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A tipster recently brought to the Reader’s attention the fact that Calexico Unified School District is beginning to look like Sweetwater Union High School District.

To begin with, Calexico’s district counsel is GCR, LLP, the attorney firm that recently was suspended by Sweetwater’s interim superintendent Ed Brand. The firm used to include Bonifacio Garcia, Yuri Calderon, and Rogelio Ruiz. However, Ruiz is now suing his former partners for, among other things, “making thousands of dollars in political contributions to favored political candidates in an effort to influence government officials…,” according to court papers filed in Santa Clara County in April of 2011.

Yuri Calderon of GCR was hired as Calexico district council in January 2011. Shortly after GCR was hired, Eric Hall and Associates was hired by the district to work as a financial consultant.

Hall & Associates was also recently contracted by Sweetwater Union to conduct an audit of Proposition O funds and came under fire for using David Randolph to conduct the audit. Randolph had worked with Seville Group, Inc., the suspended Proposition O bond program manager.

Bond money caused problems in Calexico as well. In 2004, Calexico's Measure J, a $30 million construction bond, was passed. A 2010-2011 Imperial County Civil Grand Jury stated that they had “uncovered irregularities” in Measure J spending.

In a January 16 interview, Diana Harvey, a Calexico teacher, said, “In April of last year, Calexico Unified began an audit into Measure J spending. But on October 27, before the results of the audit were even made available to the public, a new bond proposal was brought before the board which named Calderon and Hall as those responsible for the bond.”

Board minutes from October 27 indicate that Calderon advised the board, “The proposed bond would consolidate both bonds and any costs incurred would be borne by the bond funds, and there would be no cost to the District if the bond was not approved by the community.”

The board voted down consideration of the bond measure. However, on December 14, 2010, the Imperial Valley Press reported that “Calexico Unified School District directed its superintendent to find an accounting firm outside the community to conduct a forensic audit of Measure J funds as well as to ask the District Attorney's Office to review implications of fraud related to the misuse of Measure J funds.”

On January 12, 2012, the Calexico board voted down trustee Joong S. Kim’s resolution to terminate the services of GCR. In the same board meeting they voted to censure Kim for “unprofessional behavior.”

Yuri Calderon is closely tied to the unfolding Sweetwater/Southwestern saga. Calderon was treasurer for a political action committee that operated out of Garcia’s office. The committee, called Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay, was a political action committee that made generous contributions to Sweetwater and Southwestern boardmembers.

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Comments

anniej Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:13 p.m.

i have seen the law suit that ruiz has filed. in it, one of his contentions is that calderon and garcia used firm funds to influence the 2010 elections (paraphrasing).

well, well, well, eric hall & assoc. looks like the 'independent' audit that brand called for at that december meeting was a bunch of bull. nothing independent about hall at all apparently.

need i say what needs to be communicated to brand and the board at the next meeting? eric hall & assoc. NEEDS TO GO.

new bond issue, hmmm, isn't that the same nonsense that JOHN MCCANN and DR. BRAND wanted us to hook our wagons to?

can SOMEONE, ANYONE explain why sacramento has not driven down here padlocked the district office doors???????????

this is going to end up being the largest political corruption case southern california has ever seen.

hopefully Bonnie Dumanis is going to read this article. Oh My Goodness, that 13,000 pages of discovery is growing by the day.

i have been raising the yellow warning flag, along with others, for the past 2 + years regarding gcr. my opinion of him has long been - bonny garcia, corruptor at law.

my fellow taxpayers, the next time the district states they have no money - believe them, all of the money appears to have been directed where it should not haven been.

and which recently elected board members took thousands from laura martinez, good old bonnie's wife? ah, that would be JOHN MCCANN, JIM CARTMILL, and ARLIE RICASA (one of the board members recently indicted who is treating her legal woes as a joke with all of her 'i love arlie' pink buttons. ms. ricasa, you are NOT running for home coming queen - you are indicted on how many counts?????????????????????????????? then there is bonnie garcia's ''''group''''' citizens for good government who also donated monies to those board members mentioned above.

"ah, hello is this the FBI? you might to send a few more DOZEN agents to look into this sweetwater corruption case; looks like we have another piece of the puzzle for you"!!!

ms. luzzaro i will be contacting you regarding some information i have just discovered.

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Wabbit Jan. 19, 2012 @ 7:29 a.m.

Anniej, thank you for your detailed information and most of all, your persistence!

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desertwaverat Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:26 p.m.

Here is another disturbing fact.

As reported in the July 1, 2011 San Diego Union-Tribune.

Calderon used to be general counsel to Southwestern Community College District.

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2011/jul/01/southwestern-colleges-pays-18k-investigate-22k-mai/?print&page=all

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:28 p.m.

anniej, I look forward to hearing from you and thanks for your many witty comments and information sharing.

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anniej Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:35 p.m.

i must say i so enjoy reading your articles, your ability - words would simply not do you justice. i hope your editor appreciates you as much as the community does. i have been researching your past stories and would like to share that you have been questioning many of these issues for a very long time. Thank You for not giving up or giving in to corruption.

without stories like this, where would we be?

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anniej Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:05 p.m.

now this is getting a little scary:

what does sweetwater union high school district have in common with san ysidro school district:

that would be:

GCR Eric Hall & Associates Echo Pacific Seville Yolanda Hernandez - past member of SUHSD Bond Oversight Committee who allegedly was being courted to run against bertha lopez by 'the gandara'.

wonder how many other 'connections' there are?

and guess what, it took me all of 4 minutes to find all of this information.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, - community members of San Ysidro, now is the time to come forward with all you know. Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney, has established a hot line to report potential situations.

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Pancho Jan. 17, 2012 @ 5:43 p.m.

and Pearl Quinones recently retired from the San Ysidro School District as a drop-out counselor.

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anniej Jan. 20, 2012 @ 8:35 a.m.

what a role model quinones has turned out to be - un freakin believable!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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desertwaverat Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:37 p.m.

Here is a connection between San Ysidro and Calexico. Calexico Unified's disgraced former supt., David Alvarez, was THAT close to being San Ysidro's supt., but some web-savvy constituents stopped it (and San Ysidro's board listened, unlike Calexico Unified's):

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070816/news_6m16alvarez.html

Zenaida Rosario, a teacher at La Mirada Elementary School who was the state's teacher of the year in 2004, has written to the San Ysidro board that the accounts of Alvarez's itinerant career she has read on Internet blogs worry her.

“San Ysidro deserves better. I am tired of reading all the negative press about the superintendents that come and go and who gets cheated? Our children,” Rosario wrote in an e-mail to the board.

Randolph said he received “multiple” letters from teachers concerning Alvarez's candidacy, all of them raising concerns.


Alvarez didn't get the job... HOWEVER, he did get a job with "Total Schools Solutions" - a company that had done $$$$$$ work with Calexico Unified while Alvarez was at its head.

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anniej Jan. 17, 2012 @ 2:35 p.m.

cartmill - mccann informers? - about as much chance of that as madonna being a virgin.

it is going to take many coming forward at the board meeting on the 30th of this month to get your message (which i agree with) across.

additionally all of those who have information must, simply must join those who are calling the Bonnie Dumanis hotline and reporting what they know about these two. the more 'goods' we can attach to them the better. let's just be sure it is not gossip but fact as we want Dumanis to take us seriously.

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Wabbit Jan. 19, 2012 @ 7:28 a.m.

I agree, I don't understand why Cartmill and McCann have been excluded. It's clear they are in this as much as the others, but they have higher connections who must be letting them slide. They have had plenty of time to "Delete delete delete" as the saying goes.

Ms. Dumanis, if this is not just a show for the upcoming election, it's time to get serious!

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anniej Jan. 19, 2012 @ 10:14 p.m.

i am told that their 700 forms were filled out - however, i believe what is going to happen in the end is that a few of the canaries are gong to start singing - and guess what? mccann and cartmill are going down.

the influence, the votes, that those campaign dollars paid for are going to come back and haunt them.

if i were ricasa and quinones i would be p o'd - i am sure they are fuming at the fact they are the only board members indicted. of course there is sandoval, another blemish on the south bay.

then there is 'the gandara' - what a waste.

brand, he is kicking back laughing. all of the focus on the board while he sits back twirling his pencil. but never fear dr. brand there is a faction who knows, and they want you gone as well. i mean if we are going to get rid of the money makers, who make their money on the backs of our kids, you are right up there with the rest of them. your 'foundation' - a ponzi scheme - and all of the players hand picked to do your bidding. but you were exposed the simple men (not meant in a derogatory manner by any means). men who seek truth and are willing to fight for the education of our children.

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cvres Jan. 17, 2012 @ 5:23 p.m.

La Lucha, well if sweetwater rumors are correct mccann isn't really interested in education and will be stepping stone on to bigger and better places.

As for Calexico, I'm wondering if any of the board members are linked to or have received contributions from GCR or Hall. Not sure when they had their last election.

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anniej Jan. 17, 2012 @ 7:01 p.m.

Cvres: mccann came into the district believing he would do a short stint adding board member as part of his bio. he was then intending to move onto the assembly or mayor. little did he realize that he would be held to those promises he made to many in those living rooms - he promised to clean the district up - alas, we see what he did instead - he joined them.

regarding bigger and better places - the residents of the south bay will NEVER FORGIVE OR FORGET what he failed to do. while the families of mccann and cartmill continue to deny, deny, deny - the cat is out of the bag. the only thing that separates mccann and cartmill from ricasa are the pink buttons - oh, and the political party she is affiliated with.

anyone reading those pdf's read how 'the gandara', while in mexico, placed the call to seville TELLING not asking that $20,000 be dropped into the cartmill coffer. and it was done - now you ask yourselves 'why was it done?' why was 'the gandara' so involved to the mccann and cartmill campaigns? remember JOHN MCCANN was a candidate for board seat, he was not already a voting member of the board, like cartmill. oh, but that is right mccann and cartmill ARE FRIENDS.

the smoking gun, i continue to believe, is the vega report. i am thinking the contents of that report are going to sink his future political endeavor ship. even the local sec'y of the Republican party has spoken out about the sweetwater issue - "all politicians should serve 3 terms, 2 in office - 1 in prison" what more is left to say.

mccann, will be exposed for the do nothing, say nothing, little man he truly is. how persons such as he make it as far as he has is amazing. there must have been something in the air that we were all breathing when he was running for city council - not that i voted for him. and needless to say he was never a consideration for suhsd board member in my book. amazing what all of those campaign donations led to isn't it?

in the end WE, the taxpayers of the south bay were the ones who led to change, NOT JOHN MCCANN.

just my opinion

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 17, 2012 @ 9:38 p.m.

Pancho, San Ysidro ... yet another dot in the connection...

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desertwaverat Jan. 17, 2012 @ 11:16 p.m.

Calexico's last election was in November, 2010. Calderon didn't show up until January 2011.

Calderon is now snooping around for more work in Imperial County; I understand that he is handling the redistricting efforts for Imperial Valley College.

Two seats are up for election in November, 2012. It will be interesting to review disclosure statements.

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uscitizen Jan. 18, 2012 @ 2:53 p.m.

Trust me, both the attorneys, teachers and trustees aren't the brightest bulbls in the room. You can't teach Stupid!

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uscitizen Jan. 18, 2012 @ 2:55 p.m.

Trust me, the attorneys, teachers and trustees at Calexico aren't the brightest bulbs in the room. You can't teach Stupid!

The teachers union is circulating this article on Facebook but they really lack credibility. It is well documented that the teachers union have an interest in the pocket book- not the children of the community

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Wabbit Jan. 19, 2012 @ 7:43 a.m.

I don't think this is a union issue, I think this is beyond that, and right now, the upper level of the Board, etc. needs to be cleared out of the infection that has spread.

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joepublic Jan. 18, 2012 @ 4:21 p.m.

First of all, unions exist to better the lives of workers. That includes having an interest in their pocket books, health care, and working conditions. Keep in mind that the working conditions of teachers are also the learning conditions of their students. To say that interest in one's welfare necessarily negates interest in one's profession simply doesn't make sense. This article is about taxpayers' money lining the pockets of this law firm instead of being spent in the classroom where you will find teachers working very hard to educate our kids with shrinking support. I tried to get this link (below) to work earlier. If it doesn't work this time, search it and read what the real issue is here. http://www.bonaficio-garcia.itgo.com..>;

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anniej Jan. 18, 2012 @ 10:26 p.m.

UScitizen: with all due respect i totally disagree with your statement regarding teachers lacking credibility. many of those you believe lack credibility are exactly the ones who decided to do what was best for the students and stand up for their right to the best education when they came forward with their knowledge and proof of 'irregularities' within the district.

those who worked under 'the gandara', the board, and now brand were not/are not able to do their jobs and stand up for what is right - no, instead all of those millions of dollars that SHOULD be going into the classroom were being diverted to who knows where. few state dollars, yes, that is true, but how many of the dollars we are receiving are being mismanaged?

i would like for one of us to try and teach the numbers they are expected to teach, with the limited amount of resources they have access to.

brand is promising 'his' charter school kids, after school programs, electronic pads - all the while, those he was brought here to educate are continuing to be in need of resources.

what about the money the district is receiving? how exactly is that being spent? does any one really know?

by passing the article along whether it be on facebook or on paper - they are trying to get the word out that they too are being HAD, just like the students.

it is important to mention that there are good administrators out there as well. unfortunately they are muffled - speak out - loose your job.

we need term limits we need campaign limitations we need a new superintendent search

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David Garcia Jan. 20, 2012 @ 11:23 a.m.

Dear Ms. Luzzaro Tipster or not, GCR one of the nation’s largest Latino owned law firms, was never even asked about an article you printed in the Reader. And quite frankly it has so many incorrect facts, I really need to start at the very top.

If you mean the “Calexico Unified School District is beginning to look like Sweetwater Union High School District,” because they have raised their level of legal representation and counsel to a national level, you are correct. And while it is true “GCR, LLP, the attorney firm that recently was suspended by Sweetwater’s interim superintendent Ed Brand,” you printed it before it happened! How did you know? Why won’t you identify your sources and how they would know what was going to happen before it happened? If you are not going to tell your readers the names of your sources, please tell your readers the extent of your relationship with your sources and please tell us the purpose of that relationship.

In fact, Bonifacio Garcia, was the District’s general counsel. That District moved away from a general counsel model at the end of July 2011. Mr. Brand has not yet explained publicly why he refuses to keep GCR on the school board panel even though the Sweetwater Union High School District never voted to “fire” GCR, again a fact you’ve failed to report Then you go on to say, “The firm used to include Bonifacio Garcia, Yuri Calderon, and Rogelio Ruiz. However, Ruiz is now suing his former partners for, among other things, “making thousands of dollars in political contributions to favored political candidates in an effort to influence government officials…,” according to court papers filed in Santa Clara County in April of 2011.” In fact, GCR maintains, false allegations are regularly made against elected officials. These allegations are often made with an ulterior motive in mind. As experienced reporters you know this is a common tactic to discredit the lead negotiator and extract a more favorable resolution to labor negotiations. We ask unbiased journalists to not allow them to distract you from the facts on both sides of the story. This former partner has taken advantage of the public mood and made allegations without merit and are opportunistic given the Sweetwater situation. Mr Ruiz, for motives of his own, has filed a frivolous and vindictive lawsuit with the sole intent of harming his former law firm, GCR, LLP. The allegations made in the lawsuit are false. Mr. Ruiz is nothing more than a disgruntled scornful ex-partner who is using the legal process to attempt to extract money from the law firm.

Here’s more, GCR has always enjoyed the complete confidence of our clients and that is why our firm’s lawyers continue to serve and have served education districts for more than 20 years. We have regularly achieved outstanding success in negotiations and litigation and will always provide the most sound and professional counsel to our clients.

Ultimately, we provide our clients with the opportunity to make their own choices. GCR represents the entire School District and not any individual board member. And we do not supervise our clients’ individual personal or professional activities. When a client contracts with GCR our commitment to integrity is the basis of that agreement. Our legal direction and advice has always been sound and based on the law.

Counsel from GCR lawyers was never even involved in Calexico in 2004, and I don’t understand the purpose of that association. GCR’s basic ethical standards and practices maintains all public officials always report and declare all gifts, travel funds and to always appropriately and legally use public fund credit cards. We also advise all “gift limits” be adhered to and to properly reported as required by law, specifically, the Political Reform Act (Cal. Gov. Code, sec. 871 03(e)) and to adhere to the conflict of interest provisions of the Political Reform Act relating to disclosure and voting. And, for example, this was an integral part of the training provided to the Calexico Board on two separate occasions.

GCR is closely involved in the communities they serve and has always enjoyed the complete confidence of our clients and that is why our firm’s lawyers continue to serve and have served education districts for more than 20 years. We support activists who understand “Attacks on Political Contributions are Attacks on Freedom of Speech,” and we have an obligation to support good candidates before they are elected and to keep good officials in office. And especially in the Latino community where there is so little money to contribute, it’s even more important that Latino lawyers and doctors, as well as other Latino leaders who have the means, to support a fair and honest voice no matter who it upsets.

GCR has already spent more than a million dollars in pro bono work supporting community issues. We have regularly achieved outstanding success in negotiations and litigation and will always provide the most sound and professional counsel to our clients.

If I may ever help you resist reporting false claims, and in telling both sides of an issue please call on me. And while we encourage honest, independent and meaningful journalism, we will never support unfair and biased reporting of unfounded allegations.

Thank you, David Garcia Public Information Officer, GCR

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anniej Jan. 20, 2012 @ 4:53 p.m.

OMG, where are the mini violins

garcia and calderon's firm is loosing clients - many have complained about late invoices and inflated invoices based on what is on the web when one types in bonifacio or bonny garcia. gcr's reputation, or should i sa gc's reputation is not as you have presented it here in my opinion.

citizens for good government - lets see yuri calderon is the treasurer of that 'organization' was he not? did this organization or did it not contribute into the campaign coffers of certain board members? were garcia and calderon using this 'organization' as means to influence past elections? we each need to answer that question for ourselves. do not attempt to paint the firms contributions as good will.

did garcia or did he not have alvey and focuscom back dooring their bills thru his firm vs. their bills being submitted directly to the suhsd?

why did bonny garcia's wife, laura martinez, drop all of those thousands into the campaigns of certain board members? why did ms. martinez drop $1,600 into JOHN MCCANN's 2010 campaign, and $500 into JIM CARTMILL's 2010 campaign in 2011 - AFTER THE ELECTIONS WERE OVER? why would she be interested in helping them pay off their remaining campaign debt? and don't even get me started on all of the thousands she dropped into previous campaigns or earlier donations for the 2010 campaign. (verification can be made on registrar of voters web site)

in the United States of America reporters do not need to name their sources. for obvious reasons.

i am sure this letter was written out of need - trying to save the crumbling garcia empire.

your soap opera comments on all of the good that your donations have done is simply enough to make a maggot gag. this community, the south bay community has been complaining about the firm for over 2 years. bonny garcia needed to go, and should never return to represent our district. we deserve better, much better

now, about that lawsuit that your bosses have filed against the United States, something to do with taxes?

these are my opinions

Ms. Luzzaro:

hopefully mr garcia and those he represents have not tried to put pressure on your paper. 'the reader' is seen by many to be a resource for free press and quality reporting that is valued by all.

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anniej Jan. 20, 2012 @ 6:02 p.m.

Mr. Garcia: perhaps you are not aware, JOHN MCCANN and JIM CARTMILL are caucasion and wealthy - not struggling latino candidates.

my comments are meant to say this - if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck - it is a friggin duck - NO MATTER WHAT THE COLOR THE DUCK IS.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 20, 2012 @ 12:12 p.m.

D Garcia, thank you for your comments. I'm sure readers will find your comments contribute to their understanding of GCR.

Could you clarify your initial comment that there are "incorrect facts"? I have read your post carefully and yet do not find that you point to a single incorrect fact.

I would also like to point out to you that the fact that GCR was suspended was in the Union Tribune on January 5 and KPBS reported on it prior to that. Your statement that "you printed it before it happened" is factually incorrect.

Susan

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nationalpadres Jan. 20, 2012 @ 2:54 p.m.

Think hard when you disagree with a newspaper who buys inks by the barrel and who has a core legion of Facebook contributors.

Facebook has changed social media thus information is quickly distributed from region to region. The District Attorney's recent indictments has created a large bases of both SD Union Tribune and Reader bloggers who shall remain anonymous.

Mr. David Garcia, Public Information Officer, GCR has certainly opened up a new Pandoras Box on GCR legal issues in Santa Clara Superior Court. Why is GCR so defensive? What was GCR's connections to Scott Alevy and former US Attorney Vega. Why did GCR get involved in political donations to indicted school board members? Who is Laura Martinez and her affiliation to GCR? I read another blog last week that GCR has another lawsuit with the United States Government. That needs to be verified. Don't make a generalization about Rogelio Ruiz. He has a good reputation in Santa Clara county and is associated with a top-tier law firm.

Mr. Garcia, start answering questions. Don't try to spin the factual news put forth by Susan L. She is doing her job.

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joepublic Jan. 20, 2012 @ 4:02 p.m.

dgarcia: Your rant is a pretty poor attempt at damage control, and it doesn't work on a public used to being lied to by PR guys like you. Concerning your problem with not knowing the reporters' sources, many sources wish to remain anonymous, and the press has the right to protect them. Live with it.

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