On January 4, Sweetwater Union High School interim superintendent Ed Brand suspended the services of Seville Group, Inc, the program manager for Proposition O. Managing $644 million of bond construction money, the company came into the district on the coattails of former superintendent Jesus Gandara — who was indicted this week.
Several weeks prior to the December 20 searches executed by the district attorney’s office on the homes of current and former Sweetwater boardmembers, Seville’s Pasadena office was searched. Jaime Ortiz, the program manager in charge of Proposition O, told the Union-Tribune in December that his company “was not a target.”
Seville received a $16.4 million contract to manage Proposition O construction for three years, starting in 2010. Sweetwater’s contract with Seville shows that Ortiz was paid $184 an hour in 2010 and was scheduled to be paid $203 an hour in 2012. His billing for 2010 came in at 1037 hours.
Ortiz sits as a director on the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce.
The district attorney’s affidavits detail Seville’s aggressive courting of Gandara and Sweetwater boardmembers; they were allegedly given everything from expensive dinners to Rose Bowl tickets.
Community members have pointed to the sizable campaign contributions made by Seville in the November 2010 elections: Jim Cartmill, $20,000; John McCann, $12,500; and Arlie Ricasa, $10,000.
Under “Evidence of wrongdoing,” the district attorney’s affidavits offer contribution details provided by Hector Romero, president of HAR construction: “He [Romero] reported being with Superintendent Gandara in Mexico when Superintendent Gandara contacted SGI Program Manager Jaime Ortiz and solicited a $20,000 contribution to Jim Cartmill’s campaign for SUHSD School Board. Romero also advised [the investigating attorney] that SGI made a $12,500 contribution to John McCann’s campaign for the school board…”
According to an article today, January 7, in the U-T, Ortiz attended a South Bay fundraiser for boardmember Pearl Quiñones after the district attorney's criminal probe had begun.
In a statement in July 2011, Yehudi Gaffen of Gafcon, Inc, a company that also does program management, told the Reader about his experience with contract bidding in Sweetwater: “We were selected by a handpicked, blue-ribbon panel to be the program manager for Proposition O, and then we were unselected by Gandara.”
Gaffen went on to liken the construction culture in the South Bay to “Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Pictured: Jaime Ortiz
Image from chulavistachamber.org