The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has opened an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest on the part of a former community college official whose family business was paid more than $500,000 for working on a public construction program that she oversaw on her campus.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division said the probe was launched in response to a complaint that Karen Hoefel, former vice president for administrative services at Mission College, had an "unlawful financial interest" arising from her co-ownership of a company that worked at the Sylmar campus.
The Times reported Saturday that M. Delvin & Associates, a firm founded by Hoefel and her husband, Michael Delvin, was hired as a subcontractor to provide building inspectors for projects at Mission College in 2009.
At the time, Hoefel supervised more than $400 million in construction and renovation projects in her role as college vice president. The campus overhaul was part of a $5.7-billion rebuilding program in the Los Angeles Community College District.
Hoefel, 60, collected salaries from both the college and M. Delvin & Associates, records show. Her annual pay from the college was $153,000. In a financial disclosure filed with the district, she reported earning between $10,001 and $100,000 from her family business in 2009.
She resigned from her college position last June after The Times raised questions about the arrangement.
Reached by phone Monday, Hoefel said she "didn't have any direct role in overseeing contractors." She referred further questions to the district, which said in a statement that although she did not directly oversee her company's work on the campus, the "mere fact that Ms. Hoefel benefited financially … was enough to create an inappropriate conflict of interest."
The statement, posted on the district's website, said Hoefel was given a choice between resigning and having M. Delvin & Associates removed from the construction program. The statement also acknowledged that district officials "could have acted more quickly to resolve this conflict of interest."
Michael Delvin, 57, could not be reached for comment.
M. Delvin & Associates' main business at Mission College was to examine newly constructed buildings as a subcontractor for Inici Group Inc. of Portland, Ore. The firm collected at least $522,000 in public funds from Inici for its work at the college while Hoefel was vice president, records show.
M. Delvin & Associates also was a subcontractor for two other construction companies working at the college: Gateway Science & Engineering and Masters Contracting Corp.
Records show that Hoefel exerted direct authority over both contractors. In February 2009, she approved and sent to the district's trustees a $2.8-million contract extension for Gateway, and in March 2010 she approved a $2-million contract increase for Masters.