Michael McEwen | Investigations Director
One of the first projects undertaken by former SGA President Alexander Rubido was the renovation of the game room in the Graham Center on the Modesto Maidique Campus, a project which Rubido previously said would be completed by November of last year.
But now ten months removed from the renovation’s first round of funding, the project is slated to cost significantly more in student fees than initially anticipated and remains incomplete as of July.
A sign posted in early January announcing a temporary closure due to renovations a month after former SGA President Alexander Rubido said the project would be complete. Michael McEwen / PantherNOW
Funded by an SGA reserve account of unspent student activity and service fees –better known as A&S– from the previous year, the process of renovating the game room began in earnest through an executive order issued by Rubido on Sep 15.
The order immediately expended $660,000 toward the project based on a preliminary cost projection filed in June 2021, citing the pandemic as the reason for increased funds in the reserve account.
“During COVID-19, the expenditures on A&S [services] decreased heavily, which led to an increase in the rollover we had in the accumulated cash balance account,” said Rubido in a phone interview with PantherNOW on June 17. “Upon taking office, I knew there was going to be surplus funding and it wasn’t going to happen for many, many years, and that space wouldn’t be covered by any funding source other than A&S fees.”
An emergency executive board meeting called by Rubido on Jan 20 – weeks after his self-imposed deadline passed – led to the second round of funding for the game room totaling $980,000, also through an executive order.
That number represents the full-time enrollment fees of just under 5,000 students.
The second executive order overrides the first, according to Rubido, meaning that the difference between the initial round of funding and the second is what was expended through the second executive order– $320,000 extra– an increase representing the full-time enrollment fees of over 1,600 students.
Former BBC governor Brian Levine, present at the meeting as a member of the e-board, said he requested to postpone the vote approving the allocation until an expert could testify to the need for the sudden price hike.
“I asked if we could have anybody from the university explain it, and [Rubido] told me to ask him the questions as if he were a construction expert,” said Levine in an interview with PantherNOW in June. “He said we had to act on it now, and he insisted on it.”
However, the transcript of the meeting shows that Rubido overruled Levine’s recommendation through a matter of parliamentary procedure, and the vote to spend the additional amount was passed by a 7-1 margin.
Levine cast doubt as to whether he was overruled through a procedural matter or due to Rubido’s sense of his own authority.
“He doesn’t like when people question him, even when it’s nothing major,” said Levine.
“When he makes a decision he wants to do it. I told him spending this much money wasn’t very fiscally responsible but that didn’t fly either. It’s almost as if the university tells him to do it and he goes along with it.”
Rubido said that basic construction areas “probably went up between $60,000 to $100,000,” between the initial cost projection and the final budget.
According to the finalized construction contract provided through a records request, the final cost of the project is just under $1.2 million. The remaining funds for the renovation will be covered by the Graham Center office, according to Rubido.
In a phone interview on June 27, current student body president Christofer Lugo said he expects the renovation to be completed midway through the fall semester.
The interior of the Graham Center game room on July 13, more than 8 months after the original deadline set by Rubido. Elise Gregg / PantherNOW
The second portion of this story focusing on the planning behind the renovation, as well as Rubido’s consolidation of power into SGA’s executive branch, will be published on Monday, July 18.