Antioch school district sued by energy company for nearly $400K, former mayor fired after finding city overcharged schools $100K for water

ANTIOCH —  An energy conservation company is suing Antioch Unified School District, claiming the school district abruptly ended its contract, kicked its representative out and refused to speak with the firm.

In May of 2013, AUSD entered a five-year contract with Dallas-based Cenergistic LLC, formerly known as Energy Education LLC, to “build and provide a customized energy conservation program that focused on organizational change and behavioral change,” according to the complaint.

“Our program has saved nearly $2 million to date, which we think was substantial,” said Matt Bower, P.E., the executive vice president of client operations at Cenergistic. “We were hoping we could reduce further and we needed administration and support from the district to commit to energy conservation.”

Superintendent Stephanie Anello referred all comments on this case to AUSD attorney Louis Leone of the Leone & Alberts law firm in Walnut Creek. Leone did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Under the contract, when the district saved money on energy, from behavioral management programs such as turning lights off in the school, Cenergistic received 45 percent of the total energy savings each month.

The relationship placed an energy specialist in the school to handle day-to-day management of the energy programs. That energy specialist was former Antioch Mayor Jim Davis, who worked there months after unsuccessfully running for City Council in November 2012.

On May 1 of this year, Associate Superintendent Teresa Santamaria emailed a letter to Cenergistic terminating the five-year contract at the four-year mark, which Cenergistic alleges was a breach of the contract.

“(Jim Davis) notified us he had been requested to leave the premises of the district and was asked to return his keys, his badges and everything he was doing to be an effective energy specialist,” Bower said.

It’s unclear what the district’s exact reasons were for terminating the contract, but Bower said that they expressed “some challenges with our program” as part of it.

Davis said that he found numerous instances of waste in the district, from schools being air-conditioned on the weekends, to water leaks underground at Marsh Elementary that would run down the street during the drought period.

Davis said that he also saw oddities between the water meters at different school sites and eventually found that the city of Antioch was overcharging the school district for water to the tune of $100,891.32. The money was refunded in May of 2016.

“I found that money, I have the check and it was bragging rights because it helped me do my job and get promoted,” Davis said. “In hindsight, those kinds of things probably embarrassed them.”

It’s unclear if the school district’s 10 sites were the only customers overcharged by the city of Antioch. A call to city manager Ron Bernal was not returned Friday afternoon.

Checks showing that the city of Antioch overcharged the Antioch Unified School District $100,891.32 on their water bills at all school sites. The money was refunded by the city of Antioch in May of 2016. 

Davis has since been terminated from his position at Cenergistic. He is considering to run for a position on the school board in November.

Cenergistic is asking for “not less than” $392,009, plus interest, and for the cost the lawsuit and attorney’s fees to be reimbursed. The sum is the combination of a $232,200 early termination fee, $89,201 in unpaid performance sharing savings for April, May and June of this year and $70,608 from the 45 percent of savings from their “QuickStart” program.

Bower said that they have tried numerous times to speak with the district, but that after the termination letter was sent, AUSD officials went “completely silent.”


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