At least three police cars showed up to investigate the alleged burning of district documents.
  • At least three police cars showed up to investigate the alleged burning of district documents.
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Curious reports continue regarding burned papers retrieved from a burn barrel in the maintenance yard of the San Ysidro School District.

The incident, which was first reported on July 3 by NBC7, resulted in the San Diego police and FBI being called to the scene. The burned papers were linked to San Ysidro’s former superintendent Manuel Paul, who admitted to Channel 10 that he had been on the district premises but said that he had not burned any documents.

Later on July 3, Paul’s attorney, Jim Fitzpatrick, issued a statement to Channel 10 that stated: “While my knowledge of this alleged incident is limited…Mr. Paul had been asked for some time to remove his belongings, and in fact if Mr. Paul destroyed anything, it was his own property.” Fitzpatrick did not return an August 2 phone call.

A new twist to the story, however, is that the district has placed the whistleblower on administrative leave.

The sequence of events on July 3 began when a San Ysidro school teacher got a call from his union president who informed him of the possible burning of documents. He called his acquaintance, Art Castanares, one of the owners of EcoAlliance, a solar-power company. EcoAlliance has filed a breach-of-contract suit against the district.

The teacher and Castanares showed up at district headquarters at about the same time and found the burn barrel. They called the FBI and the San Diego police.

“I can’t even have an open burn in my backyard," said the teacher in a recent interview. "It doesn’t look right for someone in the district to be doing this.” The teacher said what appeared to be legal documents were visible among the ashes.

Though the teacher declined to release his name until he meets with his attorney, he worries he is already suffering the consequences of being a whistleblower. The district placed him on administrative leave on Tuesday, July 30.

The burned papers, along with bags of shredded documents, were retrieved by the FBI on July 3. They may have relevancy to the EcoAlliance lawsuit, which has a November 2013 court date.

Castanares stated in a recent interview that he saw, at the bottom of the burn barrel, a document bearing the signature of an attorney for San Ysidro.

Collateral and real costs for San Ysidro continue to mount following the EcoAlliance lawsuit.

In a 2112 deposition for the lawsuit, Manuel Paul admitted to accepting $2500 cash from local contractor Loreto Romero in a Chula Vista restaurant parking lot. Paul asserted in his 2012 deposition that the money was a campaign donation to be used to purchase signs for trustee Yolanda Hernandez.

In addition to the breach-of-contract lawsuit, sources say this matter is being looked into by a federal grand jury.

In yet another issue, Paul and 12 other current or former school officials were indicted in December by the San Diego County Grand Jury as part of a continued investigation into alleged South Bay criminality.

Paul was put on administrative leave in January. In April he accepted a severance package that he has promised to return if found guilty of any charges.

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anniej Aug. 5, 2013 @ 8:54 a.m.

'Placed on administrative leave' - simply for being a whistle blower! Simply hard to believe.

If, as the attorney alleges, Paul was doing nothing wrong, then why the alleged retaliation.

It appears that three school districts (San Ysidro, Sweetwater and Southwestern) in the South Bay have forgotten a very simple but important fact - WE, the taxpaying public, own the districts - the employees are in essence our employees as we pay their salaries.

I congratulate the whistle blower as I, for one, want these three districts restored to their once respected status. I am embarrassed that i.e. Sweetwater and alleged corruption are currently viewed as going hand in hand - as are the other two.

With everything else San Ysidro is suffering from they now add attempted intimidation. Whistle blower laws exist for a reason. No doubt the news of what has happened to the whistle blower will bring more pressure to bear on the school board. Voters will have yet one more reason to vote in new representation.

WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS FOLKS! Call and demand this person get their job back immediately - 619-428-4476 - press 0 and ask to speak to superintendents sec'y. I left a message for all of the Board members with her.


angrybirds Aug. 5, 2013 @ 10:34 a.m.

So he decides to burn personal items at the district office what a crock. He is not a very smart crook is he? These dudes feel so entitled to do whatever the hell they want. LISTEN UP POLITICAL FOLKS: WE ARE SICK OF PAYING FOR YOU IDIOTS THAT BEHAVE BADLY LEARN TO FOLLOW THE RULES LIKE THE REST OF US.


joepublic Aug. 5, 2013 @ 11:08 a.m.

Of course Mr. Paul is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and he says he will return his severance pay if he is found guilty. I'm wondering if his promise includes making a deal that falls short of a conviction?


erupting Aug. 5, 2013 @ 4:55 p.m.

The unending sagas of the South Bay. I didn't know the hearing was in Nov. followed by SUHSD in Feb. what an eventful year.


Ysidro1 Aug. 5, 2013 @ 10:50 p.m.

Let me say, first, that I have known Manuel Paul for more than 20 years. He did everything for the San Ysidro School District in 33 years of service as a teacher, vice principal, principal at two schools, and selected among an field of candidates, as Superintendent. He restored the SYSD to quality after previous Superintendents were totally ineffective. Granted, he made a mistake in trying to help out in political campaign and took 2500 bucks to go to TJ and buy signs (they are really cheaper in TJ!). OUCH! Perhaps not the best decision, but not felonious. I'm just sad that the best hope for the SYSD may now be destroyed.


Jmbrickley Aug. 6, 2013 @ 7:41 a.m.

If what Mr. Paul did was so above board, why cash and not a check? Why does this transaction take place in a restaurant parking lot and not through more "normal" methods? Why is this particular transaction "off the books" so to speak? Why does it also include a contractor who, as we know from transcripts, is flooding various school board members with money so he can, shall we say, "buy his way in" into receiving school contracts?

Way too many unanswered questions for most people to ignore. If it looks like a duck...


DesolationRow Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:14 p.m.

Ysidro1 - I smell someone who has been able to take advantage of his connections with Mr. Paul - perhaps an administrator? The fact that this "whistleblower" called the Union president is being casually overlooked - and shouldn't be. (retribution for Union association?) As for "restored to quality" - then why is the state taking over because of the district's fiscal irresponsibility? Students don't even have access to paper and pencils - which is a California state law! I wonder why the district is broke? I say let's all get a severance package for committing a crime!


eastlaker Aug. 5, 2013 @ 11:40 p.m.

Very odd circumstances here: former Superintendent allegedly hauling off documents, shredding and burning them for hours at a time.

The district employee who reported the irregularities has been placed on administrative leave.

These items that have been reported do not make the San Ysidro School District look any better--and I know there are many excellent teachers in that district, as well as hardworking, motivated and smart students. I hope they stay motivated, and that Mr. Paul's reported behavior lapses are confined to him alone.

But can someone tell me why the employee who reported Mr. Paul's considerable lapses is the one being placed on leave? Makes it look like they are trying to protect Mr. Paul.

Is that the correct course?


anniej Aug. 6, 2013 @ 7:17 a.m.

Ysidro1 - unfortunately I will have to agree to disagree. The allegations of bribery, ah yes, "I will award you this solar contract if you buy me a home" - for some reason that alleged crime and respectable superintendent do not equate.

While your perception of Mr. Paul may be positive, for MANY others, it is not so. Of course Paul is not the only problem, one has only to look at the San Ysidro school board.

The time for change for San Ysidro School District is NOW - the South Bay is preparing to clean the houses of Sweetwater, Southwestern and Ysidro via the vote. Voting in persons who want to serve vs. use their positions for personal and or political gain is what is needed. Perhaps the elementary school District of Chula Vista can serve as a role model.


Visduh Aug. 6, 2013 @ 9:02 a.m.

Apart from the open burning of anything being illegal in this area (with the exception of some limited agricultural burns and some bonfires), this smacks of destruction of evidence. A simpler and far more effective method would have been to haul the stuff to Goodwill--or other such operation--for shredding. Paul doesn't come across here as being very smart at all. And destruction of evidence is one form of obstruction of justice, a crime. That crime is a serious one. Just recall the Watergate scandal. Most of the prison sentences were doled out for perjury and obstruction. The consequences were most grave, and reached all the way to the White House and resulted in a presidential resignation. I'd say that Paul has just dug himself in deeper than ever.


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