by Constellation Solar.
“The district notified Constellation Solar through its legal counsel of the contract concerns and requested guaranteed energy savings payments back to the district,” Meyers said. “Mediation took place on Aug. 28, which produced the proposed settlement offer.”
Board member Monica Ceja Martinez disagreed with the settlement. She urged board members to vote against the agreement.
“I grew up in the Peoria Unified School District and ran for office so that I can uphold what I was taught my whole life, to be trustworthy and ethical,” Ceja Martinez said.
“Two years ago this board inherited this problematic contractual agreement with the vendor ... Constellation Solar, that I believe betrayed those principles.”
She said the board did not responsibly exercise “the degree of care” and approved a substandard contract that did not fully comply with state law.
“I believe Constellation Solar has consistently taken advantage of our vulnerabilities to the point where we are draining our limited resources,” Ceja Martinez said.
Board President David Sandoval, however, said he was proud of the board’s diligence at being “good stewards” of PUSD funds. He sees the settlement as an opportunity to learn and improve for future procurement and the partner agreements.
Sandoval added, “I know we are in this contract for another 12 years.”
After extended debate, the board voted 3-2 to accept the settlement.