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Reforms in Progress at Southwestern College

Dan Hom, CEO of Focuscom
Dan Hom, CEO of Focuscom

Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School districts have been engulfed by bond-construction scandals and district attorney investigations. Many anticipate a fresh round of indictments in the near future.

Southwestern superintendent Melinda Nish and trustees are taking steps to distance themselves from these past problems.

The board will soon be considering limiting campaign donations. Trustee Humberto Peraza, who will be a candidate for the board in November 2012, is bringing the motion forward.

Board president Norma Hernandez has set another example: Her latest campaign finance disclosure statement shows she returned a donation from Jeff Flores. Flores is the CEO of Seville Construction Services, the company that had, until recently, managed Southwestern’s Proposition R construction.

Hernandez also returned donations of three members of the public relations group Focuscom, including the contribution from Focuscom CEO Dan Hom.

As the Reader reported in 2010, Focuscom initially had a $100,000 public relations contract with Seville Construction Services for Proposition R. The contract promised to “isolate and expose extremists.” The cover letter for the contract was written by former Southwestern College vice-president Nicholas Alioto and addressed to Dan Hom. (The district attorney’s agents searched Alioto’s home in December.)

Recently, Superintendent Nish set another house-cleaning effort in motion. According to a February U-T article, Nish will ask trustees to restore $89,150 of the Proposition R monies paid to Focuscom. The money would come from the general fund.

Sweetwater Union High School District has also used Focuscom; however, it is unclear what services the company provided.

At Sweetwater’s last board meeting, teacher association president Alex Anguiano called for an investigation into Focuscom’s expenditures. Receipts submitted to the district by the former district counsel (Garcia Calderon Ruiz LLP) on behalf of Focuscom are only totals; there is no itemized description of the work.

Focuscom invoices for August, September, and October ’09, obtained through a public records request, total $33,195.

Sweetwater recently released an internal investigation called the Vega report, which indicated that previous public relations spending was linked to election tampering. The Vega report stated, “Alevy [the public relations consultant] billed the district for meetings and discussions with potential and actual board candidates in possible violation of California election laws.”

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Dan Hom, CEO of Focuscom
Dan Hom, CEO of Focuscom

Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School districts have been engulfed by bond-construction scandals and district attorney investigations. Many anticipate a fresh round of indictments in the near future.

Southwestern superintendent Melinda Nish and trustees are taking steps to distance themselves from these past problems.

The board will soon be considering limiting campaign donations. Trustee Humberto Peraza, who will be a candidate for the board in November 2012, is bringing the motion forward.

Board president Norma Hernandez has set another example: Her latest campaign finance disclosure statement shows she returned a donation from Jeff Flores. Flores is the CEO of Seville Construction Services, the company that had, until recently, managed Southwestern’s Proposition R construction.

Hernandez also returned donations of three members of the public relations group Focuscom, including the contribution from Focuscom CEO Dan Hom.

As the Reader reported in 2010, Focuscom initially had a $100,000 public relations contract with Seville Construction Services for Proposition R. The contract promised to “isolate and expose extremists.” The cover letter for the contract was written by former Southwestern College vice-president Nicholas Alioto and addressed to Dan Hom. (The district attorney’s agents searched Alioto’s home in December.)

Recently, Superintendent Nish set another house-cleaning effort in motion. According to a February U-T article, Nish will ask trustees to restore $89,150 of the Proposition R monies paid to Focuscom. The money would come from the general fund.

Sweetwater Union High School District has also used Focuscom; however, it is unclear what services the company provided.

At Sweetwater’s last board meeting, teacher association president Alex Anguiano called for an investigation into Focuscom’s expenditures. Receipts submitted to the district by the former district counsel (Garcia Calderon Ruiz LLP) on behalf of Focuscom are only totals; there is no itemized description of the work.

Focuscom invoices for August, September, and October ’09, obtained through a public records request, total $33,195.

Sweetwater recently released an internal investigation called the Vega report, which indicated that previous public relations spending was linked to election tampering. The Vega report stated, “Alevy [the public relations consultant] billed the district for meetings and discussions with potential and actual board candidates in possible violation of California election laws.”

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Comments
17

Interesting story. I wonder if it's too much to hope that we could get a transparent honest superintendent. Ms. Luzzaro where did they find this diamond in the rough?

March 6, 2012

Erupting:

"i wonder if it's too much to hope that we could get a transparent honest superintendent?" i am assuming you are referring to brandara.

interesting point you may or may not be aware of - sweetwater had an agenda item a few months back that would address campaign reform. what happened? you might be wondering - NOTHING.

the 5 of them sat there - not one of them uttered even a word. those in the audiences wondered, for a nanosecond, if they had had a simultaneous stroke as we could not even tell if they were breathing. the thought of loosing all of that free campaign money was far too much for their bodies to handles, near shock set in i am assuming.

March 6, 2012

Mr. Peraza said Southwestern is also working on procurement restrictions. Those engaged in getting contracts cannot accept gifts nor can they take part in campaign fundraisers, as had been the case with former vice-president Alioto.

March 6, 2012

Sweetwater school board members should follow Southwestern's example and give back the money they received from the likes of Dan Hom and the contractors who contributed to their campaigns and gifted them in a variety of ways. Then they should vote to severely limit campaign contributions in the future. Let's hope Mr. Peraza's motion passes.

March 6, 2012

"likes of Dan Hom", hmmmmm - Focuscom, that is '''''1''''' of the pr firms that the district hired using the old back door method of bonny garcia.

several entities have requested copies of the Focuscom billings, those that have been received have been so redacted that it looks like a permanent black marker was used by a crazed individual.

there is much concern in the south bay, folks are wondering why the majority of the board members still do not get it - why they continue to hide the truth of what THEY ALLOWED to occur on their watch. cartmill and ricasa own these scandals as they have been there the longest and brought 'the gandara' here.

if southwestern can find a leader who understands what transparency really means, if southwestern's board members are able to step up and make decisions based on integrity

then as the song sings

WHY OH WHY CAN'T WE

March 6, 2012

If this new superintendent/college president at Southwestern can reform the place while remaining clean herself, it will be a huge accomplishment. Along with Sweetwater, SW has been mired in corruption for a very long time, and the normal way of doing things there would have resulted in recalls and public scandals in most other districts/community colleges in the county (think of Mira Costa College a few years ago.) So, if Nish is for real, and not just papering over the problems, will the board keep her? Anybody, even a wooden ventriloquist's dummy, would look better than Chopra. The question comes down to the board; is it going to support or at least acquiesce to a clean up and real reform of the culture of the campus? Or is it so corrupt itself now that it cannot and will not allow any meaningful change?

March 7, 2012

This is encouraging to read. Gives us hope that other corrections and/or improvements are possible, which in turn gives us hope for education in the South Bay.

Of course, Sweetwater's current leadership is predicting large budget cuts, (possibly the largest on record) while going out on a limb and announcing that all incoming 7th graders will be receiving iPads. Does that sound logical? Fiscally responsible?

Please, let us dredge Sweetwater and see what can be found from what has been 'scuttled'.

March 7, 2012

not to mention brandara's plan to bring in 300-400 Chinese students, hmmmm, and who is going to be teaching these students - how many of our teachers speak Mandarin Chinese? are we going to let some of our bi lingual English/Spanish teachers go and hire new bi lingual English/Chinese teachers in their place?

what about our students, you know the ones that OUR TAX DOLLARS pay for? brandara is failing to offer them a quality education as in indicated by the fact that our entire District is under Program Improvement.

Eastaker: sludge that needs to be dredged out - truer words have never been spoken. until and unless the majority of the board is gone, and we have found a new superintendent that will lead with integrity vs. ponzi schemes things will remain the same.

things could be so different if ONLY all of the persons on the board and the superintendent were truly committed to do what is best for the students.

March 7, 2012

I don't see how GCR could just turn in to the district (Sweetwater) redacted invoices...did the board approve them without requiring a breakdown or were they approved by the superintendent...it would have been Gandara.

Can't the current board president simply request an itemized receipt for the work done by Focuscom?

Amazing how our tax dollars get spent on these kind of things--over and above the person the district already pays salary and benefits to for the purpose of communications.

March 7, 2012

truth be told, it is clearly evident that the majority of the current board has no clue as to where the money has gone in the past many many years - nor do they seem to care. board meeting after board meeting the public sits there and observes agenda item after agenda item being passed with little or nor discussion. this board fails to realize they have been charged with overseeing our tax dollars - they are obviously far more concerned with how their positions as board members will influence their personal and political futures. the only board member who ever questions a thing is board member lopez, the littlest one on the board seems to get it - 'this position means something to these students educational futures'.

'the gandara', sandoval, ricasa, quinones all under indictment by the DA's office.

cartmill and ricasa - guilty of bring 'the gandara' here in the first place without so much as a google search - which would have surfaced many red flags.

mccann - promised to clean the place up, so far all talk no action - letting down the majority of the fine Republicans in the south bay who voted for him. ALL THE WHILE taking each and every opportunity to promote himself via those sit down interviews and least we forget the infamous 'robo call' (PAID FOR BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY).

'brandara's' now infamouse funds for education ponzi scheme. his constant spewing of less than credible facts - which continue to cause the community to question why he is still here and why the search for a new superintendent has not begun.

what a mess, and yes folks we have ourselves to blame. we fell asleep at the wheel - we voted them in and walked away failing to do our due diligence. - failing to be sure they acted in a fiduciary responsible manner.

now it is up to us to GET THEM OUTTA HERE.

1- RECALL - mccann, ricasa, and cartmill

2- VOTE - in november, QUINONES HAS GOT TO GO. such a shame that she has let down her community is such an manner. much talk in National City - hope that this time someone of integrity will run.

3- CALL FOR THE SEARCH FOR A NEW SUPERINTENDENT - brandara too needs to go.

4- FORENSIC AUDITS OF PROP O DOLLARS AND THE DISTRICTS BOOKS!!!!

just my opinion

March 7, 2012

While taking a look at the Real Estate section of the U-T this morning, I read what I have heard many times before: home buyers use schools and school district ratings as the primary consideration for purchase in a neighborhood.

What is this going to say for Sweetwater?

Informed home buyers will not be purchasing within the district--unless that is their only option. Which means that real estate values will undergo further reductions, which means that families who need their largest asset to grow in value will look elsewhere.

Which means that the best educated parents will not purchase homes in Sweetwater, which means that their children will attend schools in more reliable and honest districts.

Way to go leaders of Sweetwater--you are contributing to the decay of a community by maintaining that your selfish concerns outweigh the needs of the many. Dr. Brand and crew, please, cease and desist.

March 10, 2012

Great comment!

When elected Leaders fail to do what is best for the Public then the entire system of Democracy also fails!

Perhaps a change of name is approbate:

$WEETWATER

March 10, 2012

i believe what is missing is the fact that these are NOT leaders that we are talking about -

March 10, 2012

When elected Leaders fail to do what is best for the Public then the entire system of Democracy also fails!

And 90% do NOT do what is best for the public. Thsi si why the country is falling apart.

March 10, 2012

"That is why the country is falling apart". so true, yet we must focus on this - those who sit back and do nothing are part of the problem. it is time for all of us to stand up for what we believe, state of opinions, fight for what we believe in.

we owe the effort to all of those who will come after us.

remember the 60's and 70's I SURE DO, now those were the days, i was not always right in the opinions i shared but at least i was tuned in.

March 11, 2012

brandara is worried about loosing to elementary charter schools, perhaps you should email the article to him. probably not of any real consequence to him as he does not live in the south bay but rather up north.

'Way to go leaders of Sweetwater' - boy you hit the nail on the head!

March 10, 2012

my day was pretty lousy, but thank you for asking. yet as bad as it was i, am not, like teachers in our district having to worry if i will have my job. i have often said i simply can not imagine the stress of never knowing from one year to the next if i will be able to hold onto a job that i love.

yes, LaLucha, so much of what you state should make us all take pause and consider the facts as you have presented them.

our District, the Sweetwater District, is in a mess a real mess yet the other school Districts in the south bay seem to be able to keep it together - one has to wonder why?????????? why the difference? why are the other Districts down here NOT having to lay off educators? i believe it is do to the fact that all of those you mention above failed to show up. they did little to protect the taxpayers, students or employees of our district and now they are crying poor.

crying poor - and who is to blame - 'the gandara', bonny garcia, focuscom, alvey, cartmill, ricasa, quinones, mccann, brandara, and anyone else who failed to step up, stand up and demand the truth to this question:

WHERE THE HELL IS ALL OF THE MONEY??????????????????

March 11, 2012

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