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.