The May 14 U-T editorial titled “A Circus In Sweetwater” — referring to the ongoing turmoil within the Sweetwater Union High School District — makes some incorrect and undemocratic assertions.
The editorial acknowledges that the unfolding Sweetwater narrative follows “serious criminal charges against current [boardmembers] and former officials and contractors in connection with an alleged ‘pay-to-play’ corruption scheme.”
However, the editorial goes on to chastise recall efforts.
Trustees John McCann and Jim Cartmill, both subjects of recall petitions, are defended in the editorial, noting they “are not charged and not implicated in the corruption investigation.”
Dr. Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College, said in a May 14 interview, “When you’ve got malfeasance at this level, the whole board is implicated.”
Luna went on to comment that the recall petitions only ask voters to decide if the boardmembers are doing the job they were elected to do. “It is never a mistake to use the levers of democracy.”
Also, the editorial falsely asserts that recall “is a tool... for citizens to remove corrupt officials.” However, a San Diego County Registrar of Voters document states: “Recall is the power of the voters to remove elected officials before their term expires. It has been a fundamental part of our government system since 1911 and has been used by voters ever since to express their dissatisfaction with their elected officials.”
The opinion piece calls Occupy Sweetwater’s recall effort “an abuse of the recall process” because trustee Bertha Lopez was not included in the recall. Lopez, whose house was raided last year, was not charged. The editorial doesn't acknowledge that boardmember Pearl Quiñones is not a subject of the recall effort, either. Her house was raided and she was charged with perjury, filing a false document, and other charges, according to 10News.
Explaining why Quiñones and Lopez weren’t part of the recall, Occupy Sweetwater leader (and teacher) Lauren McLennan said it had to do with a deadline. In a May 14 interview, McLennan said when the recall committee studied the process (which includes preparing the petition, serving the petition, and posting the petition), it was too close to a cutoff date preceding the November election.
“You cannot recall someone if their term limit expires within six months of your filing time,” said McLennan. So, Arlie Ricasa, Jim Cartmill, and John McCann became the subjects of Occupy Sweetwater’s recall attempt because — unlike Lopez and Quiñones — they won’t be termed out this year. Lopez and Quiñones will reportedly seek reelection.
“Cartmill and McCann are just a sneeze away from being indicted,” opined McLennan. She said the recall group is concerned about the suggestion of McCann’s and Cartmill’s involvement with election tampering, as indicated by a district investigation report released earlier this year.
McLennan also said substantial campaign donations by contractors motivated the recall. “John McCann took contributions from Seville Group Inc. [the suspended construction management company for Proposition O funds] before he even sat on the board.”