Lauren McLennan
  • Lauren McLennan
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The May 14 U-T editorial titled “A Circus In Sweetwater” — referring to the ongoing turmoil within the Sweetwater Union High School District — makes some incorrect and undemocratic assertions.

The editorial acknowledges that the unfolding Sweetwater narrative follows “serious criminal charges against current [boardmembers] and former officials and contractors in connection with an alleged ‘pay-to-play’ corruption scheme.”

However, the editorial goes on to chastise recall efforts.

Trustees John McCann and Jim Cartmill, both subjects of recall petitions, are defended in the editorial, noting they “are not charged and not implicated in the corruption investigation.”

Dr. Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College, said in a May 14 interview, “When you’ve got malfeasance at this level, the whole board is implicated.”

Luna went on to comment that the recall petitions only ask voters to decide if the boardmembers are doing the job they were elected to do. “It is never a mistake to use the levers of democracy.”

Also, the editorial falsely asserts that recall “is a tool... for citizens to remove corrupt officials.” However, a San Diego County Registrar of Voters document states: “Recall is the power of the voters to remove elected officials before their term expires. It has been a fundamental part of our government system since 1911 and has been used by voters ever since to express their dissatisfaction with their elected officials.”

The opinion piece calls Occupy Sweetwater’s recall effort “an abuse of the recall process” because trustee Bertha Lopez was not included in the recall. Lopez, whose house was raided last year, was not charged. The editorial doesn't acknowledge that boardmember Pearl Quiñones is not a subject of the recall effort, either. Her house was raided and she was charged with perjury, filing a false document, and other charges, according to 10News.

Explaining why Quiñones and Lopez weren’t part of the recall, Occupy Sweetwater leader (and teacher) Lauren McLennan said it had to do with a deadline. In a May 14 interview, McLennan said when the recall committee studied the process (which includes preparing the petition, serving the petition, and posting the petition), it was too close to a cutoff date preceding the November election.

“You cannot recall someone if their term limit expires within six months of your filing time,” said McLennan. So, Arlie Ricasa, Jim Cartmill, and John McCann became the subjects of Occupy Sweetwater’s recall attempt because — unlike Lopez and Quiñones — they won’t be termed out this year. Lopez and Quiñones will reportedly seek reelection.

“Cartmill and McCann are just a sneeze away from being indicted,” opined McLennan. She said the recall group is concerned about the suggestion of McCann’s and Cartmill’s involvement with election tampering, as indicated by a district investigation report released earlier this year.

McLennan also said substantial campaign donations by contractors motivated the recall. “John McCann took contributions from Seville Group Inc. [the suspended construction management company for Proposition O funds] before he even sat on the board.”

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eastlaker May 15, 2012 @ 2:38 p.m.

Thanks again for bringing more of this story out into the open.

I was astounded at the opinion piece the U-T ran--I am sure there is a reason that the U-T wants to protect McCann and Cartmill, but it can't be a very good reason.

After following this bunch in the news for the past several years, what is clear is that given the opportunity for a good decision or a bad decision, the Sweetwater Board of Trustees will uniformly go for the bad decision!

How can they be so off-base in their thinking? I am wondering if there should be some sort of reasoning exam given to board members so that the public can see whether or not these individuals are capable of discharging their required duties. They should definitely be given an ethics exam!

We see them at this truly remarkable moment, when many eyes are upon them, and when one would think that it might be dawning on them that the results of their many bad decisions are leading to an inevitable downfall, yet they persist in acting as though nothing is wrong. Business as usual? I don't think so.

We want honest, fiscally responsible individuals who are genuinely interested in education and the future of our community, as well as the future of the larger society to which we belong.

I can't begin to fathom why this inept bunch are still where they are, except that they are without shame and will not depart until every legal aspect must be brought to bear. While the public might not want to stomach the ordeal, we don't seem to have much choice if we want to reclaim our educational system.


savesweetwater May 15, 2012 @ 3:19 p.m.

Thanks again Susan for another great, fact based, well written article!

The editorial board of the UT must not have read any of the supporting paperwork from the indictments or the Vega report. McCann and Cartmill's names are scattered throughout those documents. And if they aren't involved, why do they continue to vote with the indicted Board members and refuse to discuss campaign reform, or any other issues that might begin the process of returning ethics to Sweetwater? Because they want the campaign contributions flowing freely into their coffers for the next election - that's why. To use a cliche - if they aren't part of the solution they are part of the problem.

The Southwestern College Board has been acting with integrity and transparency to rectify past wrongs and move in a new direction. I applaud their efforts.

The Sweetwater Board is trying to continue with 'business as usual". Time for change.

I liked what Mr. Luna had to say, and I would add that by signing the recall petitions people are just saying they think the public should have the opportunity to vote on a recall. Giving people the opportunity to vote is a democratic principle that this country is founded on. Cartmill, McCann, and Ricasa are not up for election for two more years. Many people in the South Bay don't want to wait that long to restore ethics and integrity to Sweetwater.


jlscott June 25, 2012 @ 2:49 p.m.

Savesweetwater you may want to retract your statement in regards to Southwestern College. From what I can tell they are on the path to corruption within their bond program. Ms. Nish has brought in players from her past who are intent on lining their pockets.


erupting May 15, 2012 @ 3:37 p.m.

  1. List item

I also want to thank you for showing all sides of the story. I believe the UT has become hmm? As they say political. I'm also quite concerned about McCann's and Cartmill's voting records. Add that to the mix and clearly you see the problem. What do you want to bet that they support Brand's new policy to let students of our district choose the school they want to go to,as long as they can provide their own transportation. Sweetwater the gift that keeps on giving.


anniej May 15, 2012 @ 3:53 p.m.

when i read the 'editorial' on the ut it was as if i was reading a piece that john mccann had personally written - the evening of the 'incident' mccann had used the exact phrases that were included in the union tribune i.e. bertha lopez's house was searched. additionally the author of the editorial piece went on to paint Mr. Payne in a negative light.

let us examine the issues that Mr. Payne has taken an interest in: 1- cif - based on a recent lawsuit and the courts analysis - it appears that Payne was right when he issued concerns about past CIF conduct. 2- prop o - based on a recommendation by Erick Hall himself it appears than he has the auditor of Prop O is in favor of an all inclusive audit. - again it appears Payne had reason to question 3- campaign donations to board members by prop o management company and contractors that were hired, most recent past elections, - well we have all seen the information regarding the indictments - AND WE ALL READ THE STATEMENT BY MR. FLORES (bond management company that over saw construction) in which he seemed to insinuate that the donations were a part of it - that is 3 for 3 - and Payne hit the target every time.

and yet the 'editorial' seemed to indicate that Payne was at fault. who gave them that right?

the 'editorial' did not come to a surprise to me, as i had just learned of what the person in charge of the editorial staff had been taped saying regarding Filner. (see below)

mccann is obviously finally getting the real picture, he has lost his credibility on so many isues that the taxpaying voting parents simply do not want him as a board member or trust him as a board member.

again i ask all of you to visit the san diego registrar of voters website and look up mccann's, cartmill's, and ricasa's campaign contributions - look at the amounts funded by the contractors and vendors -i believe those documents, presented by these board members - just about sums it all up. the community wants this group gone as they have failed to lead with integrity, they failed to make responsible decisions that would have benefitted the students and taxpayers. they did all of this because they were looking out for 'self' - while quniones and ricasa failed to accurately complete their 700 forms it is important to mention that those are not the only charges that were filed. let us remember those campaign contributions - have ANY of the board members EVER spoken of, legitimized, or answered to those many thousands of dollars - the answer is NO. and yet legally, they still sit up there and vote.

if you happen to run into one of them ask them this question: WHY, WHEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE FOR CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION CHANGE - DID YOU ALL SIT THERE MUTE, NOT EVEN BREATHING. please, ask them that question and demand an answer.

just my opinon


MauraLarkins June 14, 2012 @ 5:30 p.m.


You might be even closer to the truth than you realize when you say, "when i read the 'editorial' on the ut it was as if i was reading a piece that john mccann had personally written."

In fact, the UT has had a longstanding policy of allowing anonymous guests to write editorials. The editorial might have been completely written by John McCann.


Visduh May 15, 2012 @ 4:18 p.m.

The U-T under previous ownership always would decry use of recall to remove anyone from office for "political" reasons. It would opine that recall was properly used only for misconduct or criminal acts. Well, misconduct and criminal acts are usually subject to criminal prosecution, and once there is a conviction, the miscreant is removed from office as a matter of law. If recall is so limited, why do we have it on the books? The rag never explained that.

The thinly staffed UT editorial room is not unaware of the nature of this situation. It is simply treating all this turmoil as a minor "political" matter that will go away by itself in another election cycle or two. The people of So Bay know that it won't happen that way. This is the beginning a a clean out, or purge if you prefer, of long-running and deeply embedded corruption in those districts, and very likely in the cities in So Bay.

Instead of the UT being part of the solution, it is making itself part of the problem.


SweetwaterRecall2012 May 15, 2012 @ 4:27 p.m.

Had enough? Support the recall! Volunteer to gather the signatures of your family and friends in the South Bay. E-mail at [email protected], or call (619) 422-1617. Check our Facebook page for daily updates (


cvres May 15, 2012 @ 4:27 p.m.

How many times in the past I have been tempted to cancel my's just the nice feeling of holding paper in my hands in the morning that keeps me subscribing. Maybe I should get the LA Times delivered.


savesweetwater May 15, 2012 @ 6:32 p.m.

My thinking exactly. I love my morning paper - but maybe it could be a different paper.....


anniej May 15, 2012 @ 7:24 p.m.

Visduh: "this is the beginning of a clean out or purge if you prefer" - funny you should say that. in the 'metro' section of the ut there was an article regarding san ysidro school district. it appears as thought they were ready to award a contract to echo pacific WITHOUT the bidding process or any tangible information for the board to review. now wouldn't you think that any school district in the south bay would take heed and take any and all measures to become transparent when it came to tax dollars? echo pacific, now what do they have in common with southwestern and sweetwater - ah, i believe that would be gifts - and yet the san ysidro board with the EXCEPTION of Ms. Hernandez were perfectly fine with simply handing the contract over - Thank You Ms. Hernandez!!!!!!!! wonder what gifts were received, and by who???????????

and here is another tidbit for you, it appears that brand has opened up the flood gates in the sweetwater district. for weeks i have been receiving phone calls from parents on the eastside claiming that there are virtually no home school requirements any longer. in other words students can go wherever they want - and so, there appears to be a mass exodus to the east side. so is brand now creating a have have not culture? is he, thru this action, agreeing that the schools on the east side are better, offer a better, are taught by better teachers???????????? according to this new direction, no buses will be provided, so if you can get there, you can go there. and what about sports - if i live on the east side and i have a son who is ranked about a B+ in the sport of football and all of a sudden some of A ranked kids of a west side school enroll - where is my son going to be next season - ON THE BENCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! are you telling me that no recruiting is being done to get those A players on certain east side teams.

what a mess, thank you board - thank you brand. you are now dividing the east and west even more. hell, at this rate you can simply close ALL OF THE WEST SIDE SCHOOLS DOWN, that will save you some money. just ship all of the kids to the east side.

what about the teachers? what is going to happen when their classrooms are bursting at the seams? what about the master schedules, how will no home school mandates affect them - were the schools even advised?

OUT OF CONTROL - we need help, we need a new superintendent!!!!!!!!! and most assuredly 4 new board members.

GO RECALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


joepublic May 15, 2012 @ 8:30 p.m.

"Payne and friends need to ratchet down on the politics and let the legal process sort things out". (UT Editorial) It is most shocking that newspaper editors would discourage people from fully participating in the governing of their school district. Public participation is the essence of our democracy.


erupting May 16, 2012 @ 8:05 a.m.

Wow, you hit the nail on the head. No truer words. Also the editorial in the UT did feel like it was written by McCann. Another interesting note is that since the UT came out in support of the DeMaio camp articles seem to take on a different hue. I agree Bonnie should not contaminate the jury pool. But the fact that the bribery charges were only briefly mentioned bothered me more. Wheres the investigative reporting on that issue?


anniej May 15, 2012 @ 9:29 p.m.

NO, Payne and friends need to do NO SUCH THING - and they refuse to STOP.

we want our district back, we want certain individuals gone, not because we do not like them, but because they have shown us, proven to us that they and their decision making can no longer be trusted. they have USED their office for SELF. how deplorable is that. all of those pdf's that the ut provided clearly indicates, that those under indictment are facing the alleged charges because they became greedy and lost sight of the responsibilities of the office.

it is important to note that these folks (Payne and friends) do not simply show up at these board meetings and spout off a bunch of nonsense about feelings - NO, quite to the contrary, they are doing what our board should be doing - researching each and every agenda item, taking the time to educate themselves. this is no picnic for these 'persons' but they are committed. they are committed because they care, and because they realize that EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN OUR GOVERNMENT, no matter what role we choose to play - the key here is TO SHOW UP AND BE A PART.

surely mccann, ricasa, cartmill, and brand are realists, surely they see the writing on the wall - but i guess their arrogance over rules reality. they simply do not like the fact that they have been exposed for exactly who and what they are and who and what they represent.


Fred Williams May 16, 2012 @ 6:43 a.m.

John McCann is the UT's favorite because he worked with the Chargers to try to build them a taxpayer funded stadium in the south bay.

The UT will do anything, including bankrupting the city, to coddle the billionaire team owners. Since McCann is a public official who has shown his eagerness to do the same, he can do no wrong according to the UT.

The "handshake" was obviously staged, deliberately, by McCann, in an attempt to gain sympathy and distract the voters from what's going on. The UT is a knowing accomplice in this fraud.

Kudos to Mr. Payne for not backing down, and kudos to the judge for seeing through McCann's charade.


iantrowbridge May 16, 2012 @ 3:27 p.m.

For the record, San Diegans for Open Government filed a civil suit against Gilbane Building Co., HAR Construction, the Seville Group and the Sweetwater Union High School District with regard to these matters.


anniej May 16, 2012 @ 5:39 p.m.

iantrowbridge: am i not correct in stating that sweetwater was asked to join the lawsuit against the others but refused?


iantrowbridge May 16, 2012 @ 6:39 p.m.

I can't really comment because of the active lawsuit that is winding its way through the courts


anniej May 16, 2012 @ 5:42 p.m.

FredWilliams: mccann is whining hard, what a sad excuse for a man, he simply does not know when to shut the hell up - and unfortunately there is no one around him who is willing to tell him - they are probably afraid that they will then be his next target.


anniej May 16, 2012 @ 9:22 p.m.

the community has voted 80.25% of the south bay WANTS JOHN MCCANN TO PAY FOR HIS OWN ATTORNEY. that about sums it up................................................


RicardoMay May 19, 2012 @ 5:48 p.m.

Their are five people that go to these Sweetwater Board Meetings and cause major interruptions can you stop going please because the District cannot do its Business. Stop Hating!!!!!


Jmbrickley May 23, 2012 @ 9:32 p.m.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead 1901-1978


anniej May 23, 2012 @ 2:53 p.m.

"the District cannot do it Business"? what business? pay to play, alleged corruption as indicated in the recent felony indictments?

"cause major interruptions"? what interruptions? if you call advising the Board what the agenda items are all about then you Sir are a minion (with all due respect)

now let me see who might RicardoMay really be????????????????? surely not a taxpaying community member who cares about the education of our youth - for if he were, he would then be considered the 6th man of the team.

those 5 you speak of - they were the ones who led the fight to get rid of 'the gandara' - please do not tell me you supported him?????????????


joepublic May 23, 2012 @ 4:05 p.m.

RicardoMay: You should be thanking those five people who have tirelessly kept an eye on this school board. I wish there were five HUNDRED people at every board meeting. By the way RicardoMay, would you also like the District Attorney to stop investigating? I mean, a trial just might cause one MAJOR interruption in their doing "business", and you certainly wouldn't want that, would you?


erupting May 23, 2012 @ 4:50 p.m.

Ricardo have you ever heard the words freedom of speech,press(which you are exercising now) and assembly. The public is allowed to speak to the items on the agenda. Maybe you just didn't know that. Do not try to take my rights away. This is America and these are my privileges as a citizen.


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