A family conflict of interest on a college campus
A company co-owned by the vice president of a Los Angeles community college collected more than $500,000 for working on a public construction program that she oversaw on her campus, records and interviews show.

The company, M. Delvin & Associates, was paid to provide building inspectors for projects at Mission College in Sylmar, beginning in 2009.

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At the time, Karen Hoefel, who owns the company with her husband, Michael Delvin, was the college's vice president of administrative services. In that role, she supervised more than $400 million in construction and renovation projects at Mission. The campus overhaul was part of a $5.7-billion rebuilding program in the Los Angeles Community College District.

Hoefel was collecting salaries from both the college and M. Delvin & Associates, records show. Her annual pay at Mission was $153,000. In a financial disclosure filed with the district, she reported earning between $10,001 and $100,000 from M. Delvin & Associates in 2009.

She resigned from her college position last year after The Times asked questions about her company's involvement in the construction program. Companies working on campus projects had hired M. Delvin & Associates as a subcontractor.

Before she stepped down, Hoefel, 60, said in an interview that she had nothing to do with the hiring of the firm and that she did not profit from its work at Mission.

"I am not receiving money directly from anybody who's working on this campus," she said.

Michael Delvin, 57, did not respond to requests for comment.

State law generally forbids government officials to oversee contract work in which they or their immediate family members have a financial stake.

At Mission, Hoefel was responsible for campus facilities and business operations. Records show she monitored the work of contractors that had turned much of the campus into a construction site — and she was entrusted with protecting Mission's interests as the projects unfolded.

She exerted direct authority over contractors that hired M. Delvin & Associates, records show.

In February 2009, Hoefel approved and sent to the district's trustees a $2.8-million contract extension for one of those companies, Gateway Science & Engineering. In March 2010, she approved a $2-million increase in a contract for another, Masters Contracting Corp.

The episode fits a pattern of questionable oversight of the nine-campus construction program, financed by bonds that taxpayers will be repaying, with interest, for the next 40 years. A Times investigation has found that the college district wasted tens of millions of dollars through poor planning, shoddy workmanship and bungled or abandoned projects.

District officials said Hoefel left her college position in June 2010 after she was given a choice between resigning or having her company kicked out of the construction program.

E-mails, invoices and other documents obtained under the California Public Records Act provide a detailed picture of how M. Delvin & Associates started making money from the program and what district officials knew and did about it.

The records show that Larry Eisenberg, chief of the construction program, was put on notice more than a year before Hoefel's forced departure that her firm was working at Mission College.

Nick Quintanilla, who was coordinating construction projects at Mission, informed Eisenberg in a May 2009 e-mail that the company was working on the campus.

"I didn't get a response, so I assumed it was all right," Quintanilla said in an interview.