Companies accused of bribing community college chancellor ask judge to dismiss lawsuit

Ron Galotolo, the longtime chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District


Daily Post Correspondent

Defendants in the San Mateo County Community College District’s lawsuit accusing five construction and architectural firms of participating in former chancellor Ron Galatolo’s alleged “pay-to-play” scheme are asking a judge to dismiss the case.

A hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss is scheduled in San Mateo County Superior Court on July 11 before Judge Susan Greenberg. The defendants say that the college district filed its lawsuit too late, after the statute of limitations for its claims had run out.

The five firms named in the college district’s lawsuit are Allana Buick & Bers; McCarthy Building Companies; Bunton, Clifford & Associates; Robert A. Bothman Inc.; and Blach Construction Company.

The San Mateo County Community College District, which runs College of San Mateo, Canada College and Skyline College, filed its lawsuit against the construction firms in February 2023.

A revised complaint was filed in November.

The lawsuit alleges that Galatolo, the former chancellor, accepted gifts including wine, concert and sports tickets, and free construction work on his personal properties, “in return for awarding lucrative construction contracts to contractors and architects in connection with the district’s various capital improvement plans.”

“Defendants knew that the benefits and gifts they gave to Galatolo and other college employees were illegal but made them anyway in order to secure massive construction contracts,” the college district alleged.

Contractor allegedly paid for overseas trips

In another allegation, the college district says that Galatolo and Karim Allana of Allana Buick & Bers traveled together to Dubai, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore and Indonesia in 2017, with the district covering Galatolo’s expenses. The trip was taken “under [the] guise of district business,” the lawsuit said.

The district is trying to get some of its money back for the construction projects through the legal action. 

Meanwhile, Galatolo is facing criminal charges over the alleged pay-to-play scheme. Galatolo was named chancellor in 2002, promoted to chancellor emeritus in 2019, and then fired in 2021 after the district attorney’s office launched an investigation.

Defendant says the district is to blame

In a response to the college district’s revised complaint, attorneys for Allana Buick & Bers say that the college district “failed to exercise reasonable care” to protect itself in the actions the lawsuit alleges.

In addition, the response states, the college district “consented to and approved the alleged acts and omissions about which (the district) now complains and accordingly, is now barred from pursuing this action.”

During the July 11 hearing, Greenberg will also hear arguments as to why the certain documents filed in the case should remain sealed, meaning the public can’t see them. Information may be designated as “confidential” if it includes details such as trade secrets or confidential business or financial information.

Parts of lawsuit are blacked out

Portions of the construction firms’ motion to dismiss are currently blacked out, or redacted. For example, the motion states that “Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all causes of action because it is undisputed that” followed by five lines of blacked-out text.

Large parts of documents filed to support the motion to dismiss have also been blacked out. 

A case management statement filed May 30 says the defendants are still trying to get two documents from the college district: a 2018 anonymous complaint about the district’s contract bidding practice, and a letter from former Canada College President Lawrence Buckley discussing Galatolo’s alleged contractor favoritism.

$1 billion in bond measures

The construction projects at issue in the lawsuit were funded by voter-approved bond measures. From 2001 to 2014, voters approved three bond measures to raise $1.06 billion for the college district.

Among projects mentioned in the lawsuit are a solar energy project at Canada College and the Integrated Science Center and Planetarium at the College of San Mateo.