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For months, community activists have asked the Sweetwater Union High School board, “Where is the Vega report?”

In May, board president John McCann called for attorney Greg Vega to conduct an independent review of controversial invoices submitted to the district by Alevy Communications, a public relations firm.

The district’s former legal counsel, Bonifacio Garcia, purportedly hired Scott Alevy to work on labor negotiations. However, a Union-Tribune investigation into the invoice found disparities. Some people Alevy claimed to have met with did not recall the meeting; others did not recall that the meeting related to Sweetwater.

At the November 14 board meeting, community activist Kathleen Cheers called again upon the district to release the Vega investigation. Interim superintendent Brand’s calendar, obtained through a public record request, shows Brand met with Vega about the report on November 3.

In a recent interview, Cheers said she was told that the report would not be made public due to attorney-client privilege. She believes the report contains “a smoking gun” and will reveal “that the district tampered with elections.”

Cheers said she wants to know why Alevy met with select 2010 board candidates, including John McCann. She also questions why the district paid Alevy to develop and distribute election trends and meet with “key influencers” when he was hired to work on labor negotiations.

Cheers forwarded her queries to the district attorney’s office, where there is an ongoing investigation into several Sweetwater issues.

Brand did not respond to emails soliciting comment.

Pictured: Scott Alevy

Image: from EastCountyChamber.org video

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Comments

Alex_Anguiano Nov. 17, 2011 @ 10:11 p.m.

The Vega Report has been submitted. The District has refused to provide me with a copy. They are also refusing to provide the DA with a copy unless if they are subpoenaed to do so. If Jim, Arlie, and John, cannot be transparent, perhaps it’s time for them to step down.

What is the Vega Report?

In the last round of negotiations, the District hired two PR firms to assist them with bargaining. The use of these firms was not publicly approved at a school board meeting. Instead, the District’s former chief legal counsel was given the authority to hire these consulting firms to help them to gather information on SEA and to spin a tale that would help them to meet their bargaining objectives. The invoices submitted by one of the firms, Alevy Communications, became public knowledge and contributed to the downfall of our former superintendent. The bills indicate that Alevy Communications went beyond assisting the District in negotiations.

The invoices indicated that the District paid Alevy Communications for assisting the former superintendent to write editorials to help with his family’s troubles in Texas. More shocking was the fact that the bills indicate that the District participated in determining the results of the last school board race. According to the bills, Alevy Communications charged our District for meeting with school board candidate John McCann during his campaign. The District paid for Alevy Communications to have discussions with “Key Influencers” and to meet with a “Key Group” regarding the election. Alevy Communications was also paid to monitor the election on election night and to produce reports.

Jesus Gandara is gone. Good riddance. However, the bigger story of the District’s involvement in the last election has been swept under the rug. If the Alevy Invoices are accurate, the District meddled in the last election and Jim, Arlie, and John should resign immediately so that we can move forward.

The District decided to audit the invoices. At the cost of fifteen thousand dollars, they hired former U.S. Attorney Greg Vega to perform the audit. The report has been submitted. I would like to see it and share it with the SEA membership. It should be an interesting read.

However, keep in mind that the person that the District hired to perform the audit, is the same person “who brokered the contract between the general counsel and the Sweetwater Union High School District” according to the following UT article: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/may/27/attorney-selected-independent-sweetwater-probe-fam/

The invoices were processed by the Finance Department. Instead of disciplining the former head of this department for either the lack of oversight or worse, why has she been rewarded with a consulting position with our District? In some cases, unfortunately, not doing the right thing does pay.

District: What are you trying to hide? How about a little transparency?

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anniej Nov. 17, 2011 @ 11:03 p.m.

alex anguiano:

why were the bills submitted by the districts legal counsel bonny garcia? surely he knew the district was breaking the law when they were paying for candidate meetings, who were the members of the key team? key influencers?

i am thinking IF the finished report was not inflammatory to mccann and other board members that it would have been presented in one of those 'photo ops' mccann is know for.

something is being kept from the taxpayers of the south bay.

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Alex_Anguiano Nov. 18, 2011 @ 6:32 a.m.

The questions that you ask, I have also asked at school board meetings. The reality is that some of the charges on the bills appear to be bogus. I know that the meeting with the Labor Council described on one invoice did not take place. I do believe that the meeting with John McCann and the “Key Influencers” occurred. I would like to see what Vega says in his report. I am also hearing that the request was made to charge twice the amount, 30,000 dollars. That makes me wonder if a request is being made to charge twice as much for the same report or if he discovered something that he believes needs further investigation.

However, whether the invoices are 100 percent accurate is not the point and I hope that accuracy was not the sole purpose of the investigation. The fact is that the bills that were submitted by the former chief legal counsel’s firm. The Human Resource Department and the Finance Department approved the invoices. Our District paid to influence the school board race.

Jim, John, and Arlie should resign.

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anniej Nov. 18, 2011 @ 8:44 a.m.

hopefully the taxpayers of the south bay will take note of this latest issue and realize that the ONLY way change will come is through the VOTING BOOTH.

rumor has it john mccann has his eye on the assembly, interesting since he has told many that chula vista mayor is his primary goal. really? we need mccann in the assembly about as much as we need a hole in the head. mayor, the community of chula vista is looking to continue its aura of integrity, mccann would undoubtedly clog city business up with the same 'pay as you go' politics that is the norm at suhsd.

it is time for the south bay to RID ITSELF of all of those who continue USE public office versus SERVE in public office!!!!!

COMMUNITY MEMBERS VOTE - vote them right out of here - we need representatives that honor integrity and honesty.

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anniej Nov. 17, 2011 @ 10:57 p.m.

not quite understanding why mccann has not come out publicly and explained why he is not holding another press conference to discuss the finding of the vega report. i mean after all he made such a huge point of declaring to all of the tax payers of the south bay that he was going to get to the bottom of the alvey charges. there he sat, declaring to all - so what happened to change his mind? funny, i do not recall him mentioning WHY he met with alvey BEFORE he was voted into office. why is mccann not silent on this issue, didn't he promise us answers - right,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, but remember he was going to 'clean' up suhsd - or at least that was the promise he made to get elected.

the board has the power to release the client/attorney privilege label that they have given the vega report - so why aren't they doing so.

attorney/client privilege - aren't the taxpayers the true client here? i mean it is their tax dollars that paid for the investigation.

IF mccann, cartmill, ricasa do not have something to hide then why aren't they sharing the results with the public. lopez and quinones were NOT up for re election in 2010.

smoking gun? i am thinking more like political suicide - that is why they have become mute on the issue. wondering if allllllllll of those charges billed to the district were legal. i did not think districts were suppose to pay for ANYTHING having to do with favoring one candidate over another EVEN if the candidate is bidding for RE election.

nothing has really changed at sweetwater - gandara may be gone, but the perceived lack of transparency lives on. suhsd' board continues to bury the truth about what is really going on at sweetwater. i noticed they did not get back to you. surprise, surprise!!!!!!

wondering why board member lopez was not asked about this or board member quinonez - lopez is seen as the only board member who is not afraid to speak the truth. would be interested to get her take on this situation.

again ms. luzzarro you continue to keep us informed, we thank you for that.

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Susan Luzzaro Nov. 17, 2011 @ 11:31 p.m.

anniej, I did send an email inviting several board members to comment as well as Dr. Brand. I sent Brand one yesterday and today. You would think he would want to get rid of this hot potato; initially it wasn't his--now he owns it too.

Of the three board members, Lopez was the only one who got back to me and gave me her number. I called several times and emailed. Finally the story needs to be timely.

It took me several board meetings to hear the outcry for the report. One gets jaded and doesn't expect things to be done I guess.

but you make a strong point. the taxpayers paid for this report. they deserve to see it and deserve a district that keeps its promises about transparency.

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anniej Nov. 18, 2011 @ 10:46 a.m.

the community should be most concerned when requests from reporters such as yourself are ignored. the district consistently reacts with a 'why is everybody picking on me' attitude. they fail to take ownership of their own failings. it is important to learn from past mistakes, our board is not capable of this as they refuse to acknowledge the truth. what media story has proven to be false?

a recent article on the districts web site took the media to task - yes, they are using our tax dollars to work on such nonsense. the article was complete with audio, and certain hand picked areas of the conversation with media. perhaps what the district is in need of is a person who will hold up a mirror and simply say "take a look, YES THAT IS WHO YOU REALLY ARE AND THESE ISSUES YOU OWN THEM".

it is indeed frustrating when persons elected by the people, for the people, refuse to answer questions raised by those same people (board meetings).

it is as if our concerns do not matter to the majority of them. board member lopez has consistently shown - with each and every issue, that her focus is on what is good for the students. her voting record says it all. she consistently answers the tough questions, and while one may not always agree with her decisions SHE, at least is willing to hear the public and consider what they have to say.

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Susan Luzzaro Nov. 18, 2011 @ 8:33 a.m.

Too Late to Include in Article but not too late to consider.

Sweetwater board member Bertha Lopez returned my email inquiry for comment after the story was posted. She said she spoke with attorney Greg Vega about the report. According to Lopez, Vega said that although the report is designated attorney-client privilege, the board has the ability to make it public.

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joepublic Nov. 18, 2011 @ 10:02 a.m.

I don't know if anyone's seen the movie "Groundhog Day", in which a reporter (Bill Murray) on assignment to cover Groundhog Day events in Punxsutawny Pennsylvania, finds himself repeating the same day over and over. This seems to be the case in the Sweetwater School District-new day, same old story. While the film is a highly ranked comedy, what's happening in Sweetwater doesn't have the taxpayers laughing. Isn't the Vega report the property of the public? We, through our school board representative (Mr. McCann), ordered the report, paid for it, and received it (in care of our school board). Now we're told we can't know what's in it?! Totally unacceptable! The Sweetwater Board must vote to release this report ASAP!

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cvres Nov. 19, 2011 @ 7:50 a.m.

Didn't John McCann just run for the Sweetwater board last year? Now he's got his eye on the assembly? Hmmmm, doesn't he like the kids?

Why did the Vega report take this long? How do we know he did a thorough investigation--wasn't he the one who hired Garcia?

Where is the Vega report? I want to know if the district tried to spin the vote.

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SWC_Teacher Nov. 19, 2011 @ 5 p.m.

Attorney-client privilege? Bullshit!

The REAL clients here are taxpayers. The SUHSD used our money to hire lawyers to conduct contract negotiations with the faculty union. The lawyers also requested, and were granted, additional money to hire a PR guy.

Because we have an absolute right to know how that public money was spent and on what, the district hired--again, with public money--an investigator to, well, investigate and provide answers to these questions. We have an absolute right to see the results of this taxpayer-funded investigation. Otherwise, how can anyone ever know whether the investigation was up-and-up or a cover-up?

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