At the Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting in January, Maty Adato finally resorted to the “A” word — she told the trustees she had retained an attorney.
Adato, a Sweetwater parent and one of the community activists who took concerns about potential district corruption to the district attorney’s office, has been trying to agendize campaign contribution caps for more than a year.
In January, Adato told the Sweetwater trustees she had retained an attorney who would seek a writ of mandate from the superior court to get the item agendized. Although Adato has followed district protocol and made timely submissions of the agenda item several times, her requests have been ignored.
Only days after Adato issued her ultimatum, she was informed her resolution would be agendized.
The recently released agenda for February 19 confirms that trustees will be obliged to consider her three-page resolution that states: “no person, other than a candidate, shall make a contribution in excess of $750.00 for a single election contest.”
Regarding organizations, which are defined as labor unions, firms, partnerships, businesses, trusts, etc., the resolution states “no organization shall make a contribution to any candidate or candidate-controlled campaign committee.”
In a February 18 statement, Adato said, “I believe having campaign contribution limits would hopefully keep the exact charges most of our board members are charged with from recurring. [Trustees Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa, Pearl Quiñones, and Bertha Lopez await arraignment on varied alleged corruption charges.] Almost every other district and state agency has some kind of limitation on campaign contributions for vendors who do business with their organization….
“It’s not rocket science to understand how it looks to the public when you accept $10,000 from a contractor/vendor and then vote for their contract…. A school board race should not cost the candidates so much money…. People with knowledge and good intentions may be kept from running because they do not have the money.”
Donation caps became an issue following district-board elections in 2010, when exorbitant donations were poured into the campaign coffers of trustees Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa, and John McCann. Many of the contributions were made by vendors who had benefited (or hoped to benefit from) the district’s $644 million Proposition O construction bond.
In December 2011, Nancy Stubbs sought a similar reform. At the 2011 meeting, Stubbs used these words to urge the trustees to vote for the resolution:
“When over 70 percent of some candidates’ campaign contributions came not from the community they represent but from vendors, the perception is that the board is more responsive to the vendors than to the community. When over $150,000 total was contributed to three board candidates by vendors of the district, and coincidentally those board members won, the perception is that the vendors bought the right votes.”
In December 2011, the cap resolution died for lack of a motion.