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The Southwestern College Foundation held its annual gala on September 21. The cost for a seat ran from $200 to $15,000. The keynote speaker for the event was Nathan Fletcher, candidate for mayor of San Diego.

The college is located in Chula Vista and students and faculty who live in Southwestern’s San Ysidro satellite area are eligible to vote in San Diego elections.

The selection of Fletcher by the Southwestern College Foundation has been criticized.

Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 135, said in a September 20 interview, “It’s rather convenient that Nathan Fletcher is the keynote speaker and Humberto Peraza is the president of Southwestern’s board of trustees. He also works for Lorena Gonzalez [Peraza is Gonzalez’s district chief of staff] and she has supported Fletcher for months.

“I don’t know the particulars of how the selection occurred, but my guess is it’s a major conflict of interest.”

In a September 22 interview, Peraza stated that he has not been attending foundation meetings for months because of his busy schedule and that Nora Vargas has been filling in for him; he is unaware when or how the choice was made.

“Fletcher was chosen months before he declared for mayor,” said Peraza, “but he is an outstanding choice because he is a veteran and a decorated hero.”

The Southwestern College Foundation is a 501c3 and is subject to the Brown Act (which guarantees the public’s right to participate in governmental meetings). Southwestern College superintendent Melinda Nish and trustee Humberto Peraza are listed as officers on the foundation’s board of directors and sit as ex-officio members.

Foundation activities in the past have been controversial. In 2010, the Reader reported that foundation monies were used to lobby for the passage of Proposition R ($389 million in construction bonds) in 2008. The Union-Tribune reported that the foundation paid for a Napa Valley junket for foundation vice president Nicholas Alioto.

Foundation minutes posted on Southwestern’s website confirm this year's establishment of a three-member gala committee and the gala theme of “supporting a Veterans Center.” April minutes do not mention Fletcher; May minutes remain unposted.

In a response to a September 20 Reader query about the selection process, Southwestern’s chief public relations and information officer, Lillian Leopold, wrote: “The suggestion to have him speak was made by members of the Gala committee of the foundation, and was made because he is a veteran.”

The committee consists of Melyn Acasio, Cynthia Rena, and Hank Murphy.

Leopold also stated that “The decision to invite Mr. Fletcher to speak does not require a vote of Foundation members, nor is there any compensation for Mr. Fletcher's appearance — both of which would have been actionable items that would have been reflected in minutes.”

Other than Fletcher, who was considered? A Reader call to the number listed on the gala invitation was not returned. The Reader confirmed that former trustee and community member Nick Aguilar, a veteran, recipient of the Purple Heart, and a crusader against campus corruption, was not invited.

Jim Mahler, president of the American Federation of Teachers Guild, Local 1931, also criticized the Fletcher invitation to be a keynote speaker on the basis of his education voting record.

“To allow Nathan Fletcher to speak at a college-sponsored event is an insult and a slap in the face to the community college students we serve,” said Mahler. “His abysmal voting record on educational issues would make it a hypocrisy of the highest level to allow him to speak at an event intended to actually help our college students. If Nathan Fletcher truly believed in helping college students, he would not have voted to the contrary at every opportunity he had while in the Assembly."

An open letter from Mahler published in a Union-Tribune September 6 article suggests Lorena Gonzalez has supported Fletcher since her days as CEO of the Labor Council. The article also intimates a link between Gonzalez and former mayor Bob Filner’s takedown. Here is an excerpt:

“And what makes all of this surreal saga even more Machiavellian is the fact that you [Gonzalez] apparently were well aware of Filner’s indiscretions with women before the Labor Council even endorsed him for Mayor yet you remained silent throughout the entire campaign. The fact that it was none other than your brother who organized the first press conference bringing Filner’s transgressions to light and calling for his resignation is clearly no coincidence.”

In the same article with Mahler’s letter, Gonzalez said she was “repulsed” by Mahler’s comments and in a letter of support for Fletcher published in the article, she wrote: “Nathan evolved into a forward looking legislator who, the more he learned about economic justice issues, the better champion he became.”

Timeline for the Filner connection: Gonzalez appointed Peraza as chief of district staff June 5. Gonzalez’s brother called for Filner’s resignation July 10. Gonzalez called for Filner’s resignation July 12. Peraza, who served as district director from 2004–2009, called on Filner to step down on July 19.

The Reader’s query to Southwestern also requested a timeline. When was Fletcher invited to address the gala?

Southwestern information officer Lillian Leopold responded, “the decision was made late May, early June.”

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Nickdanny Sept. 23, 2013 @ 10:15 a.m.

Why do we have an elected official who is on the payroll of another elected official leading this college? And make no mistake, Veterans issues are so important to our community, and we have purple heart and bronze star veterans throughout South County. It is who we are! It will be interesting to see if anyone tries to make this out as an attack on Veterans, rather than how decisions are made. After Chopra, most residents are no longer surprised by what is said to make a cover up. I guess we will see paid staff for some of these officials partaking in these comments and squashing dissent, as well. I think that happened in the Chopra era as well.


johndewey Sept. 23, 2013 @ 11:25 a.m.

Jim Mahler's criticism of Fletcher's "abysmal" voting record on educational issues was shared by Poway teachers the last time Fletcher ran for mayor. See related article: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/7653


Founder Sept. 23, 2013 @ 12:51 p.m.

More behind the scenes decisions from SWC?

Where is the public involvement, that is besides supporting all these tax based expenditures?

San Diego is being sold to the highest bidder funded candidate, no wonder SWC already had made their selection before Fletcher even was officially in the "race"...

It is past time for the residents of Chula Vista to become involved in what is going on, instead of just funding more of the same old antics which their children's educational futures depend upon!


joepublic Sept. 23, 2013 @ 3:40 p.m.

You would think after all the controversy, indictments, and pending court cases, that the new leaders (who promised openness and transparency) would have done much better than this.  The excuse that Fletcher wasn't a candidate at the time he was chosen to speak at the gala, seems weak. Wasn't the appearance of impropriety discussed after they realized Fletcher was a mayoral candidate?  That this might be an issue must have dawned on them, or maybe Mr. Peraza was too busy with his new job as Lorena Gonzalez's chief of staff? It's not like Nathan Fletcher is the only decorated veteran in town. This all seems a little fishy.


Nickdanny Sept. 23, 2013 @ 5:06 p.m.

We owe our Veteran community, particularly those who are struggling to keep their heads above water financially, honesty and transparency. They are the ones who have put it all on the line to save real democratic values and there should be no (or even the appearance of) shakey-dealings. Are we going to see more of this in the So. County on the political front? Just reading through other comments above: This guy Peraza was Filner's District Director from 2004-2009! So during the time that a lot of the women who stepped forward said Filner was harassing them, this guy was his District Director, and he claims he did not know anything! And I read that this new assemblywoman, who supported Filner for mayor and got him to back her, claims she never knew anything was up with Filner either? And now Peraza is her District Director, and they have endorsed this fletcher guy, and we are suppose to believe that they know what a good candidate for the position of Mayor in San Diego should be? I guess people really do think all of us down here are stupid!


SameOldSWC Sept. 23, 2013 @ 7:59 p.m.

The only thing Peraza cares about is his own political future. He'll make back room deals with whomever he believes will advance his cause. To think he cares about quality education or the students, staff, faculty and community served by SWC is pure folly!

He sold out his former boss, ex-Mayor Filner, when it was politically expedient for BUMberto, so I'm not surprised whatsoever to know he's in cahoots will Fletcher and Gonzalez.

Fortunately, BUMberto's not very bright and will get caught sooner or later and trip over his own botched selfish shenanigans.

There are others among the SWC Foundation who don't necessarily smell like roses either. Keep digging, Ms. Luzzaro. There's a gold mine under the dirt!

By the way, I could be wrong, but I think you meant Cynthia ReYna, not Cynthia Rena, in your list of committee members. Follow her trail and connections to the USE Credit Union.


VigilantinCV Sept. 23, 2013 @ 9:44 p.m.

It seems to me that Lorena Gonzalez and Humberto Peraza are birds of a feather. She waged an ugly campaign against Steve Castaneda, and was endorsed by the Labor Council, Bob Filner, and Republican Supervisor Greg Cox. She quickly joined the bandwagon to force Bob Filner to resign, and then threw the Labor Council under the bus by endorsing Republican/Independent/Democrat Nathan Fletcher. She and her aide, Humberto Peraza, are now busy promoting their own political agenda. The SWC gala was not their first effort, and we can be pretty certain it won't be their last. They are both opportunists. Using the Southwestern Foundation this way is shameful!


Nickdanny Sept. 23, 2013 @ 9:58 p.m.

Strong stuff SameOldSWC. I heard recently from employees out at the college that Peraza was put on the Board back in August 2011 by then Labor Council leaders, Gonzalez and her right hand guy named Evan McLauglin (I looked him up and found out that he is now Gonzalez's Head of Office in Sacramento but he is on leave right now so he can work with this guy fletcher, as a manager in his campaign office in San Diego--that is just strange and if it is true the political incest in this whole mess runs knee deep). Evidently back in August 2011, these two Council (Gonzalez and McLaughlin) bosses contacted teachers in the union at the college, and told them that they wanted this Peraza guy to be on the Governing Board ( a Board member had to step down due to illness and they needed to fill the vacancy). And that is how Peraza got on the Board in the first place. People describe him as pretty immature and sort of adolescent in his leadership style---everybody's wrong and he is right--sort of childishness. I think I will talk to some community members and start attending these college Board meetings. Time to start watching these manipulators.


SameOldSWC Sept. 24, 2013 @ 8:31 p.m.

Nickdanny, what you learned about the Labor Council influencing the faculty union to support Peraza is spot-on! The faculty union received a lot of support from the Labor Council in the previous election that got board members Hernandez and Nader elected, and so the Labor Council now is owed 'favors' for an indefinite period of time from SWC faculty. This sort of election manipulation for personal gains could go on for a while. You suggested the ONE THING that can stem the tide of this rampant, long-term board nonsense at SWC. Getting the community to attend the meetings (2nd Tuesday of each month) and keeping them in the public eye could lead to some accountability. The meetings are primarily attended by the poor SWC administrators who are mandated to be there, the vocal faculty who try to speak to the mismanagement but are marginalized and a smattering of 'others'. However, if VOTERS and representatives from community groups showed up to learn what's happening, then something could change. The minutes from the meetings are so ridiculously vague and lacking details (certainly by design!), that even downloading them from their website [http://www.swccd.edu/index.aspx?page=1826] is futile. Hope to learn of you rallying some community folks to keep an eye on the MILLIONS of TAXPAYER DOLLARS these (mis-)trustees are using for their own edification!!


Ensenadamaria Sept. 24, 2013 @ 7:46 a.m.

The South Bay has become a haven for corruption and those that live here have little interest in correcting that which is eating away what once was great. As Nickdanny has stated much is owed to all veterans - our communities are filled with active and veteran service men and women. Veteran seems to be the buzz word in South County politics. Say you are a veteran and it automatically guarantees a certain block of voters. An example of such would be McCann from the Sweetwater District, who used his military service as a promise to restore credibility, the result unfortunately the exact opposite, corruption and dysfunction are more alive than ever on that school board. Corruption beheaded by the pending trials, unfortunately not. I am looking for a veteran candidate who bases his decisions and actions on that oath he took.


cvres Sept. 24, 2013 @ 8:47 a.m.

maria, South County has too many retread politicians, retread superintendents, wannabe politicians, politicians who are using their positions to get another position, superintendents who come in with their little cabal of cronies and so on...

We are being disenfranchised by the lack of good people to vote for.


Nickdanny Sept. 24, 2013 @ 10:07 a.m.

I think it is called Southwestern College for a reason, it is a COLLEGE. It is not a place to promote incompetent, petty politicians or to provide money to huge construction companies. It is also not a "photo op" for this or that traveling show. It is a College. We pay out of pocket for that place to do one thing and one thing only, teach our kids.


SameOldSWC Sept. 24, 2013 @ 8:41 p.m.

Get this, Nickdanny. Wanna talk about spending YOUR money? As you surely know, in the past 12 years or so, through Prop AA ($89 M http://www.swccd.edu/index.aspx?page=885) and Prop R ($389 M http://www.swccd.edu/index.aspx?page=2531), SWC has been authorized to spend SEVERAL HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS of bond money. There has been a plethora of scandals surrounding these, and a lineup of mismanagers are awaiting trial, in part, due to these matters. Here's the latest kicker. Since SWC has been SITTING ON those funds for such a long time, they have to spend, spend, spend in a hurry so as not to lose them. How do you suppose they'll do that? Of course they'll simply spend foolishly in a rush, mismanage OUR TAX DOLLARS and ultimately run the risk of more scandal. It's not just the board either. That wannabe leader of the college, Nish, is not a sharp cookie by any stretch of the imagination and is only pursuing her own ambition. She's a short-timer who has no vested interest in the community nor any business being a college president and is on the same self-promoting trajectory as Peraza...


Wabbitsd Sept. 25, 2013 @ 3:18 p.m.

I would carefully look at who seems to be right there in the catbird seat, now that the "others" have been exposed and scandalized. Who conveniently exposed them? And are they the same people standing in the ready to take on the tasks?


VigilantinCV Sept. 24, 2013 @ 10:28 a.m.

In 2008, Humberto Peraza resigned as Bob Filner's aide to run for Chula Vista City Council. With Filner's endoresement, and the backing of Labor, he exuded great confidence that he would be handily elected. But it seemed no one could recall anything he ever did in the community. He came in last in a field of four and when Nick Aguilar had to resign from the SWC Board of Trustees for health reasons, Humberto cunningly manipulated his appointment to fill Nick's seat. He, of all people, should have thought of Nick Aguilar as the perfect veteran to address the SWC Foundation.


SameOldSWC Sept. 24, 2013 @ 8:45 p.m.

Ah, VigilantinCV, you're a kind-hearted soul who gives Peraza far too much credit by believing he could think of SOMEONE ELSE, such as a fine, intelligent, decorated war veteran as Nick Aguilar. BUMberto was only thinking of himself and how he can advance his own personal agenda by being in cahoots with Flip-Flop Fletcher!


Nickdanny Sept. 24, 2013 @ 10:14 p.m.

SameOldSWC, I don't actually think it is the Labor group in San Diego that is the problem. I think the faculty and staff thought having people on the Board who understood the classroom staff, would be a good thing. It's people like Gonzalez and her side kick McLaughlin whose blind ambitions are the real problem. They got in with the old teacher's union president, (who I heard is now an administrator at another college--) and pushed their self promoting agenda. That is the problem. I bet that labor group is going to find out a lot of shady deals were made that were not passed through proper channels. They are probably relieved to have the two of them gone. And the "Gonzaperaza" team are now our problem, doing shady stuff in our community. We need to all attend School Board meetings, on this SameOld, you and I are in total agreement.


SameOldSWC Sept. 27, 2013 @ 5:13 a.m.

Point well taken, Nickdanny. I agree with you that the inherent problem isn't with the Labor Council. It was simply led by someone (Gonzalez) who used that position for personal gain and unbridled ambition.

Now, in the Assembly, thankfully she's been exposed for her lack of faithfulness to her own party. Gee...it's no wonder a couple of flip-floppers like she and Fletcher are so well-aligned!!


eastlaker Sept. 25, 2013 @ 12:38 p.m.

The inbred nature of politics in this part of San Diego County only brings more and more trouble.

Is it too much for the political parties to realize that we need intelligent, responsible, honest people in these positions?

We need people who can compromise to bring about solutions, without compromising their integrity, without compromising the needs of the community.

Anyone listening?


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