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The grand jury's investigation into corruption in the South Bay resulted in 15 indictments of school district administrators, trustees and contractors. Some attorneys argue that the grand jury inquiry is one-sided as clients are not allowed to have counsel present. Some go so far as to say that a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. Those indicted by the grand jury have all pleaded "not guilty."

Whatever the outcome of the trial set for February 2014, the district attorney's office has accumulated a breadth of material which offers the public a window into the hustle for money, power, and district bond contracts. The saga continues:

Henry Amigable was a program manager. He worked for Gilbane Construction at Sweetwater Union High School overseeing the $644 million Proposition O construction. Then he went to work for Southwestern College supervising the $389 million Proposition R construction. When he worked at Southwestern College, he was employed by Seville Construction Services (SCS). Jeffrey Flores (pictured leaving the South County courthouse) was the president of SCS.

In the following transcript excerpt, deputy district attorney Leon Schorr shows Amigable an email from Jeff Flores and questions him about it.

Schorr: "Look at 3171 and this is--the bottom appears to be the same email from yourself and then the response from Mr. Flores. It indicates [Amigable] 'Understand.'"

Email content from Flores: "You might want to keep your receipts throughout the month so you can keep track. As soon as we get six people on the job, I will consider bumping up the amount. Also, Baci's is very expensive. You might want to consider going to other places for dinner so you don't max out so quickly."

Schorr: "How does the number of people on the job affect the amount of money that SCS is making on the job?"

Amigable: "Well, the rule of thumb, if you get a program, everybody that you get on the job--depending on the level--equates, usually, typically, average, anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 of net profit to the company.

So, he's wanting me to--he's trying to force me in a position where I try to put more bodies on the project so that, you know, I can uptick my expense report or whatever he's [Flores] considering. I took offense to this email. You don't want a long explanation...But I never did my projects based on, you know, company profits. I did them as efficiently as possible. he wanted me to bump them up and make more profit for the company..."

Amigable has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Flores has pleaded "not guilty."

In May 2011, Nickolas Furr wrote an investigative piece for the Southwestern Sun on the college's proposition R problems. In the article he investigates the practice used by some construction firms called "body shopping."

Here is an excerpt from Furr's investigation:

"In March 2011 the Los Angeles Times began a six-part series on a construction scandal at the Los Angeles Community College district, the cost overruns the district suffered and construction mismanagement issues. On March 3, the Times focused on how contractors had swindled the district and taxpayers out of about $22 million. According to that story, 'about a dozen different firms' were engaged in the creation of "body shops," in which the district would hire consultants and employees and them in different firms. These contractors would function as employers of record and invoice the district for the employee's pay, but would add markups for overhead and to make a profit on each. This had the effect of doubling or tripling the cost of an employee to the district taxpayers, and the contractors or sub contractors would pocket the extra money...."

According to Furr, one contractor was Seville.

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eastlaker May 30, 2013 @ 7:57 p.m.

Collusion, the operative word for the day.


WTFEd May 30, 2013 @ 11:23 p.m.

Whose name was on those checks to SGI. Diane Russo. Who either signed off on the process or did NOT report misdeeds? Diane Russo. Who were joined at the hip? Ed Brand and Diane Russo. What former CFO works now for the firm that did an Audit for the District a few years ago. Diane Russo.

When is the public going to wake up and call out this fraud!!! The firms name is Eric Hall who did the audit. Follow the money. Lots of people know this but few like me are willing to say. The rats at 1130 sense that King Rat's time is near when he threw Choir Boy..errr John McCann under the bus in those transcripts. Ed will look good in an Orange Jump suit if they can find one big enough. John your political career is now destined to decline. Next stop South Bay Irrigation District..or maybe better Executive Director of County Vector Control to rid the District of the rats.


cvres May 31, 2013 @ 8:41 a.m.

So...I"m wondering if this is still common practice with the group that has taken over Prop R projects.


erupting May 31, 2013 @ 8:43 a.m.

Russo should have been indicted just for her presence in some of these questionable meetings as well as her covert activities.


anniej May 31, 2013 @ 8:56 a.m.

Let me take you back in time, approximately 3 years ago. Back when a couple members of the community stood before the SUHSD school board, month after month with detailed data, concerns over how much money was being spent on Prop O. So naive were they, they were sure Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa, alleged fiscal conservative John Mccann, and Pearl Quinones would out the brakes on until an inquiry could be done. But alas, little did the antagonists know, these board members were benefitting from the very company milking the bond dollars dry. John Mccann in his alleged attempt to silence the group actually had a TRO levied on one of them ( which cost us over 6k of our tax dollars).

I, like all of you, have been busy reading the many stories on the Grand Jury testimonies in which all of the board members are being named. I feel it is important to put the following out there for your consideration - Bertha Lopez is the ONLY board member who has CONSISTENTLY, questioned, commented, researched, and called for change. I can not speak to her charges, that is for a court to decide. So why, you may ask do you consistently question Jim Cartmill, John Mccann, Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones - it is quite simple BECAUSE THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING to bring about change or to change. Their arrogance, their elite holier than though attitudes, their perceived collusion with Brand is enough to make a maggot gag!!!!!!!!

Let us consider the following quote - when you know better you do better. Why didn't they begin to do better when it was obvious the gig was up? THAT! IS A VERY GOOD QUESTION. Why have they allowed Brand to run amuck, each and ever decision Brand has made has done nothing but poke the bear so to speak. They have yet to realize Brand will leave and never look back, yet the words we are now reading ABOUT THEM AND THEIR GREED, has been burnt into our brains and will continue to have an effect every time we look at a middle/high school, and every time we look at our tax bill and think of the waste.


anniej May 31, 2013 @ 3:07 p.m.

Let us look for a positive in this mess

John Mccann has been exposed - was it 6 or 7 days after he brought Brand back that Mccann went to Brand and requested that Brand go to the contractors and ask for money on Mccanns behalf. (read Brands Grand Jury's testimony in the UT)

Time for John Mccann to start looking in the help wanted ads for his new career. His alleged bid in the upcoming Mayors race, doubt if any entity would endorse him now that Brand has dropped the dime.

Yet one question remains was it Jim Cartmill or Arlie Ricasa that encouraged John McCann to make the call to Brand offering him 'the Gandaras' old chair?

Do NOT loose sight of the fact that Jim Cartmill, Ed Brand, and Arlie Ricasa have been referred to as the Three Musketeers. Let us remember that Brand WHILE SUPER, lent Jim Cartmill approximately 50k to help Cartmill out of a bankruptcy WHILE CARTMILL WAS A BOARD MEMBER HMMMMMMMM, can anyone say conflict of interest? Wondering if there is any truth that a certain spouse of a board member offered their financial planning services to one of the firms, read those transcripts carefully!


eastlaker June 1, 2013 @ 3:57 p.m.

I have to wonder just why Ed Brand chose to throw McCann under the bus, (not surprised he made sure Ms. Lopez was mentioned in connection with deals)--I am sure McCann thought he would be safe. As he supposedly was responsible for bringing Brand back to Sweetwater's helm.

Brand must have decided that Ricasa and Cartmill are more trustworthy for some reason. Bound by some sort of blood oath? Some pact made by moonlight? Who knows...

So it looks like Brand is ditching McCann. Brand must have something up his sleeve, as McCann has not been indicted thus far. Or maybe Brand is just trying to spread the blame so that all are tainted. Will McCann's response be that Brand is a liar? If that is the case, where does it stop?

And we definitely need more information on what Dianne Russo knew, did and all the pertinent timelines.

I haven't read all the info available via the PDF files, but I hope to get through it in the next couple of days.


anniej June 1, 2013 @ 6:24 p.m.

I found it interesting that Mccann claimed he did not knw his wife was working for Cabello. He stated he did not know because he was in Iraq, I am wondering in how many households such a fact would not be known. I could have sworn that even John Mccann would need to file taxes on all monies earned by either spouse.

Mccann's dealings with Jaime Ortiz is interesting as well. There are two days worth of Ortiz's testimony posted on two separate pdf's. A must read.

While Quinones is taken to the cleaners in all testimony read so far Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa are referred to as well. Ortiz states Cartmill was one of the board members you did not say NO to. But then so was Arlie Ricasa and Quinones, and Sandoval, and 'the gandara', He made reference to the 'manner' in which Cartmill asked.

Also of interest the spending of Prop O monies to keep the District running. Now that was an interesting tidbit.

It appears Arlie's spouse was perceived to be 'looking for business' so to speak from Rene Flores. Another must read segment.

Folks, I have read every word of every PDF provided - all I can say is SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! While the campaign donations were legal - as were the dinners, and the Laker games, and the Padre games, and the beauty pageant entry fees, and the college education, and the wine and, and, and - it is still incomprehensible that this group found each other and began living off of our bond dollars so to speak. Jim Cartmill, John Mccann, you were a part of the mess. While you may not have been trolling job sites looking for $20 donations you were still trolling - your campaign donations, totalled in the thousands, you are mentioned as receiving some of the expensive food, attending sports events.

As I read the transcripts I found myself asking aloud "why didn't Mr. Schoor press him, why did he allow him to get away with that lie, why didn't he ask why all of the 'um's? Then the light went on in my brain, THIS TRIAL! THIS BUNCH ON THE STAND - is going to be a hum dinger!!!!!!


eastlaker June 2, 2013 @ 3:46 p.m.

I have finished reading three of the four PDF files provided by the U-T. Favorite moment: Gandara shows up at a restaurant disheveled, shirttail hanging out, hair all messed up, basically inebriated (accompanied by his daughter), and asking why the group was meeting at this restaurant. (Apparently he hadn't been invited...?) So they seat him in a corner table away from the others, and eventually he leaves with several bottles of the restaurant's wine. Wow.


Visduh June 2, 2013 @ 9:52 a.m.

The Mill (aka UT) has a story today, Sunday, June 2, that indicates the various defense attorneys will attack Amigable's credibility because he already cut a sweet deal with the DA. I think the Mill reporter misses the point, or was told to miss the point, that there is plenty beyond his wining and dining of the Sweetwater trustees, and to an extent, the SWC players. That stuff was low hanging fruit for the DA to pick first. There is more, and should be much more beyond that. As in, when will Brand be indicted?

I'm still awaiting more plea deals. Such cases as these rarely go to trial. It is possible that the defense attorneys actually think they can win in court. More likely, the more drawn out these cases are, the more they bill. And that's what attorneys do for a living, bill clients by the hour at hundreds of dollars an hour. If the defendants can't afford to hire an attorney, the taxpayers pay for one, again by the hour.

The Mill's coverage of these cases is very thin, superficial, and incomplete. But what do you expect from "The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper" which just cut more staff within the last week?


eastlaker June 2, 2013 @ 3:41 p.m.

I am amazed, however, that the Watchdog section is including links which include Reader coverage of this. That can only be a good thing...and they are providing links to PDF files of the Grand Jury testimony.


anniej June 2, 2013 @ 3:46 p.m.

Just finished PDF number 3 of Amigable's - WOW! Hard to believe the depth of the wheelin' and dealin' - and folks it was all about the money, the dinero, the greenbacks.

Rather than dwell on the obvious corruption, let us consider the betrayal.

Jim Cartmill, on the board since the 90's - how many issues have we had with superintendents under his tenure? Another long time board member Arlie Ricasa, heading up the rear Pearl Quinones. So under the reign of these persons we have had the following issues - the alleged selling of computers across the border (taxpayers property), the first Grand Jury investigation, and now the largest alleged corruption scandal in San Diego City/Council history. So IF we were to take their alleged part out of it, the obvious question remains:

WHY and HOW did they ALLOW these things to happen on their watch?

Why did they allow 'the gandara' to do whatever in the hell he wanted? They knew what he was up to - why didn't they stop it? And now THEY ARE ALLOWING BRAND TO DO WHATEVER HE WANTS - WHY????????

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? What is their moral compass?


eastlaker June 2, 2013 @ 4:13 p.m.

anniej, the only conclusion I can reach is that the corruption was uninterrupted. That it has been 'open season' on the students and taxpayers of Sweetwater (and San Ysidro and SWC) for a very long time. Possibly since the big bond issuances started to take place.

They certainly don't seem to be spending much time dealing with educational questions--what is their moral compass, you ask?

They appear to be without a 'true North', so even if they were to have a moral compass, it would spin wildly.

Another 'favorite' anecdote: Quinones hands out a box of envelopes for a contractor to solicit donations. While the board hasn't approved payment for the company. The contractor throws the box in the trash. Pearl calls him and asks about the donations--he tells her he threw it all out. Their company didn't get paid for work done. Subcontractors had to declare bankruptcy.

This is who is in charge of education in Sweetwater. Scum.


anniej June 2, 2013 @ 7:06 p.m.

Let us not forget who brought 'the gandara' here - Jim Cartmill/Arlie Ricasa. WHY??? What did they see in him - birds of a feather obviously.

Then John Mccann brings BACK Ed Brand, who had left under the cloud of a Grand Jury investigation.

The same Ed Brand who painted John Mccaan out to be a beggar, within less than two weeks of Brand being back, Mccann was asking Brand to go to Jaime Ortiz and ask for money - as Brand testified to the Grand Jury.

I can hear Brand singing that song - HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW???????


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