The first signatories of a petition to recall Sweetwater Union High School District trustees Jim Cartmill, John McCann, and Arlie Ricasa gathered at a press conference in front of the district office on the evening of April 16.
The recall committee, formed by members of the activist group named Occupy Sweetwater, had petitions available for Cartmill and Ricasa; however, the petition for McCann is in the final stages of approval at the San Diego County Registrar’s office.
Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara and former boardmember Greg Sandoval have been indicted by the district attorney for various charges related to what has been described as a pay-to-play culture in the district. Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quiñones also face charges but continue to serve as trustees.
Speaking for the recall group, Stewart Payne, one of the five people who initially took complaints to the district attorney’s office, told the assembled press that the trustees should be recalled for “failing to act in the best interest of students.” Payne articulated a number of reasons for the recall effort, including: failure to fire for cause a superintendent that abused his district-issued credit card; improper hiring practices and mismanagement in the cafeteria department that resulted in loss of nearly $500,000.
A major concern for the recall group is campaign contributions from contractors and vendors in the 2008 elections of Cartmill, McCann, and Ricasa. To dramatize the concept, one of the recall group’s members dressed as a contractor and wandered through the crowd handing out cash.
March 31 affidavits released by the district attorney’s office recount this story in connection with campaign contributions and contractors: “He [Hector Romero, president of HAR Construction] additionally reported being with [former] Superintendent Gandara in Mexico when Superintendent Gandara contacted SGI Program Manager Jaime Ortiz [manager in charge of Prop O construction] and solicited a $20,000 contribution to Jim Cartmill’s campaign for SUHSD School Board. Romero also advised that SGI made a $12,500 contribution to John McCann’s campaign for the school board.”
Petitioners enclosed in their recall information a list of campaign contributions. According to the list, Cartmill received a total of $81,500 from district vendors, McCann received $51,750, and Ricasa $54,600.