To avoid the "appearance of impropriety," the Hesperia Unified School District school board should revisit their decision to have a relatively inexperienced firm oversee the construction of Oak Hills High School, an attorney for the district said Saturday.

Attorney Tristan Pelayes, of the Riverside-based law firm Wagner & Pelayes, made the comments during a special Saturday morning meeting of the school board. Pelayes had conferred with board members in a closed-doors session earlier in the day, and announced his recommendations when the public portion of the meeting resumed.

"I sat here when the three companies gave their concerns," Pelayes said, referring to representatives of Barnhart, Lundgren Management and Vanir Construction Management, each a company that had hoped to win the contract to build Oak Hills High School. The representatives had presented their concerns and suggestions to the board prior to the closed-doors portion of the meeting. "They've raised at least the appearance of impropriety."

At their June 19 meeting, the school board voted 3-2 to have Rancho Cucamonga-based WLC Construction Services oversee the construction of Oak Hills High School, despite the firm being rated the lowest of all the responding companies that had answered the district's request for proposals (RFP).

WLC had the highest fee for building the $105 million high school. The firm also has the least amount of experience in the field, has never completed a high school, and was the only firm to indicate students could not attend classes on the new campus until the 2010-2011 school year, instead of in the 2009-2010 school year. The firm was also the lowest-rated by district facilities staff scoring the proposals.

In the wake of the decision, Lundgren Management -- which had submitted the least expensive proposal -- and Barnhart Inc. -- which had the highest-rated proposal -- each sent a letter to the school district, protesting the decision.

Both had representatives at Saturday's school board meeting -- which was primarily a workshop to discuss the budgeting process for the school district -- as did the San Bernardino office of Vanir Construction Management, which had been ranked in second place in both price and as evaluated by HUSD staff.

Vanir Vice-President Dave Anderson spoke before the board, registering his company's concerns.

"We just had a concern over the selection process. We didn't think it was properly handled in terms of the final selection," Anderson said Monday. "Our hope would be that they would validate their RFP process by interviewing the top-ranked firms in each category, the top three ranked firms in each category."

Although none of the companies made a threat of imminent legal action, the letter from Barnhart's general counsel laid out a very specific and court-ready legal argument against the school board's decision to entrust the project to WLC, including a suggestion that the board had violated state government code.

Pelayes recommended that the board reconsider their decision to go with WLC. Although the board will not make a formal decision until their next meeting, Pelayes said, "the feeling that I got is that they will follow that recommendation."

The next meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will be held on July 23 at 6 p.m. at Sultana High School.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.