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Sweetwater Union High School District Money Trail Gets Longer

In a recent interview, Bertha Lopez voiced a strong opinion about Sweetwater Union High School District attorney Bonifacio Garcia. Lopez, who has been a Sweetwater boardmember since 2008 and served as a Chula Vista boardmember for ten years before that, said she did not trust the advice offered by the attorney. Why not?

Garcia recently advised the board to hire attorney Greg Vega to do an independent review of district expenditures. According to Lopez, Garcia did not reveal that Vega had worked for the district. A Union-Tribune story also reported that Vega reviewed Garcia’s employment contract last July.

Garcia has been the district’s main attorney since l996. In 2006, the Union-Tribune wrote, “South County’s high school board has scrapped a $400-an-hour contract with its main attorneys in favor of a $320,400-a-year deal designed to rein in legal spending that topped $1.1 million in the year ending June 30.” Garcia, with the firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, was the main attorney.

Garcia formed a new firm (Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz) and continued to work for Sweetwater. Changing names does not appear to equal reining in legal spending: Garcia’s current contract with the district is $84,334 a month, or a little over $1 million a year.

Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay was a political action committee that operated out of Garcia’s office until March, when it became inactive. Yuri Calderon, a member of Garcia's law firm, was the treasurer. Garcia gave generously to this committee, as did Laura Martinez, who co-owns a house with Garcia in Sierra Madre, California, according to documents.

According to records kept by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Jim Cartmill, a Sweetwater boardmember since l996, received $5000 from the Citizens for Good Government in South Bay in last November’s election. He also received $5000 from Laura Martinez. Arlie Ricasa, first elected in 1998 and re-elected last November, received $5000 from Laura Martinez. And newly elected John McCann received $900 from Laura Martinez.

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In a recent interview, Bertha Lopez voiced a strong opinion about Sweetwater Union High School District attorney Bonifacio Garcia. Lopez, who has been a Sweetwater boardmember since 2008 and served as a Chula Vista boardmember for ten years before that, said she did not trust the advice offered by the attorney. Why not?

Garcia recently advised the board to hire attorney Greg Vega to do an independent review of district expenditures. According to Lopez, Garcia did not reveal that Vega had worked for the district. A Union-Tribune story also reported that Vega reviewed Garcia’s employment contract last July.

Garcia has been the district’s main attorney since l996. In 2006, the Union-Tribune wrote, “South County’s high school board has scrapped a $400-an-hour contract with its main attorneys in favor of a $320,400-a-year deal designed to rein in legal spending that topped $1.1 million in the year ending June 30.” Garcia, with the firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, was the main attorney.

Garcia formed a new firm (Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz) and continued to work for Sweetwater. Changing names does not appear to equal reining in legal spending: Garcia’s current contract with the district is $84,334 a month, or a little over $1 million a year.

Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay was a political action committee that operated out of Garcia’s office until March, when it became inactive. Yuri Calderon, a member of Garcia's law firm, was the treasurer. Garcia gave generously to this committee, as did Laura Martinez, who co-owns a house with Garcia in Sierra Madre, California, according to documents.

According to records kept by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Jim Cartmill, a Sweetwater boardmember since l996, received $5000 from the Citizens for Good Government in South Bay in last November’s election. He also received $5000 from Laura Martinez. Arlie Ricasa, first elected in 1998 and re-elected last November, received $5000 from Laura Martinez. And newly elected John McCann received $900 from Laura Martinez.

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Comments
6

I was going to ask, Where are the other board members? But this article answers my question.

June 7, 2011

Verrry interesting. This tale of that school district keeps getting worse. Why in the world should a school district have to spend a million dollars a year on legal counsel? Think how many teachers, food service workers, aides, counselors, nurses they could hire with $1 million!

There are parents who sue the school district at the drop of a plastic fork. A few whose kids are in special ed can drive everyone else crazy with complaints and lawsuits. But a million bucks a year? Please!

June 7, 2011

Where is Sweetwater's school board president? As the leader of this mess, you would think Mr. McCann would be calling press conference after press conference to assure the public he's on top of all of this, and that appropriate action is forthcoming, heads will be rolling, etc.,etc. Maybe we'll be finding out that instead of being on top, he's actually immersed in this swamp.

June 8, 2011

Joe, I understand board member Bertha Lopez has called upon board president John McCann to agendize a discussion of suspending Gandara.

June 8, 2011

Good question! Last week he was out giving commencement speeches to captive graduates about his "war stories" in Iraq - you know, how he was asked to sell them his jeans and people kept pestering him about knowing Brad Pitt or Angelina. Maybe he is resting up for the next Board Meeting on June 20. Maybe he is searching for a venue that would accommodate ALL people on JUNE 20. Maybe he is waiting for Gandara and Bonifacio Garcia to tell him what to do next.

June 8, 2011

According to a report in today's Light News, one of the principals in the district has been caught red-handed altering grades for high schoolers. The perp, Diego Ochoa, who is quoted as admitting to doing things wrong, now defends his action. So, he does wrong, but his intentions were good, and it's all cool.

Doesn't all this funny stuff and other scandal, big and small make you question the honesty, professionalism, and commitment to real education of the kids? Makes me sure that more than a few of the Gandara/Ochoa educrats were aware of their employment prospects. At this point, if a few could get hired only as dog catchers, it would not disturb me.

June 8, 2011

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