On April 24, former Sweetwater trustee Jim Cartmill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Cartmill had accepted gifts over the limits set by the Fair Political Practice Commission from contractors doing business with the district. As a result of his guilty plea, Cartmill had to step down from the board.
On July 14, Cartmill filed papers to run for the Sweetwater board — again — in the November election.
Cartmill was one of 22 charged in the pay-to-play corruption case that has fascinated and nauseated many South Bay residents.
The last time Cartmill ran for the board, in 2010, he had considerable help from vendors contracted by the district; Seville Group, Inc, the program manager for all bond construction under Proposition O, gave Friends of Jim Cartmill $20,000.
Maty Adato, a Sweetwater community advocate, fought for several years to bring campaign finance reform to the district and finally succeeded in January 2014 when the board approved a campaign contribution limit of $750.
Cartmill’s decision to run for the board again confirms the misgivings some community members have had about justice served and lessons learned in the prolonged and costly proceedings.
On July 4, the U-T carried a wrap-up of the South Bay corruption scandal. The headline purveyed the all-fixed feeling in fitting Wild West terms: “South Bay case notched 22 convictions.”
Shortly after the U-T article came out, Dr. Carla Kirkwood, the first person to take concerns about corruption at Southwestern College, posted this prescient response to the article on her Facebook page:
“Significant change DID NOT happen through the courts (nor the political agendas that drove the investigation). The behavior of these administrators and elected Board members impacted the very existence of these schools (Southwestern College and the Sweetwater District). Southwestern was faced with losing its accreditation, and due to the actions of these corrupt officials — employees were removed from their jobs (several of them Union jobs), which led to a series of expensive and lengthy law suits. CHANGE happened because of the involvement of the community, the actions of newly elected board members (at Southwestern) in 2010, and the removal of corrupt leadership from their positions of authority.
“Because the management and administration at both of these institutions were more focused on ‘deals’ and campaign contributions than they were on the vitality of the educational institutions they were meant to oversee, the schools suffered long term damage. The ramifications were much larger than ‘dotting I s and crossing T s.’ Loss of accreditation, corrupt construction contracts leading to high taxpayer losses, and poor planning are just a few of the effects of these peoples actions. Get real.”