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San Ysidro School District sued (again)

Former superintendant's $400,000 severance pay issue unresolved

Former San Ysidro School District Julio Fonseca
Former San Ysidro School District Julio Fonseca

Legal problems continue to mount for the San Ysidro School District over the $400,000 severance package it gave to former superintendent Julio Fonseca earlier this year.

Alexis Rodriguez

On December 15, public watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government sued the district, Fonseca, and the board of trustees for violating state meeting laws when it approved the package. It was the third lawsuit filed against the district this year.

Trouble began in January 2015 when the district, at Fonseca's urging, fired Enrique Gonzalez. Gonzalez had allegedly seen Fonseca out on a date with Alexis Rodriguez, a woman who had recently been hired at San Ysidro School District. Gonzalez then discovered that Fonseca had failed to notify the board of their relationship before he lobbied for her employment. Gonzalez was fired. But, before he was, Fonseca and other boardmembers agreed to give him $113,000 in severance pay.

Fast-forward to September 1 of this year, Fonseca suddenly resigned over a personnel issue. On that night, trustees for the district held a closed-door meeting wherein they discussed terminating an employee (read: Fonseca) as well the approval of a "separation package" with the newly retired superintendent.

At that meeting, trustees approved $400,000 in severance pay for Fonseca. They did so despite the fact that, according to his employment contract, he was not entitled to severance worth more or equal to 18 months of pay, nor was he entitled to any post-employment health benefits. Despite the restrictions, Fonseca received those benefits and more.

Now, the district is asked to recover that money and bring the matter up again in a public meeting.

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Sign of the times

“Even if you’re a hater, I’ll sit and talk with you. We can find some common ground.”
Former San Ysidro School District Julio Fonseca
Former San Ysidro School District Julio Fonseca

Legal problems continue to mount for the San Ysidro School District over the $400,000 severance package it gave to former superintendent Julio Fonseca earlier this year.

Alexis Rodriguez

On December 15, public watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government sued the district, Fonseca, and the board of trustees for violating state meeting laws when it approved the package. It was the third lawsuit filed against the district this year.

Trouble began in January 2015 when the district, at Fonseca's urging, fired Enrique Gonzalez. Gonzalez had allegedly seen Fonseca out on a date with Alexis Rodriguez, a woman who had recently been hired at San Ysidro School District. Gonzalez then discovered that Fonseca had failed to notify the board of their relationship before he lobbied for her employment. Gonzalez was fired. But, before he was, Fonseca and other boardmembers agreed to give him $113,000 in severance pay.

Fast-forward to September 1 of this year, Fonseca suddenly resigned over a personnel issue. On that night, trustees for the district held a closed-door meeting wherein they discussed terminating an employee (read: Fonseca) as well the approval of a "separation package" with the newly retired superintendent.

At that meeting, trustees approved $400,000 in severance pay for Fonseca. They did so despite the fact that, according to his employment contract, he was not entitled to severance worth more or equal to 18 months of pay, nor was he entitled to any post-employment health benefits. Despite the restrictions, Fonseca received those benefits and more.

Now, the district is asked to recover that money and bring the matter up again in a public meeting.

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Comments
6

This practice, if you want to call it that, of paying off supes who go off the rails is well established in the county. San Marcos did it with the odious Ed Brand, Sweetwater did it with now-convicted crook Gandara, and there have been other examples of such "buy outs", "payoffs", and "separations" that all involved six-figure payoffs. Oddly enough when Poway had cause to sack its superintendent more recently, it invoked the for-cause language in his contract and just cut off his compensation. (That guy, Collins, is now under criminal indictment for embezzlement of public funds.) So, why is it that a poor, struggling district like San Ysidro able and willing to pay Fonseca to leave, when a far richer district is smart enough to just fire theirs? Wealth equates with common sense?

Maybe the only cure for this egregious waste of public funds is a state law that prohibits school districts from entering into employment contracts that provide for any sort of pay after separation, and prohibits the payment of any funds under such conditions. That would end much of these negotiated deals to bring new supes on board, and to rid the district of bad ones.

Dec. 28, 2017

But...but...it's all about the students...

Dec. 28, 2017

It's difficult to focus on the students when all that money is available...I say pay them less and force more accountability.

Dec. 28, 2017

None of the high paid school administrators are worth anywhere near what school districts pay them. They are nothing more than highly paid figureheads. Their staff do all the work and they take all the credit and pay. Teachers struggle to provide school supplies to their students while these fat cats collect huge salaries and severance packages no matter how bad or corrupt they are.

Jan. 2, 2018

Alex, why you speak heresy! Those people are dedicated educators, and everything they do is for the kids. If they weren't running school districts they would be pulling down multi-million dollar salaries in corporate America. They are the biggest bargains around, and the school districts should be most grateful to have them. The usual quarter million a year salary, mas o menos, they get is a pittance compared to what they do and accomplish.

Seriously though, I once knew a school board member and I said to her that no school employee, no matter how highly placed or how large the district, should earn more than $150K a year. But now some high school principals are getting that much, meaning that the two or three layers of management above them in the hierarchy have to get more. That's how you had a guy like Collins in Poway taking down $400K a year. The fact that he couldn't make ends meet with that kind of princely salary is another story entirely.

Jan. 2, 2018

I thought that Brand and partners used funds improperly back when they purchased a district building, owned and controlled by their newly established company. Maybe I didn't read Luzzaro right.

Jan. 3, 2018

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