The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating West Contra Costa, Calif. United School District and its general obligation bond financings dating back to 2009.
The school district, located 15 miles north of San Francisco, disclosed the probe in an Aug. 7 supplement to the official statement for a $77.46 million GO refunding bond deal, which closed on Wednesday.
The district said it received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents "relating to, among other things, the district's general obligation bonds issued in the years 2009 through 2013 and documents relating to [the] proposed refunding of the district's debt."
In the letter accompanying the subpoena that it sent to the district on Aug. 1, the SEC said the "investigation is a non-public, fact-finding inquiry" and that it is "trying to determine whether there have been any violations of the federal securities laws."
"The investigation and subpoena do not mean that we have concluded that you or anyone else has broken the law," or that [we have] any "negative opinion of any person, entity or security," the SEC said.
The district noted that the SEC also subpoenaed its board president, certain members of its financings team and some of its consultants and advisors.
The school district said it is "unaware of any facts that could have a material adverse impact on the collection of ad valorem property taxes required for the payment of principal of premium, if any, and interest on the bonds."
It is not clear what the SEC is focusing on.
"I have no idea what the SEC is pursuing," said Charles T. Ramsey, president of the school district, said in a brief interview on Friday.
Ramsey said he has been on the school board for 21 years. He is currently running for a Richmond, Calif. city council seat and only has three months left on the board. He had been running for Mayor of the city, but decided a few months ago to become a candidate for city council.
One source who did not want to be identified said the probe may involve pay-to-play allegations. Local media have published stories saying that Ramsay received political contributions from construction and other firms awarded business on bond-financed projects.
Ramsay said he has received contributions from broker-dealers in the past, but they were not hired as underwriters. He said he doesn't know if the SEC has asked for campaign contribution records.
"I'm not the subject of the investigation, the school district is," he said.
The school district has issued capital appreciation bonds, which have been a controversial, particularly in California. The refunding deal that just closed would refund previously issued CABs, as well as tax-exempt bonds.
The Bond Buyer reported last month that a Contra Costa County, Calif. civil grand jury found WCCUSD and six other county school districts had issued CABs and released a report urging them not to sell any more. California lawmakers have also adopted legislation limiting school districts' issuances of CABs. In addition, the official statement for the refunding deal discloses that a representative of a local taxpayer association has threatened to sue the school board over CABs issuances, but the district said it is no longer issuing CABs.
WCCUSD has also failed to meet some of its continuing disclosure obligations. The OS for the refunding deal said the district committed to filing interim financial reports in continuing disclosure agreements executed in 2009, but failed to file the second ones for fiscal years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012 and was late filing its second interim report for fiscal year 2013-2014.