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Two press conferences were held today pertaining to charges against current and former members of the Sweetwater Union High School District.

At 10:00 a.m., district attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced that charges were filed against five people stemming from an investigation that culminated with raids on the homes of officials on December 20.

Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara, former Sweetwater boardmember Greg Sandoval, and current boardmembers Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa are charged with perjury, filing false documents, and using their “official position to influence a governmental decision in which [they] had reason to know [they] had a financial interest.”

The former program manager for Sweetwater’s Proposition O and Southwestern College’s Proposition R bond construction, Henry Amigable, is charged with “giving a bribe” and “obtaining a thing of value to influence a member of a legislative body.”

During the question-and-answer period, Dumanis referred to the corruption as “systemic and pervasive.” She said that the investigation is continuing and that a hotline will be established later this week to solicit tips that could further the investigation.

Sweetwater interim superintendent Ed Brand called a noon press conference at which he announced that he has suspended all activities with Seville Group, Inc., the construction company that has been overseeing Sweetwater’s Proposition O construction.

Several weeks ago, the San Diego district attorney’s office executed a search warrant on SGI’s Pasadena offices. According to a December 20 Union-Tribune article, Jaime Ortiz, the program manager for Proposition O, said he was informed that his company was “not a target” of the investigation.

At the noon press conference, Brand said that Proposition O construction would continue and would be overseen by Sweetwater’s in-house facilities staff and by the County Office of Education.

Brand, who was Sweetwater’s superintendent from 1995 until 2005, said he came out of retirement to try to put the district back on course. He said he has been part of many great times at Sweetwater, “but today is not one of them.”

Although the alleged corruption cleanup went forward today, discontent continues. Karen Thompson, a teacher who was in attendance at the press conference, stated: “There needs to be more indictments. We need a new superintendent. We need to clean house.”

Fran Brinkman, one of the people who brought this investigation to the DA’s office, said at the press conference that she is still not satisfied. She continues to call on the district and boardmember John McCann to release “the Vega report,” the product of an investigation into the district’s controversial use of public relations professional Scott Alevy.

Pictured: Ed Brand

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Comments

joepublic Jan. 4, 2012 @ 5:36 p.m.

Help me to understand this. The superintendent said that the district will now use their in house staff and the County Office of Education to oversee the bond O construction. Question: Why weren't they being used all along? Wouldn't we have saved a lot of money since we already pay for these public employees? We should permanently keep the pay-to-play business model out of the public service sector.

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anniej Jan. 9, 2012 @ 4:26 p.m.

imagine all of those tax dollars that might have been saved - lets see that is 20% of 644 million - that is a whole lot of dollars.

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angryinsb Jan. 4, 2012 @ 6:13 p.m.

You are so correct and that is what a lot of people have asked this board for many meetings. If we are going to hire an outside firm why do we need in house people working on this? I think Dr. Brand should be doing what SWC is doing and that is admitting there are things going on and conduct an internal investigation, oh wait he can't do that he is part of the cover up....

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joepublic Jan. 4, 2012 @ 6:30 p.m.

angryinsb: Or you could ask, if you already have the in-house people, why hire an outside firm? And, you are so correct, the interim-superintendent, Dr. Brand can't conduct an objective investigation. With everything that's happened, the public is feeling like no one in this district's administration can be trusted.

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cvres Jan. 4, 2012 @ 7:54 p.m.

It's time for the attorney's office to go beyond this point. Good: searches, affidavits, indictments. But--the limited scope of searches and indictments compromises the investigation. Time for this investigation to stop being selective.

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Visduh Jan. 5, 2012 @ 8:18 a.m.

If the corruption is as "pervasive" as Bahnee said, then why is the investigation not looking at two more board members, and a host of other players? Methinks that she is going to limit this, and would have preferred to avoid it altogether. But when the corruption was as blatant as this was, publicity forced her hand.

But still, who'd a thunk it? She actually files dozens of felony charges, and actually goes after Gandara. It would be so nice if that sweetheart buyout he got from the corrupt board could be voided. No more unearned pay, and no CalSTRS pension either. Whooee! Nah, nevahappen.

Today's Light News has the piece reporting on this mentioning that BD credits that paper and its so-called Watchdog reporting as having gotten the ball rolling. WE know that the Reader and the redoubtable Susan Luzzaro were revealing this stuff long before the U-T ever made any mention of it.

Let's see if this prosecutorial effort now goes after Southwestern College, which looks just as corrupt in its own fashion.

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anniej Jan. 5, 2012 @ 8:32 a.m.

what about the audit that is currently under way of the prop o monies? is it going to be as superficial as the previous ones? what will they be auditing, how in depth will this audit be?

john mccann, WHERE IS THE VEGA REPORT?

jim cartmill, john mccann: what about the late contributions to your campaign fund? - you were voted in in 2010 - why did some vendors/contractors continue to donate monies into your campaign in 2011?

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 5, 2012 @ 9:57 p.m.

Visduh, I'm not sure if you heard the dumanis press conference in its entirety but it was interesting when people asked her some of the same questions you are asking.

Thank you for compliment. The Southwestern-Sweetwater continuum has been a long journey--and it's not over yet.

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Fred Williams Jan. 5, 2012 @ 11:19 p.m.

Let me second Visduh in complimenting YOU Susan...the UT rode your coattails on this story and Dumanis is now using it to forward her doomed mayoral campaign (prosecuting ONLY democrats, as usual).

Having read some of the documentation, I cannot see how McCann wasn't indicted too...any thoughts?

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anniej Jan. 6, 2012 @ 8:51 a.m.

would like to piggy back on both of your compliments and add the following - those in the community who began the revolution against the corrupt board often used Ms .Susan Luzzaro's historical articles for information and data.

she was their own little google search, ha ha

seriously, this should show all of us, truth will always prevail; even though sometimes it takes a very long time.

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Burwell Jan. 6, 2012 @ 12:46 p.m.

I think there are many unresolved issues and the investigation needs to be expanded. The investigation should also focus on whether the construction work was performed by illegal aliens, and whether the contractors paid all required social security, medicare, disablity, and other employment taxes to the state. A large percentage of construction workers in San Diego are paid in cash under the table. When the state identifies under the table wage payments, the cases are supposed to be referred to Dumanis for prosecution. I don't think Dumanis is doing anything about this problem because she relies on contributions from the construction industry to fund her campaigns.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 6, 2012 @ 8:15 p.m.

Fred and annie, I very much appreciate your comments--it's important to know that people are reading and thinking about these issues and hopefully that translates into something better for all.

Fred, your question about McCann--and for many people the other board member, Jim Cartmill, is a question that I have heard from many, many people. I have heard that there is more coming down--in terms of warrants. I have heard that it's all is simply in the reporting of donations and gifts. And, of course, there is a lot of discussion about the mayoral elections.

For now, separate from what the district attorney's office will or can do, I think it's important for all of us to use the county registrar of voter's financial disclosure site. The contributions and contributors to Ricasa, McCann and Cartmill in the 2010 elections should be looked at when considering the unfolding Sweetwater travesty.

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anniej Jan. 7, 2012 @ 7:55 a.m.

i would like to respectfully add, if one looks at the voting history of john mccann and jim cartmill it is clearly defined that they voted in favor of those contractors and seville's change orders (management company) EVERY SINGLE TIME. never a question asked by any of the board members, with the exception of board member lopez. she would ask and then the eye rolling and smirks by the other board members and 'the gandara' would begin - those in the audience were appalled at the other board members blatant disrespect towards her.. compare those votes to the contrbutions reported on the registrar of voters website.

dr. brand is now stating that the district will run prop o - i am a bit confused as the paperwork indicates the 'cookie monster' has eaten the remaining 50+ million. what is also confusing is this, we paid seville to manage prop o and yet we had close to 10 district personnel working on the prop o as well. why? while the cfo stated at the november board meeting that 100% of those districts salaries were being paid by prop o, i am skeptical.

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JohnQPublic Jan. 14, 2012 @ 10:50 a.m.

Time to start looking for the good people who were stepped on, damaged by the larcenous pigs. Who was forced out b/c they would not play criminal games with these folks? What redress is correct? This is where the press can help.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 14, 2012 @ 2:13 p.m.

John Q,

That's an interesting perspective. I can be contacted through the reader site by just clicking on my name...then there's the DA's hotline.....

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