Bay Area/ San Jose/ Politics & Govt
Published on March 07, 2023
Santa Clara County cancels plagiarized history book project which costs taxpayers $1 milPhoto Credit: Canva

A partly plagiarized history book that was being written about local governments and Native Americans in Silicon Valley, the subject of a mini-scandal last year, has now been canceled, according to the Mercury News. Hoodline reported in July of last year that the project's astronomical price tag ended up costing Santa Clara County taxpayers more than $1 million. The latest move to end the project adds one of the final chapters to the saga that has been underway since 2018, when author Jean McCorquodale was awarded a no-bid contract worth half a million dollars. A year later, the contract was extended another $510,000. 

The 580-page book was finally completed in January of last year, two years late, which McCorquodale claims were due to pandemic delays. There were also concerns about copyrighted historical images that were used. The book was never released and was put on hold in June after a Mercury News investigation revealed that as much as 20% of the book had been plagiarized from sources like Wikipedia, the History Channel, the Mercury News, the Washington Post, and county web pages. The newspaper used the plagiarism software, Scribbr, which revealed text that was apparently pretty much verbatim to the other sources. The book had been in limbo until word of its complete cancellation.

“It’s a lot of money to end up with no product. I guess it is probably the right decision to cancel it. I hope they can recoup at least some of the money,” historical resources consultant Charlene Duval told The Mercury News.

No one is saying what comes next and whether the county will try to get some of the contract money back from McCorquodale, who is the wife of former Santa Clara County Supervisor and former State Senator Dan McCorquodale. Jean McCorquodale has been working as a grant writer for the county since 1995 and apparently had no formal experience writing textbook-style material. That led to major questions about why she was originally awarded a no-bid contract for the project and why no other authors or historians were considered for it. County officials had argued that McCorquodale’s writing of successful grant proposals qualified her for the job.

Once the plagiarism had been revealed, Supervisor Otto Lee demanded an investigation into how much taxpayer money had been used by the county. Shortly after, emails from top county officials revealed that they had actually bent some bidding rules to give the contract to McCorquodale. County officials are likely now weighing their legal options, but so far, there is no word about any lawsuits or other actions.