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College district names new chief to oversee troubled rebuilding program

March 21, 2012 |  8:06 pm

The Los Angeles Community College District on Wednesday named a veteran construction manager to oversee its $6-billion campus rebuilding program, which has been criticized for poor planning, questionable spending and lax oversight.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the appointment of James D. O’Reilly as executive director of facilities planning and development. He will assume the post April 2. His salary has not yet been confirmed.

The appointment comes a year after the position was vacated by Larry Eisenberg, who was suspended and given a one-year termination notice during which he collected his $211,000 salary and other benefits. That arrangement ended March 14.

Eisenberg’s deputy, Thomas Hall, had served as the interim facilities chief.

O’Reilly, 42, is vice president of the Parsons Corp, a Pasadena-based engineering and construction firm. He had been serving as a program director in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, directing construction projects for that nation’s ministries of housing and education. He also previously served as director of new construction for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $28-billion facilities program.

“We are fortunate to have found a person with Jim’s impressive experience and success in handling large-scale building programs and working with educational institutions,” Chancellor Daniel LaVista said in a statement.

The district's rebuilding project was the focus of a Times series last year detailing mismanagement, cost overruns, delays and shoddy work during an ambitious campaign to modernize the district’s nine aging campuses using bond money approved by voters in 2001, 2003 and 2008.

A January report by an independent panel found that the program generally had achieved “a good level of success” in the number of projects that had been completed but that it was hampered by a lack of leadership and accountability and that lax controls allowed large numbers of changes midway through projects.

Since The Times’ reports, the district has undertaken a series of reforms, including imposing a moratorium on new projects, centralizing management and setting new audit procedures.

O’Reilly declined to comment until he assumes the new post but issued a statement:

"I’m thrilled to be back serving the community in an educational environment and building educational institutions,” he said. “The five-plus years I spent at LAUSD involved some of the hardest work I’ve ever experienced but also the most rewarding. I’m now looking forward to the new challenges coming my way.”

O’Reilly earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations and a master’s degree in construction management from Eastern Michigan University.

“With his proven managerial skills, administrative background and the ability to balance the requirements of the construction industry with the needs of educational programs, Jim will be invaluable to the district as our program moves forward,” said Board of Trustees President Miguel Santiago.


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