The Patterson Joint Unified School District chose to ratify a consulting contract with the California School of Investigation for $100 an hour with a retainer fee of $14,900 before the hourly fee kicks in.
The California School of Investigation is owned by Gary Ermoian of Modesto, a private investigator who was the subject of a federal obstruction of justice conviction that was later overturned in the 9th United States Court of Appeals regarding a racketeering case at a motorcycle shop in Denair from 2008, according to the Modesto Bee.
“The court acquitted me. I was found legally and factually innocent in that matter,” he said. “I was doing my job as an investigator. I’m not going to into how some government officials lied about the matter. Many facts were reported incorrectly and falsely in the Bee.”
Ermoian said he was charged with obstruction of justice for a law that doesn’t exist. He said he was simply protecting a defense right to confidentiality in counsel.
The private investigation firm will assist in developing a new security department for the school system, according to Assistant Superintendent Shawn Posey, which will consist of a supervisor and two security guards—all of whom will be unarmed.
“It will give us more coverage,” he said. “All told, it will be a little more expensive but with three times the personnel.”
Posey said the costs immediately were not known, but pointed out that instead of having one police officer, the school will have three security guards.
The school district currently pays $90,000 a year and occupies 70 percent of a full-time police officer’s schedule from Patterson Police Services for the school year.
The city picks up the tab on the officer for the summer while school is out.
Patterson Police Chief Tori Hughes said she first learned of the plan in late February and received an email regarding the matter from Superintendent Phil Alfano Feb. 28, the Friday before the school board decision was made. She said she hadn’t been informed of the matter prior.
“He has never talked to city staff,” she said.
Hughes said the plan was a risk.
“I would never condone putting the safety of our children at risk,” she said. “It is a matter of seconds between life and death.”
Hughes pointed out that the trend to add highly trained armed personnel to schools around the country is due to the recent rash of school shootings over the last few years.
Posey said one unarmed guard would be posted at Creekside Middle School, one at Patterson High School with one supervisor roaming all of the campuses.
Nick Rappley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 568-9975.