Miranda Jacobson, a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, reached out to Trustee Schmitz asking her to provide her perspective on the Duffield Foundation’s decision to terminate the contract with IVGID in September, 2022. While the reporter included a couple of lines from the response, the entire response has been provided below. The reporter also reached out to IVGID Chair Dent with questions. His answers to those questions may be found here.
Below is the content provided to Miranda Jocobson of the Tahoe Daily Tribune:
When IVGID General Manager Indra Winquest first brought the Duffield Foundation offer to work with IVGID on planning a possible expansion to the Recreation Center, I—along with the other IVGID Board trustees—was delighted. We entered into an agreement to co-plan the possible rec center expansion with the Foundation covering design costs.
Because Winquest was a friend of David Duffield, Winquest was the primary negotiator between the Foundation and the IVGID Trustees. In hindsight, I believe we Trustees should have assigned a Trustee (and an attorney) to be part of the negotiations.
As agreed, we began the collaborative effort and hired a design consultant. Staff and the consultants brought forward three designs for the Foundation’s consideration. But the designs were problematic. All three designs showed construction costs higher than the Foundation’s budget limit of $25 million. The board was unaware but was later told the Foundation was upset about the cost estimate overruns and had stopped the project a couple of times in August. According to staff, to save the project, they authorized the consultant to recommend cost reductions that resulted in the elimination of the multi-use gym including basketball courts and other cost reduction design changes without consulting the board. This change of design eliminated features IVGID wanted based on the 2018 IVGID Community Survey and no longer complied with the agreed upon project deliverables.
When I saw the proposed design change and understood the cost estimate issues early September, both Trustee Matthew Dent and I suggested that if the original renovation plans were being scaled back because of cost, perhaps the board should discuss ways IVGID could appropriate funds for the entire project including the gym and activities space.
At the meeting on September 14th, we Trustees discussed our reluctance to scale back the project to include just the amenities the Foundation wanted. And we discussed the idea of District funding to include the additional amenities the community had identified in the survey. Winquest informed us that the Foundation wanted to move the renovation forward without delay. The Board needed to vote on the design at once.
The agenda for the meeting included (1) approval of the design and (2) approval of the letter of support. The first agenda item had no stipulation that a unanimous vote was required. If it was, it would have to have been disclosed to the public in accord with Open Meeting Law. The second agenda item was clear since it included the letter of unanimous support.
When I voted ‘no’ on the approval of the design, I did not know I would scuttle the entire project. I voted ‘no’ on the design to allow the District time to allocate funding that could deliver the multiuse gym. Of course, I voted ‘yes’ on the letter of support. We sent the Foundation the letter of unanimous support, which is what they had asked from the board. In fact, Board Chair Tim Callicrate thanked the Duffield Foundation with the expectation that the letter of unanimous support was all that we needed to move forward.
I was surprised when we were informed that—because of the lack of unanimity on the design vote—the Duffield Foundation was terminating the contract immediately and without recourse. They were unwilling to continue any further negotiations even though the contract they had with IVGID allowed for the trustees to “cure” any reason for contract termination. Days after the termination, both Trustee Dent and I requested the opportunity to “cure the contract” as we had not been informed of the mandate for a unanimous vote on the design. But the Duffield Foundation was unwilling to communicate further. Instead, they began building their own gymnasium on their Ponderosa property, which had apparently been in planning in parallel to the Recreation Center expansion.
The community outcry continues to this day. Most community members blame me alone for the Duffield Foundation backing out. The Foundation had never signed papers authorizing any funds beyond those required for the planning and design process. But community members knew no details and simply saw it as my fault the $25 million donation was never made. In fact, I doubt whether the Foundation or even David Duffield himself was aware of the backstory of the details behind my ‘no’ vote. I did send an email to their contact but heard no response. Admittedly it was that vote that ended the collaboration, but the reason I said ‘no’ was based on errors and misunderstandings. Had there not been a long-standing divisiveness among trustees, perhaps Trustee Wong would not have spearheaded the “blame Sara” campaign with her inflammatory email to the community.
Reviewed by District legal counsel 7/21/2023