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On January 4, Sweetwater Union High School interim superintendent Ed Brand suspended the services of Seville Group, Inc, the program manager for Proposition O. Managing $644 million of bond construction money, the company came into the district on the coattails of former superintendent Jesus Gandara — who was indicted this week.

Several weeks prior to the December 20 searches executed by the district attorney’s office on the homes of current and former Sweetwater boardmembers, Seville’s Pasadena office was searched. Jaime Ortiz, the program manager in charge of Proposition O, told the Union-Tribune in December that his company “was not a target.”

Seville received a $16.4 million contract to manage Proposition O construction for three years, starting in 2010. Sweetwater’s contract with Seville shows that Ortiz was paid $184 an hour in 2010 and was scheduled to be paid $203 an hour in 2012. His billing for 2010 came in at 1037 hours.

Ortiz sits as a director on the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce.

The district attorney’s affidavits detail Seville’s aggressive courting of Gandara and Sweetwater boardmembers; they were allegedly given everything from expensive dinners to Rose Bowl tickets.

Community members have pointed to the sizable campaign contributions made by Seville in the November 2010 elections: Jim Cartmill, $20,000; John McCann, $12,500; and Arlie Ricasa, $10,000.

Under “Evidence of wrongdoing,” the district attorney’s affidavits offer contribution details provided by Hector Romero, president of HAR construction: “He [Romero] reported being with Superintendent Gandara in Mexico when Superintendent Gandara contacted SGI Program Manager Jaime Ortiz and solicited a $20,000 contribution to Jim Cartmill’s campaign for SUHSD School Board. Romero also advised [the investigating attorney] that SGI made a $12,500 contribution to John McCann’s campaign for the school board…”

According to an article today, January 7, in the U-T, Ortiz attended a South Bay fundraiser for boardmember Pearl Quiñones after the district attorney's criminal probe had begun.

In a statement in July 2011, Yehudi Gaffen of Gafcon, Inc, a company that also does program management, told the Reader about his experience with contract bidding in Sweetwater: “We were selected by a handpicked, blue-ribbon panel to be the program manager for Proposition O, and then we were unselected by Gandara.”

Gaffen went on to liken the construction culture in the South Bay to “Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.”

Pictured: Jaime Ortiz

Image from chulavistachamber.org

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Comments

LaLucha Jan. 7, 2012 @ 10:48 p.m.

"Community members have pointed to the sizable campaign contributions made by Seville in the November 2010 elections: Jim Cartmill, $20,000; John McCann, $12,500; and Arlie Ricasa, $10,000."

WHEN will Cartmill and McCann be investigated? Ricasa is being scraped over the coals. Quinones is dealing with accusations. Sandoval is also under investigation. HOW do the two white guys get off with no investigation? Cartmill is the worst of all the board members. Look at his ownership of the fake vitamin business. Donsbach is going in prison for ten years and Cartmill owns it now. Why is he being protected? Did he give information about the others, so now he is exempt? Is Brand protecting him? Sweetwater is paying Brand over $20,000 a MONTH to be superintendent AND he is still collecting a HUGE retirement. These sharks are all swimming together. Meanwhile the classrooms are still OVERCROWDED in Sweetwater, programs are being slashed right and left, and there is no money for soap in the student bathrooms. A school with 1400 students has only TWO custodians. There is no money for Kleenex for kids to wipe their noses in class when they sneeze. GET these CROOKS out of Sweetwater District Office now. Keep flushing the toilet until they are all gone. The money is to be SPENT ON EDUCATING our YOUTH.

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Gail Powell Jan. 8, 2012 @ 8:02 a.m.

@LaLucha I think you are right about McCann & Cartmill being protected. The Republican D.A. is cherry-picking defendants, as she always does. Or it could be the two white guys have decided to turncoat and rat out the Hispanics? I think I will never vote YES on another school bond measure, after I have now read all these stories about the shameless pandering for money by all these so-called "public servants." The only thing they serve is themselves!

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 13, 2012 @ 10:18 a.m.

Yeah, the Log Cabin DA looks selective up to this point. Trying to show her best face for the electorate.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 10:35 a.m.

the question that needs to be asked of john mccann at the next and every board meeting by EVERY SPEAKER stepping up to that podium is "WHERE IS THE VEGA REPORT, mr mccann - why are you keeping a report from us that we paid for - what are you hiding?"

also cartmill needs to be called out publicly for all of those donations he received and then turned around and voted in favor of the very companies that made the contributions.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:06 p.m.

it was discovered that the pr firms of alvey and focuscom were evidently submitting bills thru the districts legal counsel vs directly to the district. in doing this the bills were 'hidden' from site. a review of the alvey bills indicated that 'some?' of the meetings alvey claimed to have had in which he discussed sweetwater business either never occurred or sweetwater was never discussed. sooooooooo, john mccann, little man who wants to be king, steps us as the board president and states in an interview that he was calling for an independent investigation to be headed by a mr. vega.

well low and behold, what has been discovered is that john mccann met with alvey to discuss district business prior to being elected to the board. hmmmmmmm, now why would alvey be meeting with mccann.

in any event the vega report as it is now called is delivered to the district - but john mccann is now refusing to release it. was quoted as saying he would only release it IF he was served with a subpoena. now why would that be? what is in that report that he does not want the taxpayers to know - remember our tax dollars paid for the report.

how did i find out that he met with alvey? - well bonny garcia, the districts legal counsel, is being sued by his partner ruiz. i have reviewed that law suite and within the case are copies of the alvey bills and that is where i found the meeting between mccann and alvey. and here is a tidbit for you ruiz is alleging that garcia used company funds to 'influence' the district elections. imagine that?!!!!!!????

hope i was able to explain.

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angryinsb Jan. 8, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

Ms. Lazarro another story very well done!

I think to myself if SGI gave the district all the money they donated to these fools campaigns that would add up to a salary of one or two teachers. Then if they gave the money they spent on all the expensive dinners for these greedy people we could have fed hundreds of hungry students for years.

Just to let the public know this has been going on for over a decade this is not a new way of doing business at Sweetwater. What a shame that this board past and present never thinks about the students they were elected to protect and educate. What a shame the kids always suffer at the hands of greedy adults!

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:34 p.m.

just think of this, what if all of that seville money had been donated to many and it would have paid for many, good underprivileged students supplies? oh, but dummy me if forgot, the students do not vote for who gets the contracts do they? the board members do all of the voting, and THAT IS WHY SEVILLE DUMPED ALL OF THAT MONEY INTO THE BOARD MEMBERS CAMPAIGNS.

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cvres Jan. 8, 2012 @ 7:32 a.m.

Gandara raises money for Cartmill while in Mexico? Didn't this little expedition raise the DA's eyebrows? I agree with La Lucha.

Another question I have, why are campaign donations clean just because you report them? Don't they affect the way the board member votes?

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:39 p.m.

yes, i hear they were down there 'playing' 'the gandara' allegedly pulled out his phone and called seville stating, not asking, that money be placed in a certain board members campaign coffer. any guesses which board member?

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joepublic Jan. 8, 2012 @ 9:01 a.m.

Thank you San Diego Reader for bringing attention to Cartmill and McCann. You've got to wonder why the DA hasn't. It's been rumored that McCann is considering a run for assembly, city council, or mayor of Chula Vista. Can he use money left over from the stash he got from the contractors?

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Visduh Jan. 8, 2012 @ 9:51 a.m.

In most local school districts, I cannot imagine school board candidates taking fat contributions from contractors of any kind. But when there is a possibility of doing business with the contractor, or when the district is actually in a contractual relationship with that contractor, that is most inappropriate, even if it is legal. But what are voters thinking when they vote for these candidates who disclose the source of funds? Sadly, the answer is that the So Bay voters are not thinking at all, and head into the booth utterly uninformed. Add to that the ease with which school districts now can pass bond issues, and you have the perfect recipe for this sort of rampant corruption.

Likening the culture in that district to Chicago in the 20's and 30's is apt. The only thing left out was that the Chicago culture continued in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, and may for all I know still be there today. And that tells a lot about voters and what they think about corruption and waste of public funds.

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Pancho Jan. 8, 2012 @ 10:24 a.m.

Nicely investigated piece Susan. It appears there's a lot more information that will be discovered that shows a negligence in handling public funds.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 10:32 a.m.

i would like to recommend that all 'READER' readers go to the San Diego Taxpayer Association and recommend Ms. Luzzaro for her excellent coverage of not only sweetwater but southwestern as well. Golden Fleece Awards

recommendations need to be made by the end of this month.

also i would like to offer up that suhsd be recommended as well, many of you will remember they received an award for wasting the taxpayers money last year, hopefully with your votes we can make it 2.

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Burwell Jan. 8, 2012 @ 12:34 p.m.

It is possible that Cartmill and McCann did not take gratuities from the contractors in exchange for their vote. One would have to be an idiot to commit a felony in exchange for a few thousand dollars in free meals and tickets to sporting events. I believe that Dumanis would prosecute the Anglo board members if there was evidence against them. Cartmill and McCann are not well known. The Republican power elite could care less if Cartmill and McCann are prosecuted and would do nothing to help them. Neither of them are rising stars.

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Visduh Jan. 9, 2012 @ 11:03 a.m.

Burwell, you have much more confidence in BD than I do. Her record in the city of SD is ignoring plenty of corruption, even refusing to prosecute when the case is handed to her office, all wrapped and tied with a ribbon. I remain rather astounded that she's gone as far with this situation as she has. But she won't get the goods on Cartmill or McCann unless she investigates them, and so far their homes and offices have not been searched.

I agree with you that you would have to be an idiot to commit a felony in exchange for free meals and entertainment, but there are idiots all round the nation who do just that sort of thing every day. And every day they are removed from office, end up with criminal records, go to prison, and get whacked with big fines. So, what's to say that these crooks in So Bay aren't idiots? At the very least they are products of a culture that says when in a position of authority, you need not worry about little things like laws against graft, selling one's vote, and so on.

The sheer outrageousness of that board giving Gandara a credit card, and allowing him to use it any way he saw fit, should not be lost on So Bay voters. He used it to curry favor with the very board that was allowing him to misuse money. Oh, it was for "outreach" to the community, or so it was described, and I suppose the board members are part of the community. That's one of the reasons why ALL the board members need to be recalled or voted out--if they are not removed when convicted of these crimes. They are all dirty, dirty, dirty, and far too dirty to ever be made clean.

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Alex_Anguiano Jan. 8, 2012 @ 1:10 p.m.

From: Alejandro Anguiano Sent: Sunday, January 08, 2012 12:50 PM To: BoardMembers Subject: Agenda Item F-8 from the December 12th School Board Meeting

Dear Members of the School Board,

At the December 12th School Board meeting, the Board had the opportunity to discuss and approve campaign contribution limits. The agenda item was F-8. Although all members of the public spoke in favor of the resolution, the item was not discussed by the Board as it did not receive a motion for discussion. I hope that you now understand that the public has a genuine interest in seeing campaign reform.

I request that you place this item on the agenda for the January 30th school board meeting. I also request that one of you move the item for discussion (or approval) and that another one of you second the motion.

I also request that the next school board meeting occur at a facility that can physically accommodate the members of the public and the media that will likely attend.

Thank you,

Alex Anguiano

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 7:53 p.m.

you might want to put this comment up on ut as well.

you are aware that sweetwater is a go right? meeting on thursday.

is there any way we can change location of meeting on the 30th - why isn't it being held at a more central location?

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 8, 2012 @ 3:15 p.m.

Pancho, thanks for the compliment and thanks for asking about the Vega report.

When Gandara was superintendent, the district hired through their attorney (Bonifacio Garcia) two public relations firms with principals Scott Alevy and Dan Hom. (Alevy being a former CV council member and Hom a former council candidate.)

Anyway, the firms were hired to work on labor negotiations but in a good investigative piece the UT found that people who Alevy billed for meeting with said they had not met with him or the content of the meeting was different.

The invoice from Alevy also says he met with three candidates for the Sweetwater board (this was just prior to the Nov 2010 elections.) Some people allege election tampering.

Board President McCann ordered an investigation by an attorney named Vega. The board has the Vega report but has refused so far to release it. Releasing it would help clear the air. Written in haste, tell me if it's not clear. Susan

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 8, 2012 @ 7:55 p.m.

Burwell, In response to your comment:

Cartmill and McCann are not well known. The Republican power elite could care less if Cartmill and McCann are prosecuted and would do nothing to help them. Neither of them are rising stars.

McCann is perhaps on the Republican map, and a possible rising star. He ran for California Assembly in 2008 and for Sweetwater Union in 2010. Both times he was given a great deal of support by the Lincoln Club.

People say, though of course people say a lot of things, that he is planning on running for assembly again, and beyond that mayor of Chula Vista.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:16 p.m.

and if the Republican party chooses to back john mccann in any future political endeavor they are choosing to loose face with many who have chosen to belong/become a Republican/join the Republican party. if mccann is the best they have to offer, well, what can i say. sweetwater is going to follow mccann, people have a very long memory and they will NEVER forget that he broke his promise to do his best to steer sweetwater right and chose instead to go over to the dark side all; for the benefit of those thousands of dollars in campaign funds.

the secretary of the republican party commented on the UT boards just this week - "all politicians should serve 3 terms, 2 in office and 1 in behind bars". wow, if your own secretary is making such comments what does that say about your party? it was an interesting comment since he and mccann are suppose to be friends. this same person also chose to speak in front of the southwestern board asking for an investigation into ricasa. they put her on leave with pay.

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 13, 2012 @ 10:22 a.m.

McCan't is an immigration restrictionist and anti-labor. It is completely BEYOND me how he ever got elected in the District!

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 8, 2012 @ 8:04 p.m.

fooforever,

You say you will never vote for a bond again and certainly the background to the recent bonds continues to pile up. It's really unfortunate because if a school needed to be retrofitted or whatever our inclination would be to say yes. I would go for a bond that had direct classroom impact -- class size, aides in the classroom, etc. It's a sad state of affairs.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:19 p.m.

with all due respect Ms. Luzzaro, the public has lost all confidence in the Sweetwater Board and their INTERIM superintendent brand. there is no trust, everyone including brand who promised to clean it up simply chose instead to follow the money.

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anniej Jan. 8, 2012 @ 11:30 p.m.

i have two points of interest that i would like to share:

while dr. brand stated that he was suspending sweetwater u, he really did not mean it - you have to analyze his exact words. he evidently is suspending the building of sweetwater u, but has chosen to continue with the ridiculous idea. a meeting regarding this issue will be held this coming thursday. check board docs for time.

the board meeting is being held january 30th at the national city community center. now this is perplexing since our prop o bond monies just paid for a brand new performing arts center built at chula high. chula high would be central to the community and thereby easily accessed by more members of the community. why board president quinones and dr brand chose National City is confusing. of course our minds go back to the night 'the gandara' was retired - they held that meeting in the southwest high gym, and let me tell you that 7 hours on those benches were tough. perhaps the board is hoping to limit the number in attendance since most likely there will NOT be enough room for all of the media as well as the community. i am told that is just what they are hoping for, apathy from the community. i am hoping that this small location does NOT keep people away as they hope. i am calling for many many taxpayers to come and be heard, even if you do not live in the area. we need to send a message that they have awakened a sleeping giant - the parents and taxpayers - we realize we have a job to do, and that job is to clean house. corruption will no longer be tolerated. help the cause and call the district to ask for a change of venue - ask for chula high - it is after all centrally located.

while there please ask john mccann "where is the vega report?" while there demand that the district begin an immediate search for a new superintendent - one we can trust. when the say there is no money ask why was there enough for brand to hire all of those consultants.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 9, 2012 @ 9:29 a.m.

I just spoke with two people who were offering food for thought on the Vega report. Each of them pointed to the fact that the Vega report was done by an attorney who had defended the district before the grand jury (Vega) and constructed the contact for GCR former district counsel. These people, who were not from the Sweetwater district, were suggesting that another investigation might be in order of the material.

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Razon Jan. 9, 2012 @ 11:02 a.m.

Quote from the end of the article: In a statement in July 2011, Yehudi Gaffen of Gafcon, Inc, a company that also does program management, told the Reader about his experience with contract bidding in Sweetwater: “We were selected by a handpicked, blue-ribbon panel to be the program manager for Proposition O, and then we were unselected by Gandara.”

Gaffen went on to liken the construction culture in the South Bay to “Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.”

Unbelievable chutzpah out of Gafcon and Yehudi Gaffen specifically. He understands the culture because it is his standard operating procedure. Check his record of political contributions and check how much money he has pulled out of projects like The Orange County Great Park in Irvine and for several Community College Districts. At the OCGP, Gaffen took millions of dollars out of the project with questionable deliverables, didn't pay somesubs, and gave lots of the cash back to local politicians to keep the pay coming in...

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anniej Jan. 9, 2012 @ 11:31 a.m.

so what you are saying is that both seville and gafcon are 'pay to play' companies?

if one had a choice i guess 'the gandara' believed he could manipulate seville more.

as a side note i am wondering why in the world certain companies would have contributed monies to john mccann and jim cartmill's campaigns AFTER they won the election? let's see they took office in january of 2011 and it appears in march more monies are contributed - then reported in june. i think we need educate all of the fine readers of this paper with the names of those companies and the dates of those contributions...............

while it is true that donating monies is NOT illegal, receiving those monies and then turning around and voting for the very same company to be awarded a contract, hmmmmmmmmm 'houston we have another problem over at sweetwater'

now what was that number to bonnie dumanis??????????????????

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joepublic Jan. 9, 2012 @ 5:59 p.m.

Razon: And this is why we have to figure out a way to get private enterprise out of the public service sector.

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anniej Jan. 9, 2012 @ 6:33 p.m.

perhaps if TRUE public servants ran for the Board positions, focusing on the education of our youth, we the taxpayers would not find ourselves in this mess.

it is time for us to do more than push a piece of cardboard thru a hole and think we have done our civic duty. we must take the time to become informed - and informed means more than voting for the person who had the most signs along our neighborhood streets.

again i ask, when was the last time any of us attended a board meeting or listened to them on line?

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AndrewSphincterstein Jan. 13, 2012 @ 1:42 p.m.

Wow $203.00 an hour thats a shame close to half a million a year, for what? what is so difficult about his job? Just a glorified project manager

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