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Pictured: Bonifacio Garcia, Diane Russo and Lillian Leopold

Transcripts of the grand jury's November-December investigation into alleged corruption between some South Bay trustees, administrators, and contractors were released May 28. There are 28 volumes of witness testimony; some of the volumes are still being redacted and unavailable to the public. However, the material available pulls the curtain back on the "pay-to-play culture."

Due to the extensive testimony, the public will receive the information in bits and pieces. The investigation precedes the trial of 15 individuals who have served or currently serve as trustees to or employees of Southwestern College, Sweetwater Union High School District and San Ysidro school district. The trial is set for February 18, 2014.

While the grand jury inquiry and resulting indictments lay the groundwork for the San Diego district attorney's case, the testimonies offer peeks behind the scenes and inform everyone how the public's business was conducted.

For example, one of the witnesses was Bonifacio Garcia. Garcia was part of a firm, Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz, that worked for Sweetwater Union High School District and for Southwestern College.

Garcia worked for Sweetwater from 1996-2012. Initially he was with the firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen and in 2006 was employed by Sweetwater through Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz. Both firms enjoyed million dollar contracts with Sweetwater.

Garcia, Calderon, and Ruiz helped elect several Sweetwater trustees through a political PAC called Committee for Good Government in the South Bay.

Here's how Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia explains his firm's role to the grand jury and to deputy district attorney Leon Schorr:

"Okay. First and foremost, um, my belief is that you maintain clients by providing quality work. And I just have to make that really clear....Um, that said, in particularly, when you are representing government officials, you have to deal with elections. And so we support our friends. Let's put it that way. Um, as you work with people over a long period of time, you develop a relationship with folk and there are folk you like and folk you don't like. And you want to support your friends in terms of especially breaking bread, or, um, spending--spending time with folk.

"And so it is a practice of all businesses, I am not--most businesses--um, especially representing school districts to entertain. And that includes, um, the biggest event of the year. For instance, there is a CSBA [California School Boards Association] conference. That is either in San Francisco or in San Diego. And that is a--that is a conference where you go mix, mingle, and, um, um many vendors will do dinners, um um, and that's part of business development. You will--there are full board dinners or, um, receptions, you know, where individual board members--they have what they call, for instance, um there is a conference going on right now in LA. Um, tonight is the reception ...where different companies will have a hospitality suite. People come in, food, drink, whatever. Um, they do that. That's in addition to, um, you know, whatever, um dinners, or, and in many cases ball games, um, or events that give a business person an opportunity to spend time. Not talking business, but spending time with the client....you really want your client to be your friend..."

Later Garcia was asked by Schorr: "Do you as part of business development and maintaining the relationships, do you support causes that are important to your elected officials?"

Garcia answers: "No question about that. Um, one of them are charitable events, which are a big, um, a category. In fact, it's a preferred category, um for us, because, you know, so um, for instance, um at Sweetwater it would be the Mariachi Scholarship Foundation. So a charity, um, any kind of different, um charity. Um, not too much political..."

More bits and pieces from the transcripts to follow. Stay tuned.

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Comments

anniej May 29, 2013 @ 9:38 p.m.

Ms. Laura Martinez, who might that be? Well none other than Bonifacio Garcia's wife. WHO I might add contributed HEAVILY into the board members campaigns.

Time to resuscitate the information on the Registrar of Voters, lets see just HOW MUCH MONEY Jim Cartmill, John Mccann, Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones received from good old Bonnie's wife. And then there are the THOUSANDS that Jim Cartmill and John Mccann received from the company 'managing' our Prop O dollars.

The above serves as the indicator as to why Jim Cartmill and John Mccann along with Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones do NOT want to put campaign donation limitations on the agenda.

It appears a well respected community member will be forced to sue them to get it voted on.

Cartmill, Ricasa and Quinones your political days are over. All three of you have failed in your efforts to move up the political ladder. No Assembly for Ricasa - no Chula Vista City council for Cartmill and no Mayor of National City for Quinones.

Regarding John Mccann, tell us Mr. Mccann did you ask for money from Seville (SGI) ??? How much did you get from the company that was managing our Prop O dollars? You promised many you were going to clean up Sweetwater, then what did you do - YOU BROUGHT BACK ED BRAND, who left under the cloud of a Grand Jury investigation. You have aspirations to be mayor, you won't have a snowballs chance in hell once the testimonies are read. Those backing you will distance themselves from you and drop you like a bad habit!

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WTFEd May 29, 2013 @ 9:45 p.m.

I am shocked by this conduct. Really I thought Sweetwater had a great reputation...just kidding. How about Jaime Mercado squealiing on Blubber Butt..err Ed Brand. He told Ed about the corruption and what did Ed do. He used it to his advantage. He wants the power. What about the deals SGI arranged with the firms that got contracts with the District. You think they did not get kickbacks. Please the lobster dinners for Jesus (who better find the "real" Jesus soon) is chump change compared to the real corruption. Jim Cartmill. He was there for that many years and did not benefit? Give me a break. He won't like doing his time on the side of the road picking up trash for days on end..or worse yet a bit of time at Bailey followed up by Work Furlough. He should talk to David Malcolm about the accomodations.

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Visduh May 29, 2013 @ 9:50 p.m.

Garcia is an attorney and a supposedly educated man, yet his testimony sounds like the babbles of a not-too-bright teenybopper. But looking beyond the poor sentence structure, poor grammar, and hesitancy, he's just what many thought he was. And that was a sword-carrier for the corrupt board members and district employees who would whatever he had to do to keep them happy and aid their schemes, while being paid by the district. If anything comes out of this, he should end up disbarred and stuffing burritos at Roberto's. But whatever really comes out of it, he'll likely get no punishment or professional scorn; that's just how it is with lawyers.

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anniej May 29, 2013 @ 9:53 p.m.

Visduh: Garcia has lost much business due to amongst other things late, large billings - just 'google' his name. He is also being sued by his x partner, that partner is using info in our circumstance in his claim.

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anniej May 29, 2013 @ 10:06 p.m.

I am really looking forward to the testimony of a certain contractor who allegedly worked hard to insure that Jim Cartmill would win out over a honest, well respected, dearly loved Karen Janney. He pulled up Janney signs to prove his worth to certain persons including 'the gandara' I was told. Can't remember was it 20k or 30k 'the gandara' asked SGI to donate into Cartmill's campaign? You all know the story, there was 'the gandara' down in Mexico when he allegedly placed the call to Jaime Ortiz 'advising' him to 'donate?' 20k to Jim Cartmill's campaign coffer. Karen Janney, a board member, holy moly, they had just gotten rid of honest Jaime Mercado, surely Janney is NOT what 'the gandara' wanted.

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erupting May 30, 2013 @ 10:02 a.m.

anniej, thanks for the reminder about Gandara requesting funds for Cartmill. As I remember Gandara was on a fishing trip with a contractor and arranged for Cartmill to get funds for his campaign. Is this the same Cartmill that only was indicted because he wanted his charitable organization to be given a table paid for by a contractor. This has been his mantra since the indictments. Well it just goes to show what a liar our president of the board is. Har Har Har,and that's not a laugh. I can't imagine grown men picking up election signs and replacing them with Cartmill's I guess they were in the Twilight Zone.

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montana64 May 29, 2013 @ 10:35 p.m.

Um... You know... / Could they redact the pauses?/ Multi-volumed show.../ Lobster red faux pas(es)/ What happens when a lawyer needs a lawyer? When it's not about the student? Charging Sweetwater by the hour To surf Facebook during board (circus) events Gandara shifting sorta hunched Reflecting on his lobster lunch Um it's kinda ...you know about ...all that Thanks, Bonnie G...with friends like you...

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Susan Luzzaro May 29, 2013 @ 11:43 p.m.

Tomorrow WTF I hope to write about something you might know about...how the deal actually works....must rest now....

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Jmbrickley May 30, 2013 @ 12:18 a.m.

Get all the rest you can Ms. Luzzaro. Everyone is in for the long haul, and you need to keep your strength up.

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Jmbrickley May 30, 2013 @ 12:26 a.m.

"Um, as you work with people over a long period of time, you develop a relationship with folk and there are folk you like and folk you don't like. And you want to support your friends in terms of especially breaking bread, or, um, spending--spending time with folk."

If that isn't the most slime-ball response for an attorney to use to describe his relationship with each of the five various members of the school board.

"and there are folk you like and folk you don't like." So, Bonny! Just what did you do to the ones you didn't like? Pull up a few campaign signs of theirs during the election? Maybe put signs of those you supported right into the very same hole?

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jibaro May 30, 2013 @ 7:33 a.m.

" a dance " Given the method by which the transcripts are being released, it will be a long and slow dance.

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eastlaker May 30, 2013 @ 8:28 a.m.

What this tells me is that the entire bond process needs some major renovation.

Bond Oversight Committees need to hold major power, as otherwise there is NO guarantee that any of what the public has voted for and knows what needs to be addressed and taken care of will be done. There will be secret deals, there will be all sorts of back-room agreements that do nothing to benefit the school system.

And we need to remember, we are here to build and maintain schools for our children and our children's children.

We want people held to real standards. We don't want puppets who vote for asinine projects thought up by someone who seems to need vast amounts of ego gratification, but doesn't ever connect with the actual students.

Go Susan! Go Bond Oversight Committee! Go activist students, parents, taxpayers and concerned citizens! This is YOUR school system. It does not belong to the greedy so-and-sos who happen to sit in certain chairs at this time.

2

Visduh May 30, 2013 @ 9:57 a.m.

You rightfully point out again that those oversight committees lack the very things they need to actually insure that bond monies are not wasted or spent in ways the voters never would have approved. That state proposition that reduced the vote margin required to pass bond issues supposedly put the BOC in as a safeguard. Some safeguard! We see that when the board doesn't want to have the BOC serving in its intended role, it can merely ignore the whole thing. And that brings the matter back to the local ballot box. Electing the right people and not re-electing the wrong ones is how a school district is kept under control. That is exactly what has not occurred in more than one So County district, with Sweetwater being the current worst example. If the folks there wait for the legislature to change the law to give real teeth to the BOC's and hope for the DA to remove miscreants from office, there will never be any real reform. Starting now, no Sweetwater or SWC or San Ysidro (and who knows how many others) trustee should be reelected, and there should be no new bond issues approved until a new age is obviously arrived. That new age is a proven track record of the boards doing the right things and never straying into the ways of these current regimes of corruption.

3

joepublic May 30, 2013 @ 9:08 a.m.

Those who advocate using the "business model" for running our schools should take note:

"And so it is a practice of all businesses, .....um, especially representing school districts to entertain....where different companies will have a hospitality suite. People come in, food, drink, whatever....." -Bonifacio Garcia-

And speaking of the "dance", private companies might be used to this, and certainly know all the steps, but public officials must not be allowed to join in. Did I read that one ex-board member just said "no"? I believe it was Jaime Mercado?

2

Jmbrickley May 30, 2013 @ 10:03 a.m.

To think that Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia was being paid a small fortune for his monthly retainer, plus another small fortune for his monthly billings to the school district for being their General Counsel. As general counsel his job should have been to protect both the superintendent and the board members from themselves. Yet, instead of providing them with advice about their reporting obligations, he actually becomes one of their biggest financial supporters, both with campaign contributions and...

"... People come in, food, drink, whatever. Um, they do that. That's in addition to, um, you know, whatever, um dinners, or, and in many cases ball games, um, or events that give a business person an opportunity to spend time. Not talking business, but spending time with the client....you really want your client to be your friend..."

Bonny KNEW these were gifts, and he also KNEW that these gifts needed to be reported on the 700 Forms. He also KNEW that once the gift amounts from any individual giver reached the legal maximum limit that there would be issues with legality as well as required recusals from various votes taken at board meetings.

Did Bonny give such advice? We have to either assume he didn't, or else he did and the superintendent and board members just didn't follow it. No matter what, it sure looks like he just piled on his own gifts to ingratiate himself to the superintendent and members of the board so he could keep his Fortune 500 job.

3

eastlaker May 30, 2013 @ 5:39 p.m.

If we all take a moment to really examine the photograph at the top of this article, we may learn something of interest.

Three faces, looking rather inscrutable. Not looking involved in what is going on, not looking like they are actively participating in community decision-making...looking exactly like people who are forced to attend a charade and try and pretend that it is something other than a charade.

Theater of the absurd is what Sweetwater board meetings are all about.

Deny, deny, deny...and if you are caught, then pile blame on the one who reported the problems. That's the Sweetwater way. Fast Eddy wouldn't want it any other way. He is sooooooo hoping that no one sees through him, but--we do.

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HonestGovernment May 30, 2013 @ 6:02 p.m.

Really. Spot on. Their expressions and body language in this captured moment are reminiscent of public servants I've watched during City Council hearings.

2

anniej May 30, 2013 @ 10:23 a.m.

Our board members, or most of them, are highly intelligent so called professionals, and as such, KNOW the difference between right and wrong. While I agree Garcia should have counseled them, truth of the matter is he allegedly was a part of it. His own wife was funneling, I mean donating, thousands to certain board member campaigns.

Fortune 500 job - that is classic, and so very very true.

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eastlaker May 30, 2013 @ 5:41 p.m.

anniej, this bunch probably thought they were untouchable, as in, would not ever be charged with wrongdoing. Guess they were wrong! As wrong as wrong can be!

2

anniej May 30, 2013 @ 6:42 p.m.

Union Tribune is reporting that BRAND was asked by JOHN MCCANN to go to SGI and ask for campaign donations. Brand also stated that 'if I knew then what I know now I WOULD NOT HAVE COME BACK' paraphrase.

So,,,,,,,,,,, board members you now se what Brand is all about Brand.

I believe Brand just torpedoed Jihn Mccanns bid for mayor. We do NOT need a person like this leading the beautiful city if Chula Vista. No wonder Mccann balked when then the highly respected Maty Adato attempted to bring campaign donations before the voting board. I said it before and I will say it again, John Mccann is an imposter.

John Mccann, the man who came in promising reform, then once he got there started begging for money from SGI via Brand.

Johnny Boy, I think you just got thrown under the bus !!!!

3

eastlaker June 1, 2013 @ 4:08 p.m.

Has Brand given up on his Loyal Voting Block? Will "Coach" Fast Eddy send in the substitutions...does he have pals warming up on the sidelines?

How about a new game, one that measures who can throw whom under the bus the quickest and with the most accuracy? That sounds about right for Fast Eddy's own CIF section.

2

Jmbrickley June 3, 2013 @ 9:26 a.m.

No, he won't. My money is on his wanting to "get fired," so he can collect a severance package. Something about two birds and a stone.

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eastlaker June 3, 2013 @ 3:08 p.m.

You may well have something there--he has now ticked off a majority.

However, if he is fired for cause, would he still get severance? He already gets a pension...

1

Letter to the Editor June 9, 2013 @ 12:21 p.m.

I wanted to say thank you for the coverage on Grand Jury Transcripts regarding the Sweetwater Union High School District. After reading these transcripts I am more determined than ever to have this board adopt a resolution for campaign contribution and term limitations.

I have been trying for over a year and half with no avail to have this board adopt some kind of campaign reform. However, nobody on this board is willing to move forward on the reform except for Ms. Lopez. I have heard every excuse such as the proposal has loop holes, leaves it wide open for special interest groups however, not one member of the Sweetwater Union High School District Board has stepped forward with suggestions. The board suggested a committee be formed and I volunteered and met with board president Cartmill on May 10th and have heard nothing back from him. He had promised at that time to have an amended proposal to me in a week and it has already been a month.

One would tend to expect that since the Grand Jury testimonies have been released this board would welcome any kind of reform. However it is clear that the only intentions they have are for themselves.

Sincerely,

Maty Adato

1

watchourcities Feb. 12, 2014 @ 3:54 p.m.

You are see more articles about Bonifacio Garcia (now of the law firm of Garcia, Hernandez, Sawhney & Bermudez, LLP) at http://bonifacio-garcia.itgo.com.

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