NEWS RELEASE   FROM: George Kennedy, District Attorney   CONTACT PERSON:
James Gibbons-Shapiro, Deputy District Attorney
Government Integrity Unit
(408) 792-2985   For Immediate release on April 29, 2002   Ending an investigation into a $75,000 contribution made to a bond campaign by the De Anza College Associated Student Body in the Fall of 1999, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office declined to file criminal charges. The district attorney's office found that because of the ambiguous nature of the transactions involved, there is insufficient likelihood of prevailing at a jury trial.   In the Fall of 1999, the Foothill-De Anza Community College District had placed a bond measure, Measure E, on the November ballot for public vote. This bond measure, which passed by more than the then-required two-thirds majority, provided funds for that district and increased taxes for residents in it.   Administrators at De Anza College approached the De Anza Student Body Senate at a public meeting in October of 1999 to ask the De Anza College Associated Student Body to contribute financially to the campaign for Measure E. The student body organization had earlier declined a request to make a campaign donation. At the October meeting, one student stated that a donation could be made if De Anza College were to forego receiving the customary annual $75,000 student contribution to the school's payments for an earlier expansion of the De Anza Campus Center. The administrators later approved the one-year relief of that payment, and the De Anza student body organization made a $75,000 contribution to the campaign for Measure E. Ultimately, in a decision also made in a public meeting, the $75,000 payment to the college in lieu of the annual student payment was made by the campus bookstore. In subsequent years, the students have again made the annual $75,000 payment to the college, which was not paid in the year of the students’ campaign contribution.   De Anza College Associated Student Body payments to the college began in 1993, when the student body organization contributed money to assist the college in paying for an expansion of the Campus Center. In 1996, school administrators and students signed a memorandum of understanding that expressed that commitment in writing. Later documents modified the 1996 memorandum.   It would have been illegal for De Anza College to forgive a debt in order for the debtor to make a campaign contribution to a bond measure that would benefit the college. Education Code section 7054 prohibits the use of school district funds to urge the passage of a bond measure. However, in this case the payment to be made by the students to the college was likely not pursuant to a legally enforceable debt. The writings at issue can be also interpreted to show a non-binding commitment on behalf of the students, pledging to make payments to the school for expanding a campus center that benefits the students. Cases holding the debt need not be legally enforceable to complete the crime involve defendants’ appropriating proceeds of a debt directly to their own pockets. Here, the purposes of Education Code section 7054 were subverted by a technicality.   Guided by American Bar Association standards, the Santa Clara County District Attorney typically does not comment on the status of an investigation unless charges have been filed. However, in this case there has already been news coverage of the matter; the purpose of avoiding stigma to innocent persons would not be served. Moreover, because the investigation here involved the integrity of an election and the use of public funds, it is appropriate for the public to understand what occurred and the action of his office.   ###      

©2022 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.