Two press conferences were held today pertaining to charges against current and former members of the Sweetwater Union High School District.
At 10:00 a.m., district attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced that charges were filed against five people stemming from an investigation that culminated with raids on the homes of officials on December 20.
Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara, former Sweetwater boardmember Greg Sandoval, and current boardmembers Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa are charged with perjury, filing false documents, and using their “official position to influence a governmental decision in which [they] had reason to know [they] had a financial interest.”
The former program manager for Sweetwater’s Proposition O and Southwestern College’s Proposition R bond construction, Henry Amigable, is charged with “giving a bribe” and “obtaining a thing of value to influence a member of a legislative body.”
During the question-and-answer period, Dumanis referred to the corruption as “systemic and pervasive.” She said that the investigation is continuing and that a hotline will be established later this week to solicit tips that could further the investigation.
Sweetwater interim superintendent Ed Brand called a noon press conference at which he announced that he has suspended all activities with Seville Group, Inc., the construction company that has been overseeing Sweetwater’s Proposition O construction.
Several weeks ago, the San Diego district attorney’s office executed a search warrant on SGI’s Pasadena offices. According to a December 20 Union-Tribune article, Jaime Ortiz, the program manager for Proposition O, said he was informed that his company was “not a target” of the investigation.
At the noon press conference, Brand said that Proposition O construction would continue and would be overseen by Sweetwater’s in-house facilities staff and by the County Office of Education.
Brand, who was Sweetwater’s superintendent from 1995 until 2005, said he came out of retirement to try to put the district back on course. He said he has been part of many great times at Sweetwater, “but today is not one of them.”
Although the alleged corruption cleanup went forward today, discontent continues. Karen Thompson, a teacher who was in attendance at the press conference, stated: “There needs to be more indictments. We need a new superintendent. We need to clean house.”
Fran Brinkman, one of the people who brought this investigation to the DA’s office, said at the press conference that she is still not satisfied. She continues to call on the district and boardmember John McCann to release “the Vega report,” the product of an investigation into the district’s controversial use of public relations professional Scott Alevy.
Pictured: Ed Brand