Campaigns usually don’t get ugly until election day nears, but disgraced Sweetwater former trustee Jim Cartmill, has already come out mud-slinging — against community advocates.
Cartmill is running for seat 3 in the Sweetwater Union High School District. This district election could be a national anomaly because all five seats are up for grabs in November.
The wide-ranging corruption trials, which involved contractor gifts and trustee votes, resulted in four out of the five board members either resigning or being removed from the board.
After serving only one term, the fifth trustee, John McCann, is leaving the district in a bid for a Chula Vista City Council seat.
Cartmill was originally charged with nine counts of corruption, which included: wrongful influence, two counts of accepting a bribe by a member of legislature, conflict of interest, two counts of filing a false instrument, perjury by declaration, gifts from a single source in excess of the legal amount, and perjury by declaration.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of accepting gifts over the state limit. He was sentenced April 2014 to three years of probation, a $4589 fine, and 40 hours of community service. He was also obliged to step down from his trustee seat.
If Cartmill is elected in November he will still be on probation. On September 16, Cartmill sent out an email soliciting campaign donations. In the email, he appeals to people who are tired of the “coarsening of civil discourse.” He includes a sound bite from a Sweetwater board meeting and writes:
“Here is a small example of public communications during a board meeting (in front of children, students and the general public) that will give you an idea of how a small minority of people can bully and intimidate others.”
Spliced into the email is a truncated audio recording from an October 21, 2013, board meeting in which community advocate Maty Adato expresses her anger for the way the public was treated.
Cartmill’s email neglects to mention that on that night the Chula Vista police were summoned by the district to sweep the public from the boardroom. The entire crowd of parents and teachers was forced to stand outside for hours and listen to the meeting through a loudspeaker.
When Adato was finally allowed back into the boardroom to address an agenda item, she first expressed anger with the way the public had been treated, then went on to criticize the district’s use of Mello-Roos funds.
Cartmill’s campaign email excises Adato’s comments about Mello-Roos and only splices her protest against the way the board meeting was being conducted.
Adato said in a September 24 interview, “It’s no surprise that Mr. Cartmill would characterize me and other community activists this way. After all, we are the ones who took our concerns about corruption to the district attorney, which resulted in his removal from the board.”
Just after some trustee’s homes were raided by agents from the district attorney’s office in December 2011, the Reader reported “Community activists Fran Brinkman, Stewart Payne, John Brickley, Kathleen Cheers, and Maty Adato set today’s actions in motion when they took their complaints about former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara to the district attorney’s office.”
Gandara was sentenced in June to 220 days in jail for a felony pay-to-play charge.
On September 24, Cartmill sent out a second campaign-solicitation email. He encloses quotations that might indicate the support he hopes to attract.
In the first email, Cartmill refers to detractors as “nattering nabobs of negativity.” He borrows his quote from Spiro Agnew, vice president to Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1963.
In the September 24 solicitation, Cartmill opens with a biblical quotation: "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." He then goes on to enumerate his accomplishments, among them, he lists “sweeping campaign reforms.”
Adato argues that Cartmill impeded campaign reform. An August 19 Voice of San Diego piece tells it this way: “Community advocate Maty Adato said the proposal was on the board agenda five different times for two years before it was finally approved in January .
“Adato said former SUHSD board president Jim Cartmill sat on the resolution for months before finally signing it and bringing it to the board. ‘He takes credit for getting this passed, and in my opinion that’s an insult,’ Adato said. ‘We [community advocates] met with the attorney and did all the work.’”
Foot-dragging by the board was the subject of a 2012 Reader article. When Cartmill ran for the board in 2012, district vendors contributed heavily to his campaign. Seville Group, Inc., then project manager for Proposition O, donated $20,000 to his campaign.