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Does Sweetwater’s Hiring of Greg Vega Constitute Conflict?

Last week the Sweetwater Union High School board voted to have an independent audit of Scott Alevy, a public relations professional. The board's choice of an auditor has raised this question: can an attorney who has already represented the Sweetwater board in a grand jury investigation be considered independent?

A Union-Tribune article this week revealed that Alevy was billing the district $250 an hour for meetings. According to some people interviewed by the Union-Tribune, either the meetings didn’t take place or the substance of some of the meetings varied from the invoices submitted by Alevy.

In response to these revelations, the board voted to hire former U.S. attorney Greg Vega to perform the audit. Board member Bertha Lopez was the only dissenting vote.

One reason Lopez objected, she said in an interview on Wednesday, May 25, was that Vega’s name was suggested by the district’s legal counsel, Bonifacio Garcia, who had hired Alevy. Lopez also said that prior to the vote, board members were not informed of Vega’s previous work relationship with the district.

“I went home and Googled Vega’s name,” said Lopez, “and found that he had represented the district in a grand jury investigation on Proposition BB [a school bond passed in 2000].”

In 2003, the grand jury investigated citizen complaints about Proposition BB that focused on members of the bond oversight committee (which included the spouse of board member Arlie Ricasa) and raised questions about some of the district's construction projects.

On Sweetwater’s website, board president John McCann is quoted as saying: “Mr Vega is a highly respected litigator and investigator. He has represented clients before federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. He has evaluated corporate compliance issues and conducted numerous corporate internal investigations.” In a May 20 La Prensa San Diego article, McCann is also quoted as saying, “Mr. Vega’s reputation is beyond reproach.”

McCann did not return emails.

Pictured: Scott Alevy

Image: from EastCountyChamber.org video

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Last week the Sweetwater Union High School board voted to have an independent audit of Scott Alevy, a public relations professional. The board's choice of an auditor has raised this question: can an attorney who has already represented the Sweetwater board in a grand jury investigation be considered independent?

A Union-Tribune article this week revealed that Alevy was billing the district $250 an hour for meetings. According to some people interviewed by the Union-Tribune, either the meetings didn’t take place or the substance of some of the meetings varied from the invoices submitted by Alevy.

In response to these revelations, the board voted to hire former U.S. attorney Greg Vega to perform the audit. Board member Bertha Lopez was the only dissenting vote.

One reason Lopez objected, she said in an interview on Wednesday, May 25, was that Vega’s name was suggested by the district’s legal counsel, Bonifacio Garcia, who had hired Alevy. Lopez also said that prior to the vote, board members were not informed of Vega’s previous work relationship with the district.

“I went home and Googled Vega’s name,” said Lopez, “and found that he had represented the district in a grand jury investigation on Proposition BB [a school bond passed in 2000].”

In 2003, the grand jury investigated citizen complaints about Proposition BB that focused on members of the bond oversight committee (which included the spouse of board member Arlie Ricasa) and raised questions about some of the district's construction projects.

On Sweetwater’s website, board president John McCann is quoted as saying: “Mr Vega is a highly respected litigator and investigator. He has represented clients before federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. He has evaluated corporate compliance issues and conducted numerous corporate internal investigations.” In a May 20 La Prensa San Diego article, McCann is also quoted as saying, “Mr. Vega’s reputation is beyond reproach.”

McCann did not return emails.

Pictured: Scott Alevy

Image: from EastCountyChamber.org video

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Comments
9

So now we learn that Alevy, hired by Garcia, is going to be "independently" audited by Vega, whose hiring was recommended by Garcia without mentioning to the school board the fact that Vega had previously been employed by the district when he and Vega TOGETHER represented the district in the 2003 Prop BB investigation. Mr. Garcia knows he shouldn't have advised hiring Mr. Vega because of the obvious conflict of interest. It doesn't take an $83000(!) a month lawyer to see that. It really doesn't take a lawyer at all, but simply an honest person. It also takes elected officials with motives beyond their personal gain, political or otherwise to do their the jobs as trustees of our schools. Mr.McCann is either asleep at the wheel or blinded by his political ambitions, and other than Ms Lopez, the rest of this board is along for the ride. It's time to stop this madness. It's our money and the education of our kids at stake. A truly independent, as in grand jury, investigation of this entire district is in order.

May 26, 2011

It is shocking that John McCann, the fiscal conservative, still does not get it. Instead of a $15,000 "independent" study of Alevy someone should do a study on how much money Bonifacio Garcia contributed to the campaigns of sitting board members. Then there should be a grand jury audit of the Sweetwater Education Foundation where both Scott Alevy and Dan Hom sit on the board.

May 26, 2011

Since no one involved in this matter knows the meaning of the term "conflict of interest" it would not surprise me to learn that Mr. Vega is secretly Mr. Alevy's lawyer/advisor. This would be as incredible, unlikely or outrageous as most of the news coming to light surrounding this school district.

May 26, 2011

wondering just what in the heck the REPUBLICAN PARTY IS THINKING? do they not realize the damage this idiot is doing to the party?

MCCANN could hurt the party no worse even if he wore a shirt:

I AM A REPUBLICAN THIEF

May 26, 2011

Aaaah , Republicans. Born to make everyone else look good. Perhaps they're party motto should be: "Republicans, you don't need intelligence to join our party"

May 26, 2011

The issue here is Bonifacio Garcia. He's been overcharging and misguiding the district for years. And wasn't he the attorney for the Otay Water District as well? Now we hear Garcia has hired Dan Hom as well as Alevy? No wonder Bertha Lopez had trouble with going with the name Garcia put forward. Birds of a feather.

May 27, 2011

feel the need to share something with the south bay residents/taxpayers.

this alleged 'INDEPENDENT' investigation ----- now the word 'INDEPENDENT' to me says that the entity is free of influence and unbiased. would you all not agree?

so how is it then that vega has been on the district payroll since the grand jury investigation.

i am hoping someone investigates the investigators - the south bay is deserving of the truth, the whole truth, and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

so says sissy

May 27, 2011

Now the UT tells us that the "independent" Greg Vega brokered the SUHSD's contract hiring Bonifacio Garcia as their legal counsel at a whopping $83,000 plus per month. The contract also authorized Garcia to hire spin merchants like Scott Alevy and Dan Hom out of sight of the Board. Greg Vega can't fix this. Someone should step in to take over this dysfunctional district.

May 28, 2011

Waste of money.

vega was obviously padding the bills, and the reason he got away with it is because we have idiots running the gov who don't have a clue.

May 29, 2011

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