Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez
  • Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The San Diego district attorney’s investigation into South Bay corruption involving Southwestern College, Sweetwater Union High School, and San Ysidro school districts is essentially over. Sweetwater Union High School trustees Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor each on April 24. They will continue to serve as trustees until the end of their respective terms.

Both plea deals stem from Government Code 89503 — accepting gifts over the limit mandated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Bertha Lopez and her attorney

Bertha Lopez and her attorney

The Sweetwater Union High School District board will go forward with three trustees instead of five: John McCann, Jim Cartmill, and Bertha Lopez.

In the recent past, two boardmembers were unseated as a result of corruption charges. Former trustee Arlie Ricasa resigned from the board before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in December 2013.

Former trustee Pearl Quiñones pleaded guilty to a felony in March and no longer serves on the board.

However, in regard to Cartmill, the judge found that he “is authorized to continue to serve as a board member…. The court came to that conclusion after reviewing the statute pertaining to that particular offense [accepting gifts].”

The judge’s finding was the same for Lopez.

Cartmill will return to court June 3 for sentencing. Lopez will return June 9. On these respective dates, judge Ana Espana will rule whether or not either of them will be able to run for reelection. Cartmill is up for reelection in 2014; Lopez in 2016.

Cartmill and attorney Thomas Warwick

Cartmill and attorney Thomas Warwick

The wrap-up to this prolonged corruption investigation might have been anti-climatic if not for Cartmill’s attorney, Thomas Warwick. Warwick pressed the judge to limit the number of media photographers to one still camera and one TV camera. As the decision was discretionary, España decided to allow all media photographers who had submitted paperwork — three instead of two.

After the judge’s decision, Warwick continued to make the case for limitations and disparaged people who came to the courtroom “dressed like construction workers.” He went on to state “the courtroom should not be reduced down to reality TV.”

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


aardvark April 24, 2014 @ 6:31 p.m.

The judge in this case is a real piece of...work. Is this judge up for reelection any time soon? She needs to go away.


Missionaccomplished April 27, 2014 @ 9:56 a.m.

White collar crime always gets a slap on the wrist.


anniej April 24, 2014 @ 7:36 p.m.

The next several months are going to be very interesting. The votes of John Mc Cann, Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez from now til November will truly define where their interest lay.

The community wants Ed Brand gone, Bertha Lopez seems to want a new direction - question is do Mc Cann and Cartmill. If not, why not?


Missionaccomplished April 27, 2014 @ 10 a.m.

Isn't Mccan't going up against the vapid Ringtone for the mayoral race in CV??? Can someone please confirm? Cart-run-of-the-mill will be looking to move on as soon as his daughter graduates. Does anyone know if that will be this June, Rainbow or next year??? As far as Lowpez, her term isn't up until 2016! And where does Doc Brand go from here? Might he step down soon or try to get the Board to give him a raise? If Doc Brand does step down in the near future, can he take Doc Bone and Audrey with him???


anniej April 24, 2014 @ 7:49 p.m.

No disrespect meant to Mr. Warwick, B U T, what is wrong with construction workers? I believe they too pay taxes for their children's education.


calbear April 29, 2014 @ 12:25 p.m.

I have more respect for construction workers than I do for lawyers!


oskidoll April 24, 2014 @ 8:35 p.m.

My sentiments exactly anniej, but I don't care if I disrespect Mr.Warwick. The public is entitled to be in the courtroom, as is its representative, the press. His arrogance is indicative of the arrogance of Cartmill in this matter.
I thought the bylaws of the SUHSD prohibited any board member convicted of even a misdemeanor in the course of their service on the board from continuing in office. Would someone please check that out. Judge Espana's term is up for reelection in 2017 if I understand correctly. WE should all make sure that she does not get reelected...her failure to protect the victims of these perps, we the public who pay the taxes that have paid for their dereliction, is disgusting. The DA's staff worked hard to garner the indictments in these cases, and then gave it all away, with the complicity of the judge. Justice has NOT been served!


calbear April 29, 2014 @ 12:32 p.m.

Someone should investigate Judge Espana, she's probably on Fast Eddie's payroll (under the table of course).


VigilantinCV April 24, 2014 @ 8:48 p.m.

What a perfectly awful farce! These South Bay "corruption" trials have been like a Chinese water torture over the past two years. Bonnie Dumanis, Leon Shorr, and Judge España should be ashamed of themselves for wasting so many tax dollars to reach this disappointing conclusion. I am sure that every citizen can go to sleep tonight assured that corruption has been stamped out in the South Bay! -- NOT.


Jmbrickley April 24, 2014 @ 9:08 p.m.

I for one am satisfied. After being involved with this fiasco from the very beginning, I am relieved to see that it Is finally over. Do I agree with all the plea deals? No! Do I think justice was served? Probably, or not! Like many of you, I believe too many serious crimes were committed to warrant the leniency of the court. However, that horse has left the barn. What I am left with is a sense that changes were made, people rallied to a cause when they were needed most, and the way the business of SUHSD is conducted has been changed forever.

Sweetwater is now being forced to make meaningful changes, in both the way it does it's business, as well as how it does that business in full view of the public. Is it perfect? No. Can it improve/ Oh, hell yes. This is but a start. It is up to each and every one of us to hold those people elected to our various school boards to be responsive to us, the public, for the day to day running of our schools. I for one plan to continue to be active in local school issues, not because of any one pet gripe I may have, but rather because of an overall sense that without my voice, the leadership of any governing agency may, and probably will do as it damn well pleases. Enough of that. It's time to get involved.


oneoftheteachers April 25, 2014 @ 6 a.m.

A big thank you to you and your group that worked so hard and so long to clean up the corruption.


eastlaker April 25, 2014 @ 4:31 a.m.

So are we now saying this is the wake-up call?

Or will the inestimable Ed Brand take this as implicit support for all of his further dealings?

I hope not.

I hope that Mr. Cartmill will start standing up for what this community really wants: good leadership, good decision-making, intelligent usage of public dollars. No secret deals, scams and plots for further expansion of Sweetwater into a multi-national corporation...stick with education 7 - 12, plus the adult-learner programs that support job training and English language acquisition.

Stop with the games. Do your jobs honestly and completely. Respect the citizenry, instead of openly mocking and ignoring them during the public comments at board meetings. Stop acting like the stereotype of the entitled teenager, McCann. Grow up and accomplish something besides self-promotion. You don't have much time left. See what you can do to repair all the damage you have done.


Ensenadamaria April 25, 2014 @ 7:46 a.m.

Board member Cartmill needs to heed the words of the fellow minister who offered Biblical verses for Cartmill to reflect on at the last meeting.


oldchulares April 25, 2014 @ 7:53 a.m.

It looks like Jim has dodged a major bullet. Wondering if we will see a new Jim or more of the same. His reputation can't take much more.


Visduh April 25, 2014 @ 8:24 a.m.

I predicted that the resolution of these cases would not involve much or any jail time or anything resembling real punishment, but these two pleas went far beyond anything I'd imagined for leniency. I'd been sure that both would be off the board, and that the county office would have to put its members on the board, leaving McCann as the only holdover. Now these three can, if they wish, continue merrily along as a quorum, and Brand can continue his reign of terror.

While it is easy to blame the judge for the unsatisfactory resolution of the cases, don't forget that the DA has been willing to go easy. That is especially galling in that she made such a big deal out of the indictments. So, if anyone is waiting to vote that judge out of office, keep in mind that Bahnee can be voted out this year. Both of them are equally culpable in this miscarriage of justice.

We can only wonder what sort of message this sends to members of other boards in regard to playing it fast and loose. I'd suppose that they now figure that the worst that can happen is a misdemeanor conviction, and maybe removal from office. It would be easy to say that boards in other areas of the county and state would never have this sort of thing happen, but indications are that the LA area has a number of them boiling to the surface right now. One thing I can say is that if members of most boards were indicted, they would quickly resign. But these people just didn't think that way, and were obviously shameless. And their lack of shame will continue, as will their scheming.

From the start, it seemed obvious that the solution to all this was at the ballot box, and that brain dead block voters needed to wake up. Will this do the trick? Don't bet on that in So County. A clean sweep of the board would have been satisfying, but wasn't the ultimate solution.

Some time ago, I speculated whether this affair would end "with a bang, or . . . with a whimper." This was certainly no bang.


oldchulares April 25, 2014 @ 12:32 p.m.

What about the scuttlebutt I was just told about that there is more trouble heading Sweetwater way? Is Ed in those cross hairs?


eastlaker April 25, 2014 @ 12:42 p.m.

I am certainly not a party to inside info, but after watching the Sweetwater antics all these years, I have reached the conclusion that Fast Eddy has always been interested in what he can do for himself. So if he is in the cross-hairs...well, how many times has he crossed the line? The lines have crossed back?


Visduh April 25, 2014 @ 6:27 p.m.

The district needs no more trouble. But if it involves Eddie, bring it on! FBI? State board of education? State superintendent? Dept of Homeland Security? DA (as unlikely as that seems?) The College Board? The compact with SDSU (was that Success?) We cannot wait to hear more.


oskidoll April 25, 2014 @ 12:43 p.m.

Seems as though the judge herself is unclear about the meaning of the State Ed Code and the District's own by laws...is she advocating that State Law and the Bylaws be ignored? Can she override them? I really don't think so. What a mess she has handed us....AGAIN. As far as Mr. Warwick is concerned, I am still peeved that he was allowed to be so arrogant regarding on-lookers in the court...how dare he insinuate that common citizens ought to be excluded from the public process! Mr. Warwick...we have been living this very REAL nightmare for years now, and do not expect that you are going to keep us out of a public place doing the public's business in which we have very real interests and standing. HURUMPH and SO THERE!! WE ARE THE VICTIMS OF YOUR CLIENT AND YOU CLIENT'S MALFESEANCE IN OFFICE.


anniej April 25, 2014 @ 1:26 p.m.

While Lopez has found herself thrown under the Sweetwater bus many times in the past 4+ years, I must say I found it interesting that Ed Brand seemed to be calling for 2 hanging trees with double knots when commenting on the Lopez. AND CARTMILL pleas in the UT. Don't you find it interesting that HE has catapulted himself into the position of king. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a curtain of pompous arrogance.

I am sorry but since when did Brand become the epitome of all that is legal?

Folks our task is not over yet, BRAND HAS GOT TO GO,,,,,, at this point he is 99.9% of the problem!

I will be watching the dais, IF our Board is to regain ANY respectability they need to give Ed Brand the news - NO more SUHSD contracts for you. SEE YA!!!!!


shirleyberan April 25, 2014 @ 1:36 p.m.

anniej - that is the (how many) million dollar question. Can who is left open there eyes and the Brand cookbooks?


Reader2 April 25, 2014 @ 1:44 p.m.

I'm happy to say good-bye to this forum. But never fear, I will continue reading. While I'm by no means satisfied with the result, I'm just glad it's behind us. A heart-felt thank you to all who sacrificed and all those who educated me/us.
I was blissfully ignorant and naive. Those days are gone, and that's a good thing!

Now I hope a Sweetwater teacher will start posting about Common Core, the LCFF and the LCAP. We need someone who knows what's going on to inform us. The district has been having meetings but I find them very unsatisfactory. Principals don't seem to understand LCFF (or pretend not to so they don't have to inform the public) and the scripted options given are freakin' endless. (Has anyone been to the district website, looked high and low for the survey, only to discover it has 50!!! questions?) Yes, SUHSD you can now check the LCAP compliance box, but you're doing a p ss poor job of getting REAL parental input.

If anyone has energy left, pay close attention to LCFF. There's a new money trail to follow. And don't get me started on Common Core. If well implemented it could be a good thing, but right now it seems like the LCAP/Common Core Connection = even more testing. Poor kids!


anniej April 25, 2014 @ 1:51 p.m.

TRANSPARENT CALIFORNIA reports that Ed Brand received $101,831.40 from CalSTRS in 2011.

His current SUHSD salary is 225k I believe.


Susan Luzzaro April 25, 2014 @ 7:48 p.m.

Oskidoll, To be clear as can be, given the context of Mr. Warwick's remarks, I believe they were aimed at media.. However, he chose the generic "people" in relationship to how attendees were dressed.


oskidoll April 25, 2014 @ 7:59 p.m.

I continue to assert that whatever the targets of Mr. Warwick's remarks, he was out of order. The public OR the media, he was cavalier in his arrogance...anyone who represents the rights of the people in the public court ought to be protected by the court. Who the hell does he think he is?


Susan Luzzaro April 25, 2014 @ 7:55 p.m.

Visduh, I do believe it's my duty to go back and find your first comment on the largest corruption case in the county....as many should...it is my recollection you have always maintained that it will end as it has ended.


miagd April 25, 2014 @ 9:31 p.m.

Haven't had time to read all the remarks, so forgive me if I repeat. My sib in another profession and county can't believe all this. I don't burden some people with this, but I'm at the boiling point. This is unreal. I'm speechless how we can even be discussing a clear case. Head spins. Mind reels. I'm ashamed to live in a county that wrist slaps taxpayer paid white collar criminals.


BFDJohn April 25, 2014 @ 10:07 p.m.

OMG Ed Brand is at it again. The Sweetwater Way. Stab in the back. Bully. Threaten. When will the insanity around her end. Failed pipe dreams. District Office kiss that one goodbye. How is Alliant University doing or was that Grand Canyon? Where will the shells that have been moving around for years stop and our District exposed. Unreal. Surreal insanity a Sociopath on the loose Nuts Nuts Nuts everywhere god help me I am going crazy help me ShirleyBeran, Anniej or somebody. We girls have to stick together expose the ones who do Brands bidding whether on staff, Bond Committee, consultants you name it tired os seeing it for these many years


anniej April 26, 2014 @ 7:02 a.m.

oldchulares, Eastlaker, Visduh - sooner or later, it was bound to happen. Brand and his 'alleged' speed dial connections - what a joke! The question is are any new culprits entwined in this or is it the same bunch? Ding, ding, ding, round 2?


anniej April 26, 2014 @ 10:01 a.m.

Will retirement benefits continue to be paid to Jesus Gandara? TRANSPARENT CALIFORNIA indicates he is collecting, BUT, we need to follow up on future benefits.


Visduh April 26, 2014 @ 3:46 p.m.

If you look back in my comments a week or week and a half ago, this has been covered. The news report indicated he loses his pension. That bit of news was the only bright spot in all this misery.


shirleyberan April 26, 2014 @ 12:08 p.m.

BFDJohn - I think you mean Reader's favorite Southbay Tiger-Mom, Susan. Oskidoll has been researching and taking lots of notes from what I understand. I'm sure a lot of others too who know the right thing to do is protect and nurture. This kind of abuse of power is all over right now; downtown development that gives even more advantage to the rich and lets anybody but them pay through hard work and taxes. SDOpera, a mismanaged "non-profit" with highly paid leadership, near death (read Don Bauder, great insights and personal responses to questions). People have been too trusting so that unscrupulous gold diggers easily had their way. Not for much longer, things have changed, awareness is raised, such a battle. I would still like it better if the guilty got what's really due them but they are in slippery with the politics of their work status. By the way, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat - Massachusetts) has a new book about how she helped create law and bank regulations protecting us from further bank loan scams, that we thought were already covered. 2007 was the worst recession since the Great Depression and most of those executives/administrators have kept the money and are still super rich.


shirleyberan April 26, 2014 @ 12:58 p.m.

I think Don Bauder would correct me, banks and lending institutions is more like it. Remember that was when Ed wanted so badly to be in the lending game (scams) but since the economy didn't allow, opted for real estate.


anniej April 26, 2014 @ 4:30 p.m.

Visduh - yes, I read that report as well. But who does the notification?

Call me cynical, but this is SUHSD we are talking about.

Ms. Luzzaro, do you know who does the notification?


eastlaker April 26, 2014 @ 4:55 p.m.

Yes, I do hope that there will be follow-through on the Gandara pension.

Would the County Board of Ed be responsible for that? (It does my heart good to find out just what they are supposed to be doing).


Visduh April 26, 2014 @ 9:50 p.m.

I'd think that the DA would make sure the clerk of the court sent a notice to STRS. But with all the publicity, I suspect someone at STRS would have already made note of it. And I doubt that the teachers union will ignore the matter.


anniej April 27, 2014 @ 11:01 a.m.

Missionaccomplished - Mr. Mc Canan is running for CV City Council. Mr. Cartmill's daughter is not ready to graduate quite yet, I have been told. Mr. Brand must be given notification we are NOT renewing his contract by June or it automatically renews.

So,,,,,,,, when does the search for a new Siuper begin? Brand is fighting hard for Cartmill and Lopez to go - then, he can sell his bs story to the County 'you need me, but I will only stay if the contract is for 2 more years'. Folks, I don't know about you but I am of the opinion we can NOT afford 2 MORE years of Brand. Cut the head of the snake OFF.

If Mr. Mc Cann were smart he would lead the termination charge to get rid of Brand NOW before the June primary. THEN he will have something to show to the So Bay voting community.


eastlaker April 27, 2014 @ 12:28 p.m.

anniej, that is one big if.

I cannot help but think Brand has the goods on all these people, so they aren't going to go against him, unless they go against him en mass. But then they would run the risk of someone tipping him off.

I agree, though, "Cut the head of the snake OFF." In the metaphorical sense, of course, meaning, get rid of the one who has driven so many schemes and scams that it is nearly impossible to keep a running list.

With the word that more land (Otay Ranch) has been sold for development, I wonder what Brand the would-be-real-estate-developer is thinking. That eventually more schools will be needed? More Mello-Roos money coming in?

We need to put someone in place who really is an educator, who knows how to maintain, support and sustain good schools in all parts of town, without selling the students down the (Sweetwater) river. If Brand sticks around for two more years, just imaging the further damage he will do. We need him out, and we need to get to the bottom of all the financial shell games.

If John McCann wants to try and live up to his previous campaign promises, and actually clean up Sweetwater, that would be great. No one would be happier than I to see that. But does he have the character and backbone? I have seen no evidence of that yet.


Visduh April 28, 2014 @ 9:48 a.m.

The sad part of all this is that anyone "who really is an educator, who knows how to maintain, support and sustain good schools in all parts of town" would not take the job. Who wants to come into a school district run by a dysfunctional/criminal board? Who wants to clean up "Brandara's" messes? I was calling for a clean sweep of the board, which now is not going to happen, so that a new board could have "a new birth of freedom" and start anew. There are far more "supe" jobs out there than there are qualified and mentally suited candidates. The good ones and the bad ones play a game of musical chairs, moving and moving again, from district to district while increasing their salaries. That's in large part why district boards are so willing, nay eager, to pay a quarter-million-plus bucks for some hack who claims to know how to run the local schools. The San Diego district has struggled over the years to get a decent superintendent, and the jury is still out on the current one. Vista went through a series of them, with two of them no better than caretakers, and one who was a sweet con artist. And so it goes around the county and state.

You are absolutely right that Brand has to go. He needs to be gone yesterday. While it is hard to imagine someone worse for the district, but this board could probably find him or her. Be very careful of what you wish for because you might get it.


eastlaker April 28, 2014 @ 11:48 a.m.

I have to think there are honest people out there who believe in education, and know that it is important.

Yes, we have not seen much evidence here in south San Diego County, but a really good start would be staying away from anyone with connections to Socorro, Texas.

I know there have been several people from this community who have essentially said they would volunteer their time to straighten this out. I think we need to demand a meeting with the County Board of Education, bring these people forward and be very clear that continuing down the Ed Brand road is nothing but disaster.


shirleyberan April 28, 2014 @ 9:57 a.m.

Maybe anniej will write the novel. Apparently she has the goods.


FatCatSegat April 30, 2014 @ 9:26 a.m.

Victory Cosultants is a company that employs and facilitates petition drives and their respective circulators. Get your community to bankroll a petition drive to get him out. That is all I can contibute to this mess.


Bvavsvavev April 30, 2014 @ 3:09 p.m.

Here is another example that shows a complete lack of leadership by Ed Brand. Hilltop High used jupiter.com to email parents about supporting Mary Salas for Mayor. Read the attached story in San Diego Rostra.

How will Ed Brand respond to this? Little man McCann provided his self serving comments. Empty words as he has had 4 years to act but has done nothing but support Brand in his hair brained schemes.



Sign in to comment