Curious reports continue regarding burned papers retrieved from a burn barrel in the maintenance yard of the San Ysidro School District.
The incident, which was first reported on July 3 by NBC7, resulted in the San Diego police and FBI being called to the scene. The burned papers were linked to San Ysidro’s former superintendent Manuel Paul, who admitted to Channel 10 that he had been on the district premises but said that he had not burned any documents.
Later on July 3, Paul’s attorney, Jim Fitzpatrick, issued a statement to Channel 10 that stated: “While my knowledge of this alleged incident is limited…Mr. Paul had been asked for some time to remove his belongings, and in fact if Mr. Paul destroyed anything, it was his own property.” Fitzpatrick did not return an August 2 phone call.
A new twist to the story, however, is that the district has placed the whistleblower on administrative leave.
The sequence of events on July 3 began when a San Ysidro school teacher got a call from his union president who informed him of the possible burning of documents. He called his acquaintance, Art Castanares, one of the owners of EcoAlliance, a solar-power company. EcoAlliance has filed a breach-of-contract suit against the district.
The teacher and Castanares showed up at district headquarters at about the same time and found the burn barrel. They called the FBI and the San Diego police.
“I can’t even have an open burn in my backyard," said the teacher in a recent interview. "It doesn’t look right for someone in the district to be doing this.” The teacher said what appeared to be legal documents were visible among the ashes.
Though the teacher declined to release his name until he meets with his attorney, he worries he is already suffering the consequences of being a whistleblower. The district placed him on administrative leave on Tuesday, July 30.
The burned papers, along with bags of shredded documents, were retrieved by the FBI on July 3. They may have relevancy to the EcoAlliance lawsuit, which has a November 2013 court date.
Castanares stated in a recent interview that he saw, at the bottom of the burn barrel, a document bearing the signature of an attorney for San Ysidro.
Collateral and real costs for San Ysidro continue to mount following the EcoAlliance lawsuit.
In a 2112 deposition for the lawsuit, Manuel Paul admitted to accepting $2500 cash from local contractor Loreto Romero in a Chula Vista restaurant parking lot. Paul asserted in his 2012 deposition that the money was a campaign donation to be used to purchase signs for trustee Yolanda Hernandez.
In addition to the breach-of-contract lawsuit, sources say this matter is being looked into by a federal grand jury.
In yet another issue, Paul and 12 other current or former school officials were indicted in December by the San Diego County Grand Jury as part of a continued investigation into alleged South Bay criminality.
Paul was put on administrative leave in January. In April he accepted a severance package that he has promised to return if found guilty of any charges.