Cartmill (left) with attorney Thomas Warwick on April 24, 2014
  • Cartmill (left) with attorney Thomas Warwick on April 24, 2014
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On April 24, former Sweetwater trustee Jim Cartmill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Cartmill had accepted gifts over the limits set by the Fair Political Practice Commission from contractors doing business with the district. As a result of his guilty plea, Cartmill had to step down from the board.

On July 14, Cartmill filed papers to run for the Sweetwater board — again — in the November election.

Cartmill was one of 22 charged in the pay-to-play corruption case that has fascinated and nauseated many South Bay residents.

The last time Cartmill ran for the board, in 2010, he had considerable help from vendors contracted by the district; Seville Group, Inc, the program manager for all bond construction under Proposition O, gave Friends of Jim Cartmill $20,000.

Maty Adato, a Sweetwater community advocate, fought for several years to bring campaign finance reform to the district and finally succeeded in January 2014 when the board approved a campaign contribution limit of $750.

Cartmill’s decision to run for the board again confirms the misgivings some community members have had about justice served and lessons learned in the prolonged and costly proceedings.

On July 4, the U-T carried a wrap-up of the South Bay corruption scandal. The headline purveyed the all-fixed feeling in fitting Wild West terms: “South Bay case notched 22 convictions.”

Shortly after the U-T article came out, Dr. Carla Kirkwood, the first person to take concerns about corruption at Southwestern College, posted this prescient response to the article on her Facebook page:

“Significant change DID NOT happen through the courts (nor the political agendas that drove the investigation). The behavior of these administrators and elected Board members impacted the very existence of these schools (Southwestern College and the Sweetwater District). Southwestern was faced with losing its accreditation, and due to the actions of these corrupt officials — employees were removed from their jobs (several of them Union jobs), which led to a series of expensive and lengthy law suits. CHANGE happened because of the involvement of the community, the actions of newly elected board members (at Southwestern) in 2010, and the removal of corrupt leadership from their positions of authority. 

“Because the management and administration at both of these institutions were more focused on ‘deals’ and campaign contributions than they were on the vitality of the educational institutions they were meant to oversee, the schools suffered long term damage. The ramifications were much larger than ‘dotting I s and crossing T s.’ Loss of accreditation, corrupt construction contracts leading to high taxpayer losses, and poor planning are just a few of the effects of these peoples actions. Get real.”

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Bob_Hudson July 17, 2014 @ 9:36 p.m.

WOW - that guy has one big-a** ego. He makes his living as a professional speaker and government/education consultant ( ) so I guess having "current school board member" on your resume probably gets more bookings than "convicted ex-public official."

Maybe he can convince Duke Cunningham to come back from Arkansas to run his campaign on the slogan, "Oops, sorry I got caught. My bad."


aardvark July 17, 2014 @ 10:28 p.m.

Hopefully he spends lots of his own money on his campaign.


oldchulares July 17, 2014 @ 11:42 p.m.

If you ask Jim, he will tell you he really didn't do anything wrong.

The people that attended the mayors forum are not interested in seeing him back and don't mind sharing that opinion. I knew it was coming but is still hard to believe.


oneoftheteachers July 18, 2014 @ 6:49 a.m.

Even if we give Jim the benefit of the doubt about his actions, it is his inaction that disqualifies him for running again. Unlike Bertha Lopez, who fought Gandara and Brand with a vengeance, Cartmill supported both of those men whose agendas did not include the education and welfare of our kids. Look at Cartmill's voting record. He supported the corruption!!!


eastlaker July 18, 2014 @ 12:13 a.m.

Well, Jim might be thinking that running for school board again beats shipping out on a tramp steamer, especially since there aren't many of those anymore.

Other options...reality TV show, "The Real Crooks of Sweetwater"...?

Write a novel in the confessional style, making sure all the names have been changed?

Cash out and move to Arizona?

So, really, Jim, you are telling us that you think you should have at all our tax and bond monies again?

Why--it didn't go all that well the last time. Has something changed?


Missionaccomplished July 18, 2014 @ 8:38 a.m.

Yeah, Oracle, Arizona! Arizona politician mistakes YMCA campers for migrant ...

The Arizona Republic

3 days ago - Republican congressional candidate and state legislator Adam Kwasman ... And while the YMCA kids showed up, the bus that Kwasman and other ...


Ensenadamaria July 18, 2014 @ 8:38 a.m.

Why would he want to put his family thru the humiliation and bad press? This is the act of an arrogant man.


Missionaccomplished July 18, 2014 @ 8:40 a.m.

I heard he only wanted to remain on the Board until his youngest daughter graduated? What? Is she a grade 13 now in the Learning Center?


oskidoll July 18, 2014 @ 4:31 p.m.

but it is apparently impossible for "Pastor" Jim to give up the benefits, the stipend, all those meals, and the electronic toys he came to rely upon during his 20-plus year-tenure on the board. And then he got caught.....


anniej July 18, 2014 @ 9:08 a.m.

Mission accomplished - we must remain civil, there are innocents in all of this - children, wives and husbands must be left out of the discussion unless it is to praise. I understand that Cartmills daughter is lovely and bright - and am told his wife is a very nice person - both adore him and rightfully so as he is their family.


Missionaccomplished July 18, 2014 @ 10:29 p.m.

Okay, but where is the "civility" in repeatedly ignoring parents?

A person who does not answer you when you greet them, is considered rude. This is worse.


anniej July 19, 2014 @ 7:49 a.m.

Missionaccomplished - you are, of course, absolutely correct; however, we. must not allow ourselves to be hurtful to those who have nothing to do with our concerns.


Wabbitsd July 21, 2014 @ 10:27 a.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with you, anniej. I do have to wonder, though, why a person like Mr. Cartmill would be so insensitive to their family and loved ones and behave in the manner they have. How embarrassing for the family and friends.


bbq July 18, 2014 @ 9:52 a.m.

As I only know Jim Cartmill as a member of the SUHSD Board of Trustees, I am sure he has friends and loved ones that do not deserve to be dragged into the issue of weather he was or will be a good member of the new Board, I feel the same of Bertha Lopez.

The real question is who, what and where were these individuals as the two terms of Ed Brand and one of Jesus Gandara were going on? Yes, I know it maybe unfair to lump the two together but neither handled the situations very well.

Jim has been involved with the district since the beginning of the "Property Speculation", it appears that his eyes were bigger than his ability to judge the Real Estate Market... His undieing link and faith in the Superintendents was at least sickening and at most negligent of his feduciary responsibilities to manage the district. His desire to rejoin the district seems to be more about vanity, personal gain (He needs three months to be vested in the State Health Care Plan) and not about fixing the district!!! He's had plenty of time to complete that. As Dr Phil Says "The best prediction of future behavior is past behavior..."

As for Bertha, even though she objected to and often was the only desenting vote to a "Brandian" topic or issue, she was still an ineffective Trustee, she should have demanded topics be removed from the agendas if she had not been given the proper background information, she should have expanded her group of advisors and been more inclusive of the public and been more prepared on all of the issues.

Again I could say the same of the other three former Board members, but I ask not only Jim and Bertha but all of the voters in the SUHSD isn't it a time to make a clean break from the past, good ol'boy network, elect five New members of the board, continue community forums and develope a new stratigic plan for the future of the district?

Even though I can only vote in my district I will be picking the five best candidates to work with, for the future of the SUHSD and the region.



Missionaccomplished July 25, 2014 @ 10:19 p.m.

"As I only know Jim Cartmill as a member of the SUHSD Board of Trustees, I am sure he has friends and loved ones that do not deserve to be dragged into the issue of weather he was or will be a good member of the new Board, I feel the same of Bertha Lopez."

Then they should do as Manuel Paul's wife did, slowly distance themselves.


oskidoll July 18, 2014 @ 11:17 a.m.

Cartmill is certainly a poster boy for hubris! We can thank her honor, Judge Espana, for not putting an end to his political so-called career. He was removed from his office only because the District's own bylaws required it...if it had been left to the judge, she would have given him a pass because his actions were not as egregious as some of the others.

Let's not forget that Cartmill was indicted many times over (not just a few) for taking more money than was legally allowed, and then 'forgetting' to report it as required by law. That his vote was for sale is no less evident than for the perps who the judge made resign. Shame on him for even thinking about a bid to 'represent' the public...he only represents himself and his unfettered greed.

I do hope campaign literature will iterate ALL the indictments the Grand Jury filed against him as well as the fact that he was removed from office.


anniej July 18, 2014 @ 12:54 p.m.

bbq - Ms. Lopez was never the President of the Board - information she requested not received, information she demanded ignored. Gandara and Brand had the total control, the power relinquished by the other 4.

When you know better, you do better - so what of the other 4? We did not matter, they mattered to each other and were commanded by Gandara and Brand - that is who they owed their allegiances to. Bertha Lopez went to the DA a few months after we did - we met with her and she committed herself to making a change. Unfortunately her commitment and efforts to the students and community were fruitless - she did what she could. She and Ms. Quinines fought for ROP, she fought for Adult Ed, she fought for the employees but to no avail.

As I said while I can not speak on the actual charges I will stand up for Ms. Lopez's efforts and continue to educate those who attempt to lump her in with the others.

What was she to do - remember this is the same Bertha Lopez who had her mic turned off by John McCann simply because she attempted th answer a question from the community.

bbq - expanded her group of advisors? Not sure I am following you.

I will agree it is time for change on all fronts. November can not come too soon for me. We do need to be strategic, the vote in Eastlake can not be split - if it is well, we only have ourselves to blame. Tarantino would have my vote for your area, if I was your neighbor. A good man, a very good man who is in it for all the right reasons. He has educational experience and knows the issues. Additionally I believe he has the gumption to make the tough decisions. I would encourage all to consider him. Please do not take my comments to mean others running are not fine decent people - Tarantino, however is the person from Eastlake that I would like to see representing our students and taxpayers best interest.


bbq July 18, 2014 @ 4 p.m.

anniej, I value your work and opinion, however you said it in your comment

" ...Cartmill and Brand had the total control, the power relinquished by the other 4...."

It is the "relinquishing of the power" that most disturbs me..

As I have tried to state there is much to celebrate in what Ms. Lopez did but no matter the reasons, she was not an effective Trustee.

Having anyone from the old board come in as an incumbant with "Experience from the most recent Board" is experience we do not need.

No offense but having any holdovers from the confused and weak previous board will only make the new board weaker!!!

Sorry Ms. Lopez I understand what you did and tried to do, but I do not think it is enough to back you or encourage anyone to vote for you. You should back someone without the baggage of the previous Board and Superintendent, to develop the future, without the stigma of the past.

With Respect, BBQ


anniej July 18, 2014 @ 5:57 p.m.

bbq - if you reread my sentence - "Gandara and Brand had total control, the power relinquished by the 'other' 4'. Other as in other than Lopez.

It was clear Lopez had not relinquished her power, you were in attendance at a few of them and saw the bantering back and forth. Guess she could have done a Kruschev and thrown a shoe - haha.

Again, if you read the ending of my post. I do agree, it is time for a new Board as indicated in my statement "I will agree it is time for change on 'ALL' fronts"

I too appreciate your work and efforts, it has taken a village to accomplish what we have done - and WE ARE ALMOST THERE. STILL A BIT OF HOUSE CLEANING TO DO.

Oh, by the way hate to be the bearer of bad news ' Board voted for Mello to be increased '. I would encourage you to listen 'carefully' to that part of the audio. It appeared to be a preset arrangement. McCann the lone no vote - no doubt McCann will have a crop duster flying overhead tomorrow announcing it to the world. Problem is, like I said, it appeared to be prearranged (the vote I mean). Also did you happen to notice all of that borrowing on the agenda.

Sure do hope there is something left in the coffers for the new Board.


eastlaker July 18, 2014 @ 7:09 p.m.

Now that it has been announced that real estate recovery in San Diego county is slowing down, I think it is important to think about one other item that was mentioned ever-so-slightly at the board meeting.

The new school which will be built at the corner of Hunte and Eastlake Parkway (I believe this is what I heard).

This school, if I heard correctly, is supposed to be a combined campus, with grades 7 - 12 being taught. I do not know if the campus will be divided into two parts, or if it will be set up by any rate, I guess Sweetwater is thinking that many new homes will be built south of Otay Towne Center.

On the one hand, it is good to think ahead. On the other hand, will we, the taxpaying public be given accurate information, or will we be spoon-fed what the district wants us to hear?

Again, we need full cooperation from the board. Let's not have any further 'quick deals'. There is NO REASON TO DO THAT.


Chris_Shilling July 18, 2014 @ 9:06 p.m.

A while back I was looking at the Haven houses directly across from this location and the signs in the area, and what I was told by the realtor, seem to confirm what you are saying. It is a stones throw from High Tech High Chula Vista where I coach basketball. Very close to the university land and where the Millenia project is being built.


oldchulares July 18, 2014 @ 7:44 p.m.

I was just told that there was some funny business at the board meeting last night. The mello taxes were increased but from what I understand it looked like the deal had been cut before the meeting even started. There was a prepared motion handed to Susan Hartley and Marc Anderson asked how many do we need to pass after he had already spoken against raising the mello. Looks like this bunch ain't too much different than the last bunch. How do you vote to increase taxes in a community you don't even live in. Knew there was a reason why I didn't want to move out there I could have been saddled with what many of you are now dealing with. And now Tom is selling we need a new school. Just keeps getting worse and worse. Can someone tell me if O'Neill is running for the folks living in old Chula I hear there is a map but I haven't seen it.


erupting July 18, 2014 @ 9:16 p.m.

oldchulares, Kevin O'Neil will be running for seat two if Judge Hayes doesn't return Bertha to her seat. It was supposed to be decided today,but the attorneys presented more case law to be looked at so Judge Hayes said that she would look over the documents and mail her decision to the attorneys and clients.


Chris_Shilling July 18, 2014 @ 9:16 p.m.

I believe you are correct, people who do not represent/live in our community should not be voting to raise taxes. The alleged Brown Act violations that are being rumored are extremely concerning. As the Chula Vista Board of Ethics Vice-Chairman I take the Brown Act very seriously and have to follow it myself.

Recently, I sent an email to the full board and received a response from one of the board members who had copied the entire board. I responded to only the board member and told that person I had removed the other board members from the email follow up so there were no concerns about a serial meeting in possible violation of the Brown Act. We need board members who understand the law and hold the internal values and integrity to follow it, avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.


anniej July 19, 2014 @ 7:32 a.m.

Mr. Shilling: what a novel thought, a Board member who has educated himself and follows Brown Act rules. This new geographical requirement may not be as good as many were led to believe - more than one qualified candidate just might live in the same area.

It is pretty clear the County folk are in a tough position - and us, well we are being forced to wait for a Board who WANTS TO BE THERE - a Board WHO IS WILLING TO TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN and a Board THAT IS WILLING TO 'EXPOSE' THE TRUTH.

I am confident that the very sight of me brings thoughts to their minds (not spoken) - 'can she just go away'. No doubt they will never raise a glass in celebration and say CHEERS without thinking about this 7 month nightmare.


anniej July 19, 2014 @ 3:34 p.m.

Mr. Shilling - Thank You for sharing your ideas. If I may be so bold I would highly recommend a 'FORENSIC' audit. 2015 can not come too soon.


Chris_Shilling July 19, 2014 @ 9:30 p.m.

You're very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to listen (or read).

I would be open to a forensic audit. That will be an important decision that the new board will make.


erupting July 20, 2014 @ 6:55 a.m.

Mr..Shilling, now that you have thrown your hat in the ring so to speak will you be attending the board meetings to get your thoughts heard by all? No better place to air your thoughts. I know Kevin O'Neil attends regularly and speaks. Faces with names are important in this race.


Chris_Shilling July 20, 2014 @ 8:08 p.m.

Yes! I was at the June board meeting. I wasn't able to make the meeting last week because I was teaching but I will be at the meeting on property tomorrow.


eastlaker July 23, 2014 @ 10:42 a.m.

So, the ruling is out and Cartmill as well as Bertha Lopez will be able to run.

Anyone know the lineups as they now stand?


anniej July 23, 2014 @ 11:49 a.m.

eastlaker - the ruling Cartmill and Lopez are currently 'awaiting' is whether they can return to their seats 'now'. The judge in that case has not yet made her decision.

Part of their plea as agreed to by the prosecution and court was that they could run in November.


eastlaker July 23, 2014 @ 12:15 p.m.

Thanks, anniej--I am getting confused.

Between Espana's nonsensical rulings, as well as stating that she was not aware or informed of the Sweetwater codes...and then these appeals, because Espana's (deliberate?) ignorance opened up the doors isn't easy to keep track.

But I guess that is part of the point of this mess.

If you can't be honest, then at least confuse people enough so they give up and go away???

Except, we will not go away, until or unless things are cleaned up and running honestly FOR THE STUDENTS here in Sweetwater.

By the way, anyone know how long we have to wait on this last ruling?


anniej July 23, 2014 @ 1:11 p.m.

eastlaker - what is that old saying 'the ball is in her HONOR's court'.


Missionaccomplished July 25, 2014 @ 10:21 p.m.

Well, at least Doc Branded and male-emasculator M. Castratilleja will be gone!


eastlaker July 28, 2014 @ 9:40 a.m.

Still waiting, I guess?

Will Espana rule that Cartmill can return to the Sweetwater board so that Cartmill can then claim that all is well with the world? That he has repaid his debt to society? Ha!

Sweetwater does not need a Brand-loyal henchman hanging around...Sweetwater needs people who will actually look into issues, answer questions, and not sell out to the highest bidder. Or any bidder.


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