Manuel Paul
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In an April 17, 2013, deposition, former San Ysidro School District superintendent Manuel Paul pleaded the Fifth 43 times in less than an hour in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the district by EcoBusiness Alliance/Manzana Energy. The district has asserted in court documents that Paul is a key witness. If Paul cannot participate in the discovery process, what can this mean for the district’s case?

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2008 contract between Ecobusiness Alliance/Manzana Energy and the San Ysidro School District, which agreed to allow the company to build solar panels on school sites and sell the electricity generated by the panels back to the district over a 25-year period for a fee of $18.9 million.

No solar panels were built by the time the district terminated the contract in October 2011, and the district had not expended any money on the venture.

Art Castañares, a partner in the solar-panel company, said in a recent interview that, 15 days into a 30-day termination notice, his company’s contract was terminated. According to him, the contract called for “good faith negotiations and binding arbitration."

Castañares has asserted in court documents that the husband of a San Ysidro trustee asked him to buy a house for him and his trustee wife — between the time the energy contract was in place and the time it was canceled. Castañares refused to, and asserts, “We didn’t play the pay-to-play game and we believe that’s why the district canceled our contract.”

Prior to the April 17 deposition, attorneys from the law firm of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, the corporation that represents San Ysidro, sought a protective order, among other things, to limit the line of questioning from the plaintiff’s (Ecobusiness) attorney.

At the time the request was filed, Paul faced indictment for alleged “pay-to-play” corruption in the South Bay. (Paul was subsequently indicted on April 12 along with 14 other representatives from three South County school districts. The defendants pleaded innocent to the charges.)

San Ysidro’s request for a protective order argued that “If [Paul] asserts the Fifth Amendment to questions due to the pending criminal matter, the District will not be able to introduce evidence with the Superintendent’s knowledge, thus impeding the District’s ability to defend against the Plaintiff’s allegations.”

In August of last year Wendy Fry, a journalist for NBC7, reported that former superintendent Paul, during a previous deposition in the solar-energy case, admitted to receiving $2500 in the parking lot of a Chula Vista steak house.

According to Fry’s report, Paul stated that Loreto Romero, a local contractor allegedly hoping for work in the San Ysidro district, gave him the cash as a campaign contribution for San Ysidro board member Yolanda Hernandez. (Hernandez was indicted in the alleged corruption cases as well.)

The allegations of corruption in the South Bay school districts and the San Ysidro energy-contract case have common players: Romero is the brother of Hector Romero. They own HAR construction company, which had contracted with the Sweetwater Union High School District and had allegedly hoped to work in San Ysidro.

According to 2011 district attorney documents, along with wining and dining some Sweetwater trustees and former superintendent Jesus Gandara, Hector Romero reported being with Gandara in Mexico when Gandara contacted Seville Group, Inc., and solicited a $20,000 contribution to Sweetwater Union High School trustee Jim Cartmill’s campaign.

Dan Shinoff, attorney for the San Ysidro district, was contacted by email on April 23. There was no response.

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eastlaker April 25, 2013 @ 10:04 a.m.

So very interesting that Mr. Paul will not speak, pleading the fifth--but that in a separate news article from a few days ago, it was reported that he was emailing the faculty and staff of San Ysidro--essentially trying to run the school while on a leave of absence.

Things are not looking good for San Ysidro. I believe the county Board of Education stepped in some weeks ago to run things, but apparently Mr. Paul isn't ready to hand over the reins.

Whatever the problems in San Ysidro happen to be, and it appears they exist in superfluity, I do hope that continuing the 'feet to the fire' approach will lead to results. It is all we can hope for in Sweetwater, and for those charged at SWC as well.

Wouldn't it be great if all of the people who were working in education were really there to contribute to the effort in giving us an educated, thoughtful and reasonable populace, and not in their position to extort and extract as much compensation as they possibly can?

I say "all" because many people who work in education are there out of a genuine desire to teach and encourage learning. Others appear to be there to gut the system, grab payoffs, hire their friends and destroy what has taken years to build.

Those who are 'on the take' need to be taken out of office and of influence. We do not need or want their contagion.


erupting April 25, 2013 @ 11:57 a.m.

I find it interesting that Castanaers refuses to build a home (pay it play) gets fired and SGI disappears. The company that was lauded as the best money can buy. Bet when we get a glimpse at the Grand Jury testimony we find some interesting correlations.


anniej April 25, 2013 @ 12:31 p.m.

While there is much I could say about Paul, it would be like beating a dead horse.

At least Paul has stepped down - for whatever his reasons HE IS GONE!!!!! Continuing to get the paycheck, but outta here!!!!! Perhaps, he and "the gandara" can set up another school district in prison,wonder which one will get the superintendents job at one of the states big pens, like Calipatria. Rather than homes and fine wines they can barter for such things as extra mashed potatoes.

Am I correct that Hernandez, stepped down as well?

NOW, if we could only get Brand to do the will of the people, LEAVE!

The Grand Jury testimonies will reveal much to the inquiring minds, expose the truth regarding the board members (whether indicted or not) - and super Brand. Let us not forget he testified as well, can't wait to read what he said about the board members. Surely he testified to the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth ---- we all shall see soon.


eastlaker April 25, 2013 @ 1:53 p.m.

Isn't it a sad thing when people who are educated and have good jobs somehow decide they want more--and so go for graft and strong-arm tactics...

Sad waste of their education, sad waste of their lives. Will the reality of trial testimony bring some of the arrogance down a few pegs?

We can only hope as much. And recognize that we need to keep at the fight for our school districts. Our school districts are not owned by the crooks, perhaps only temporarily occupied by them. We can take them back.


cvres April 25, 2013 @ 5:35 p.m.

You take a little news break and you come back and what do you find--more of the same. In the end the taxpayers are paying through the nose for all these shenanigans--through the court system, through the attorneys for the school districts, through the bonds to build projects that are not specific to what we thought we were voting for--it's sickening.


Visduh April 26, 2013 @ 6:57 a.m.

One result of his refusal to testify for the defendant, his employer, should be that he'll never be employed in public education again. And I mean never again anyplace in the US. He's such a handsome dude in a Caesar Romero sort of way, and those good looks will go to waste. But just because he should be forever banned from any sort of educational job or any position of trust doesn't mean he will not surface again. At least in his case, the district board threw him under the bus as soon as the charges were filed, instead of keeping him in the position. Once he pleads--and he will plead--they can fire him immediately for cause. So, yes, the same sort of thing should have occurred in Sweetwater, but instead there, two of the rats were reelected last November. Who would have ever thought that ragged San Ysidro would handle their mess better than the big high school district?


eastlaker April 26, 2013 @ 8:26 a.m.

Yes, you just have to wonder why Sweetwater does things the way they do.

I think it must have something to do with entrenched corruption, and the mentality that persists in thinking that the public will tire of the news reports and the charges and we will go away.

Maybe that happened in the past, maybe we thought problems were taken care of when they weren't--but we have learned all of those painful lessons.

The Sweetwater students deserve to get the benefit of what their parents, teachers and community members have been giving their tax and bond dollars for.

Ed Brand does not deserve to be the benefactor. Bill MacLaughlin does not deserve to be the benefactor. The pay to play participants must own up and themselves "pay up". As in their debt to society.

Too bad the students can't get back what was stolen from them. The ROP/CTE students and all of the other Sweetwater students who have endured overcrowded classrooms, maintenance not being done despite multiple bonds being issued and the money supposedly being in the bank--just what is going on here?

Guess Ed is trying to keep some money in the bank until he can think of another way to take it for his own purposes.

When will we get that forensic audit? When will Ed Brand's finances be investigated fully? We know he scammed well-meaning people in North County through an 'educational foundation' that gave pennies on the dollar to students, while Ed had--what was it--a quarter million dollar salary? That he awarded himself?

Who does that?

Oh--that's right, a thief.


Visduh April 26, 2013 @ 8:44 a.m.

Much of what the fat man was doing was morally reprehensible but not illegal. But when you run a scam that pays you a fat salary and fails to deliver much or anything to the supposed beneficiary, eventually you stray across the line into criminal activity. Don't keep wishing for a forensic audit that will reveal all the dirt. The solution to the Sweetwater mess is the FBI, I'd think. Local efforts have been limited to the sort of low-level, "pay to play" stuff that current indictments reflect. Some much deeper, darker, and more costly things are likely still hidden from view, and it will take more and better investigation to reveal that sort of thing, and that will not come from the sheriff or the DA. In fact, it is a near-miracle that the DA has done as much as she has already done.


Visduh April 26, 2013 @ 8:31 p.m.

On further reflection, Paul more resembles Ricardo Montalban. Maybe when he gets out of jail he can make radio and TV commercials for various "sophisticated" products.


anniej April 26, 2013 @ 9 a.m.

Visduh: YES,the FBI is the key. Time is needed to prepare, case in point Randy "DUKE" - I was comforted this week when advised just how long that case took.

So many layers of the onion being peeled back, other irregularities that are not, as yet known. Allegations of Department personnel providing services outside of their paid responsibilities, even outside of district business.


Wabbit April 26, 2013 @ 1:06 p.m.

If you can stick through and not abandon hope, Annie, the rest of us sure can!


eastlaker April 27, 2013 @ 1:33 p.m.

Permit me to try and figure out what is going on with this case. Apparently someone tried to get the recipient of a large contract to provide them with a house, in exchange for giving out the contract. When the company would not comply, the 'deal was off'. The company is suing the school district for failure to comply with contractual terms, and Mr. Paul will not say anything.

Yes, I think it is time to recall some people and send others packing.

Brazen behavior on the part of superintendents and school board trustees seems far too common around here.

I am beginning to think that we need some open forums prior to superintendents being hired, and school board members being elected, wherein the public gets to ask questions and we get to see how the candidates handle the questions.

If they turn out to be incapable of addressing issues or thinking their way out of a wet paper bag, we will know they are subpar and should not get the vote.

Nice family photographs and lists of endorsing groups turn out to mean very little, we have learned through painful experience.


The_truth April 30, 2013 @ 9:29 p.m.

No one on the school board wants to admit that Paul has been stealing money from the District for years !!!


The_truth April 30, 2013 @ 9:50 p.m.

Where to begin ??? Maybe his print shop in Mexico that does print work for the district through a shell printer in otay owned by Paul and his cousins the hermosillos !!!! Or the pay off the board and super got from the current contractor who is rebuilding the Schools for San ysidro now ????!!!! Board has known about the pay offs because the all receive there share of it !!! Why do you think they fight so hard to stay ??? The money is very good as a board member And I got it from a former boArd member !!!! Every one hopes the district attorney will do something but until u clean house nothing will happen !!! If they investigate the current contractor they are using to rebuild the schools they will find that he is related to someone in the district high up !!! But nobody wants the truth not even the news paper !!! Fact is that no one really cares !!! They just pretend to and want to be able to say that they tried !!! Why did the last board member quit after asking for a home !!!! Because the were part of the case !!! Now since the case against them has been dropped the only thing that comes to mind is that they are turning snitch on this case and it is slowly coming out !!!! Just like Paul was a key witness to the case and now he got paid off by the district to keep his mouth shut and plead the fifth and the school districts attorney will now fight to block every thing from coming out !!! See its cheaper to pay off Paul than to pay 18 million to the law suit filed against them and even if they loose it still buys them the time they want !!!! Did everyone know that Paul and his wife together have an income of close to half a million a year working for different districts ??? Talk about being greedy !!!! Oh yeah like some in San ysidro say He is innocent and he has worked here his whole life for the children !!! Hell no he did work for his own children to give them high paying jobs and some experience so they can later transfer and live life grand !!! HahahahahHh FU. MP


eastlaker May 1, 2013 @ 9:21 a.m.

Looks like there is quite a bit that needs exploring here.

Very interesting that someone with all those ties to print shops would be taking cash for a printing job. Because if someone just wanted to get something printed, couldn't they just deal directly with the printer?

Why the cash payment to the superintendent of schools...? Unless the printing story is just a story.


Visduh May 2, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

Oddly enough, printing has offered people a way to get kickbacks and other forms of graft ever since Gutenberg invented the press. You, as a buyer of printing services supposedly solicit bids for the work, but there are ways to insure your favorite gets the work. Actually, you are overpaying by as much as double, and the printer then shares that obscene profit margin with you. The best way to do that is for you to own part of the business as an undisclosed partner or shareholder. Or if you have a family with several surnames, you can put a sister or sister-in-law on the records, and most observers will be none the wiser.

Disclosure: I worked for the SD headquarters of a multi-unit business, and learned of more than one example of long-running frauds that were based on overpriced printing services. One of them lasted for fifteen years (no, I didn't say months or weeks, I said YEARS), and as far as I know it was never exposed to top management.


silversurfer619 July 4, 2013 @ 3:33 p.m.

This guy is a joke. He was my principal in elementary school at sunset elementary in san ysidro. This guy used to push kids around. I remember once seeing him grab his megaphone and push a child up against a wall hard enough to make him cry. This guy was an abusive principal. I don't know how he never was caught. This guy used to blow up in his office and scream to an extent that was unacceptable. If former office assistant are interviewed I'm sure they would tell the truth and make it known how much of a scumbag he is.


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