May 2014
May 2014
January 2013
March 2013
[Maura Larkins note: This above-mentioned story about Martinez can be found
below, titled "District picks firm to design new school.]
"...In direct, face-to-face
conversation with CTA
Vice-President Dean Vogel
and CTA Board Member
Groth, on Friday, September
14, 2007, it was made
abundantly clear that the
SEA/CTA/NEA structure and
its nexus with Collective
Bargaining are in imminent
jeopardy with the Miller-Pelosi
NCLB Reauthorization
proposal. As a Union,we must
speak powerfully for our
membership. We do not
accept a marginalized role
indetermining our salaries,
benefits, and retirement. We
do not accept a marginalized
rolein our own evaluation and
"Now, it is a time for action!
The Miller-Pelosi NCLB
Reauthorization proposal,
should it continue unabated
and uncorrected, may
accomplish what
Schwarzenegger's plethora of
propositions, in November
2005, could not, specifically:
eviscerate Collective
Bargaining in California. To
SEA President's Report
September 17, 2007
An attachment is provided to
assist in conveying OUR

Sam L. Lucero
President, SEA
Dear SEA Members,

... Your SEA Board of
Directors are: Sam Lucero
(MVM, Full-Time Release
President), Chuck Patterson
(ORH, Vice-President), Al
Ohlendorf (BVH, Treasurer),
Rene Flores (CVH,
Alex Anguiano (HH, Past
President), John Ray (BTSA,
At-Large), John Orcutt (RDR,
Large), James Love (CVH,
At-Large), Kathy Dyga (MoM,
At-Large), Sandra Robinson
(SYH, At-Large), Marylen
Haines (PH, State Council),
Jason Leichter (CVA, State
Council), and Marijane Moon
(SuHI, State Council).
I don't understand why SEA
doesn't like the following three
ideas.  Great teachers
be paid much more than
mediocre or poor teachers.

The Miller-Pelosi bill will do the

1) Restricts "merit“ to student
test scores, classroom
observations, and agreement
to work in high-need schools
for four years.

2) Requires that —master
teachers“participate in
evaluations of teachers in
schools with a specific grant.
These master teachers now
performing supervisory

3) District would have to match
funds for these merit pay /
"Pay for Performance“
schemes. The amount of
money available for across-
the-board salary increases or
benefits increases is subject
to dramatic reduction.
“The systematic redacting in over 1,000 pages of legal bills of
every single description of the services rendered can only reflect
a knee-jerk impulse for secrecy,” Scheer said. “It also
underscores how forgetful public officials are that this
information belongs to the public.”

Garcia himself billed the district as much as 15.3 hours in a day, and $131,708
between July 1, 2005, and the end of May. The district has not yet produced June's

Garcia's legal meter starts running hours before he sets foot in the board room. In what
Garcia terms “portal-to-portal” billing, he begins charging Sweetwater $200 an hour
for his time the minute he leaves Los Angeles for a 2 ½-hour commute to Chula Vista...

...Board President Greg Sandoval said he believes Garcia can use
drive time to talk with Sweetwater staff by phone. But when
asked why the board doesn't use a San Diego-based attorney to
save on the $1,100-per-meeting cost, he said, “I guess we're
going to have to review that.”

...However, the Sweetwater school board appears to have leaned more heavily on
attorneys than most other local boards.

Garcia attends every Sweetwater board meeting,
joined the board for a
series of interviews with superintendent candidates during spring
and sat in on a Saturday exploratory conversation with former
Chula Vista Elementary Superintendent Libby Gil that Sandoval
avoided calling a job interview...

But the third-, fourth-and fifth-largest local districts – Poway Unified, Chula Vista
Elementary and Vista Unified – only have an attorney present at board meetings when
a particularly controversial issue is on the agenda. The next-largest district, Grossmont
Union High, has an attorney present at every board meeting.

Garcia said he could not comment on why he was at the superintendent candidate
interviews during spring and why he's not attending this week's interviews.
Spokeswomen for the Oceanside and Poway districts said attorneys were not present
at their boards' interviews of the candidates who now hold the superintendent jobs.

Sandoval said Garcia sat in on interviews with four Sweetwater finalists so he could
negotiate on the spot with a candidate of the board's choosing. On the day of a special
board meeting on March 2, Garcia billed Sweetwater $3,060 for 15.3 hours of work...

In addition, Sweetwater was billed for 9.1 hours of Garcia's time on the day the board
spoke with Gil, who was never officially a candidate...

Garcia acknowledged that his time on the superintendent search probably helped boost
Sweetwater's legal bills above their average. Billings to Burke, Williams & Sorensen
were nearly $800,000 this year, Russo said.

That's up from $442,441 in 2003-04 and $102,760 in 2002-03.
CHULA VISTA – The Sweetwater Union High School District busted its legal budget
halfway through the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Sweetwater reports it spent more than $1 million on legal services for the year, 77
percent more than in the past fiscal year, with some expenses for June yet to be logged.

It's tough to tell why.

Through a public-records request, The San Diego Union-Tribune got invoices
documenting the district's legal bills, but the descriptions of services rendered were
redacted by order of the district's general counsel, Bonifacio Garcia, who is based in
Los Angeles...

That may be true in a few instances, but most of the information would not give away
any secrets, said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment

“The systematic redacting in over 1,000 pages of legal bills of every single description
of the services rendered can only reflect a knee-jerk impulse for secrecy,” Scheer said.
“It also underscores how forgetful public officials are that this information belongs to
the public.”

Months ago Garcia presented district trustees with his findings that Sweetwater's
legal bills are in line with those of similar-sized districts in Northern California.

[Maura's note: What a clever idea!  Ask Bonny to determine if he's paid too much!]
Bonny Garcia has donated to the election campaigns of trustees Jim Cartmill, Arlie
Ricasa and Sandoval. Campaign finance records show donations of $1,000 to Ricasa
in 2001-02, $1,000 to Sandoval in 2002 and $975 to Cartmill in 2002.
Sweetwater attorney Bonnie Garcia and his erstwhile
associates at Williams Burke Sorenson
Sweetwater racks up large, clouded legal bill
Descriptions of services left off released forms

By Chris Moran
July 22, 2006
What kind of
administrators control
ACSA?  Region 18
Chair was Ed Brand
until July 2009  
Should on-and-off
Sweetwater Union High
School District
Brand  have been
directing our SDCOE

He was on the
Diego County School
Legal Services Council
until 2008!
Ed Brand,
Mary Anne
Weegar and
As demonstrated by
Mary Anne Weegar
case, (also covered in
La Prensa) and many
other cases handled
by the SDCOE JPA and
legal services, Ed
Brand contributes to,
and helps enforce,
SDCOE's culture of
dishonesty and

superintendents like
Ed Brand be in a
position over SDCOE
lawyers, when they
are the very
individuals for whose
wrongdoing SDCOE
must pay?

Isn't that putting the
fox in charge of the
hen house?  
The taxpayers have to
keep paying and
paying, while Ed Brand
violates the law.

Ed Brand directs
SDCOE lawyers to
assist him and other
school district leaders
in illegal actions!
SEA is not as secretive as
Chula Vista Educators; it has
a website and freely and
openly discusses its plans.
District crossover raises questions

Educators can have dual roles on boards

By Chris Moran

August 4, 2007

SOUTH COUNTY – School employees commonly serve on the governing boards of school
districts that don't employ them. What makes a case in South County different is three
administrators' dual roles at
Southwestern College and the Sweetwater Union High
School District, because they're in positions to vote on each other's budgets and salaries.

Greg Sandoval is interim president of Southwestern and a member of the Sweetwater board.
Arlie Ricasa is director of student activities at Southwestern and is on the Sweetwater board.
Jorge Dominguez is director of the Educational Technology Department at Sweetwater and a
member of the Southwestern board.

The arrangement is legal. Governance ethicists raise questions about appearances, though,
especially when the crossover votes occur as close together as they have recently.
How close?

In May, Sandoval joined the majority in a 3-2 vote rejecting $500,000 for Dominguez's

Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara said he was shocked by the vote because he
considers training educators in technology essential to the district's success.

Gandara brought the item back for reconsideration in June. Sandoval changed his mind – and
the outcome of the vote. The $500,000 was restored on a 3-2 vote. Ricasa voted for the
funding both times.

Nine days after his department's funding was restored, Dominguez joined a unanimous
college board in approving raises for Sandoval, Ricasa and 19 other administrators. The
amount of the raise will be calculated later based on state funding.

When asked whether he had considered recusing himself from the vote on the
raises, Dominguez said he thought he had done so.
It had been his intent to recuse
himself, he said, but he may have inadvertently cast a vote because he was distracted by a
controversy at the same meeting over whether to extend a vice president's contract and
whether to give that vice president a raise that split the board 3-2.

Dominguez said that if he voted for Sandoval's raise, “I will definitely look at changing my vote
on that.”

Robert Fellmeth, director of the Center for Public Interest and the University of San Diego
School of Law, and Bob Stern, president of the independent, nonprofit Center for
Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said Dominguez deserves praise if he recuses himself,
even if it's after the fact.

There's no inherent conflict of interest in being a board member one place and an employee
in another, Fellmeth said.

“If anything, you're probably more qualified than most to sit on the other board,” he said.

South County is replete with examples.

Chula Vista school trustee Bertha Lopez teaches at an elementary school in National City.
Mountain Empire Unified School District Superintendent Patrick Judd serves on the Chula
Vista school board. Sweetwater trustee Pearl Quiñones works for the San Ysidro School
District. South Bay Union School District board President Althea Jones works for the San
Diego Unified School District.

But the Southwestern-Sweetwater overlap creates an appearance of possible conflict, Stern

“You can't have two masters, so the question is, 'Where is your loyalty?' ” he said. “I really
think that they need to re-evaluate whether they should be on each other's boards.”

Sandoval said he saw no conflict of interest in his two votes on funding for Dominguez's
department. Sandoval said he votes on recommendations that come from the Sweetwater
superintendent, not from Dominguez. Gandara made a better case for the funding and
provided more specifics the second time around, Sandoval said.

He said he's conscientious about consulting with Sweetwater's attorneys to steer clear of
improper votes. He said, however, that he may have to go one step further and seek legal
counsel on how to avoid even appearances of impropriety.

Dominguez and Sandoval both denied making any deal to swap votes. The two must regularly
communicate about Southwestern College issues, but both said they haven't discussed
Sandoval's Sweetwater votes.

The biggest problem of appearance with overlapping jurisdictions is the potential for a deal for
personal gain, Fellmeth said...
Sweetwater Union High School District
puzzles some

Re: "Davis and Griego/Their
experience can improve Chula
Vista," (Editorial, Feb. 25):

I am so disappointed that the
Union-Tribune would support a
candidate like Bob Griego for
Chula Vista City Council,
considering what you already
know about him.

I worked with Griego at the Otay
Water District and can tell you
first hand he had plenty to do
with the problems there. He was
not, as your paper suggests,
part of the solution; he was part
of the problem and continues to
be part of the problem. Griego
was the general manager who
secretly hired Bonafacio "Bonny"
Garcia as legal counsel when
the district already had in-house
legal counsel.

It was not a coincidence that
Garcia is also the legal counsel
for Sweetwater Union High
School District, on whose board
Griego sits, and an associate of
Jaime Bonilla, who bought a
seat on the Otay board. Since
December 2000, Bonny Garcia
has charged the district almost
$1 million for legal expenses.
In-house legal counsel salary
was $130,000 a year.

As far as Griego's story that he
quit and only came back after
the board promised to behave,
the facts are that Griego did quit,
but immediately became a
"consultant" collecting his
$145,000 a year salary. When
he did come back, he received a
$25,000 raise and a district
automobile. No one at the
district can tell me what he did
as a "consultant."

Griego was quoted in a
Union-Tribune article when he
quit saying he was doing so
because he did not want to have
a conflict of interest while
running for the City Council seat.
Suddenly, that conflict of interest
is not a concern to him.

Under Griego's management at
Otay, public information and
reports have been selectively
withheld from some board
contracts have been
awarded through improper
procedures and the district's
environmental program ceased
to exist, prompting a warning
from the state Department of
Fish and Game.

There must be a reason why
two Chula Vista City Council
members, the mayor, law
enforcement, firefighters, the city
employees' union and La
Prensa are opposed to Bob
Griego. Experience is a good
thing, but not the kind Griego

Spring Valley

Before electing Bob Griego,
Chula Vista voters should
remember the scandal ending
his employment as deputy chief
administrative officer for San
Diego County.

To refresh your memory and
quote the Union-Tribune from a
July 2000 article: "Griego's
departure came not long after
an audit showed he had used
county staff, time and equipment
to do business for the
Sweetwater High School
District, where he has been a
board member for eight years.
The audit also showed he had
attended 173 school-related
meetings on workdays in a
two-year period."

Nothing has changed in the way
he does business as general
manager of the Otay Water
District. Chula Vista residents
can expect that if Griego is
elected, he will continue his
past practices and misuse city
staff and abuse city hiring
policies to achieve his political
goals, while dispensing jobs
and other favors to those who
he perceives to be his loyal
El Cajon

You state that as a 12-year
member of the Sweetwater
Union High School District
governing board, Griego gets
"high marks from some of his
colleagues." Now there's a lofty
testimonial. Why not high marks
from all, or even most, of them?

Maybe because most of them
remember the SUHSD scandal
in 1995 and the close call
Griego experienced in the
resulting recall election. That's
probably good experience to
bring to Chula Vista city

Griego says his position with
the Otay Water District, an
agency the city of Chula Vista
wants to acquire, should not
present a problem for him as a
City Council member. Huh? He
also claims the turmoil at the
Otay Water District is not his
fault, and when its board
members got crazy, he quit and
wouldn't return until they calmed
down. Is this a trait the people of
Chula Vista and the
Union-Tribune find attractive?
What will Griego do when things
get a little crazy around the
council chambers? Take his
impressive record of public
service and go home?

Lake Havasu City

The letter writers are former
Otay Water District employees.
Sweetwater USD
board member  
Sandoval resigns as
VP of Southwestern
Sandoval accused
of harassment

By Chris Moran
June 13, 2008

Southwestern College's
governing board has
approved the resignation of
its vice president for student
affairs after a sexual
harassment claim was filed
against him.

Greg Sandoval, a career
South County college
administrator, submitted his
resignation last week, but
this week he asked college
President Raj Chopra to
withdraw it, a college
spokeswoman said. Chopra
refused, the spokeswoman

Trustee Jorge Dominguez
voted against approving the
A student services
employee ... accused
Sandoval of sexual
harassment in an
administrative claim filed
with the college.
governing board denied the
claim Wednesday night...

Dominguez, the lone vote
against Sandoval's
resignation, works for the
Sweetwater Union High
School District, where
Sandoval is a board

Their crisscrossing
affiliations put them in a
position to vote on matters
benefiting each other, and
Dominguez pledged to
recuse himself from future
votes on Sandoval after
being asked about it by The
San Diego Union-Tribune
last year.

A grand jury report released
last month made note of a
reciprocal relationship
between unnamed high
school and college trustees.
Dominguez confirmed at the
time that the report was
referring to him. The report
praised the college trustee
for recusing himself from
further votes concerning the
high school trustee...

Agosto, the board president,
said he recused himself
because he has known
Sandoval since the 1970s.
“My vote would be biased,”
Agosto said.

Sandoval has been a vice
president at the college for
five years, and last year
served about 5½ months as
the college's interim
president. He has also
served on the Sweetwater
school board since 1994.

Lopez's resignation was
unanimously approved by
the board Wednesday night.
His attorney did not return a
call late yesterday afternoon.
[Sorry, the link to the San Diego Union Tribune no longer works.  Maybe Mr.
Garcia pressured them to hide the story.]
Link  (This link is now broken.)
See all blog posts about Bertha Lopez.
More stories and commentary:

CVESD Reporter
(Jaime Mercado and Bertha Lopez)
2006 vote

Board Member;
Sweetwater Union
High School District

Seat 1
Jim Cartmill
39947 votes 61.48%
Lorenzo Provencio
25033 votes 38.52%

Seat 3
Greg R. Sandoval
38763 votes 60.03%
Archie McAllister
25815 votes 39.97%

[2008 update: Archie
McAllister is
endorsed by the
Republican party for
CVESD board in 2008
in his race against
David Bejarano.  I'm a
Democrat, and I also
prefer McAllister.]

Seat 5
Arlie Ricasa
37990 votes 60.21%
Ed Herrera
25102 votes 39.79%
recalled (removed)  from Seat No. 3
of the Governing Board for  
Sweetwater Union High School
YES   6,805     41.51      
NO   9,588     58.49      
should he be   recalled by this
special election.                                
BOB WHITE                                  
5,780     59.33      
3,962     40.67      
ROBERT GRIEGO be recalled
(removed)  from Seat No. 4 of the
Governing Board for         
Sweetwater Union High School
YES    7,229     43.73      
NO    9,303     56.27      
succeed ROBERT GRIEGO should
he be       recalled by this special
YAGGIE                              5,235     
ALYCE ARNOLD                
3,571     34.31      
1,601     15.38      
DISTRICT                                  RECALL
ELECTION                                 Tuesday, February 27, 1996

recalled (removed)       
from Seat No. 2 of the
Governing Board for       
Sweetwater Union High School

YES      7,195     
NO        8,587     

To succeed STEVE
HOGAN should he be     
recalled by this special

         3,250     32.06      
3,227     31.84      
2,519     24.85      
JANKE                        1,140     
Statistics as of
August 2008

Year established:

Enrollment: 42,662

Grades: 7-12

Jesus M. Gandara

1130 Fifth Ave.,
Chula Vista
District picks firm to design new school
By Chris Moran
May 11, 2005

CHULA VISTA – The Sweetwater Union High School District board split on choosing an
architect for a 4,000-student school Monday night, ultimately siding with professional
planners over two board members who favored an architect who bankrolls a political action
committee that supports board incumbents.

The board voted 3-2 for
Trittipo Architecture and Planning, a firm recommended by an
architect selection committee, the district's chief operating officer and its director of
planning and construction.

Board members Greg Sandoval and Pearl Quiñones did their own interviews of firms and
Martinez + Cutri, which has designed the last five Sweetwater schools.
The firm has also directly and indirectly contributed thousands of dollars to four
of the five board members' campaign committees.

Initially, a six-person district committee reviewed 10 firms and identified four as finalists.
Trittipo was among them. Martinez + Cutri was not. The committee selected Trittipo as the
top firm in March.

At the April board meeting, Sandoval said new presentations were in order because firms
had been pitching a concept for a creative and performing arts school for seventh-through
12th-graders in eastern Chula Vista. District polling later indicated that an arts school was
not the community's preference, and the arts theme was dropped.

Martinez + Cutri was invited back into the pool of candidates, and a finalist firm dropped

In late April, the board's finance and facilities subcommittee, which consists of Sandoval
and Quiñones, interviewed and scored the four firms. So did Bruce Husson, Sweetwater's
chief operating officer, and Katy Wright, the district's planning director.

Sandoval ranked Martinez highest. Quiñones ranked Trittipo and Martinez equally. Husson
and Wright – who are not board members and therefore not subcommittee members –
both gave Trittipo the highest marks. So the staff recommendation stayed with Trittipo, but
the subcommittee proposed the board hire Martinez.

Martinez + Cutri directly contributed $250 to Quiñones' re-election
campaign last year and $750 to board member Arlie Ricasa four years ago.

The firm also contributed about $25,000 in cash and services to the Bahia Del Sur
political action committee last year, as well as $27,000 in 2002. Bahia Del Sur in
turn has donated to the campaign committees of four current board members in
the past three years: Quiñones ($10,000 last year), Ricasa ($9,000 in 2002),
Sandoval ($10,000 in 2002) and Jim Cartmill ($10,000 in 2002). Jaime Mercado –
who was elected to the board in November – has received no money from either
Martinez or Bahia Del Sur.

On Monday night, Cartmill, Ricasa and Mercado voted for Trittipo. Sandoval and Quiñones
voted for Martinez...
Castle Park High
Dan Shinoff prolongs
Title IX problems (blog
Former Supt. Ed Brand

Mary Anne Weegar

Bonny Garcia
Coach James "Ted"
Carter v. Dianna
Dianna Carberry v.
Jesus Gandara
Jesus Gandara on CVESD
Construction Firm
Faces Fine for
Campaign Finance
Voice of San Diego
September 3, 2009

The Seville Group Inc.,
which is one of two
companies jointly managing
the bond program for
Sweetwater Union High
School District, is facing a
proposed $44,500 fine from
the Fair Political Practices
Commission for failing to file
campaign statements and
contribution reports on time.

The late reports include
several contributions to
campaigns for Sweetwater
school board members,
including Jim Cartmill, Pearl
Quinones and Greg
Sandoval, and for the bond,
Proposition O., itself.
Overall, Seville Group faces
19 counts for late filings
over the past five years,
some of which happened
more than three years after
the legal deadline.

The FPPC website does,
however, state that Seville
Group did take steps to
remedy the problems,
including hiring a
professional group to
prepare campaign
statements, and reporting
its own violations to the
FPPC. The commission will
decide whether to approve
the fine at a meeting next

Seville was chosen to
manage the Sweetwater
bond program two years
ago in a process that
proved controversial with
some members of the last
bond oversight committee.
Read more about that issue
Ranking High No Guarantee of Winning Work in Sweetwater
Voice of San Diego
Aug. 24, 2009

To decide which attorneys should help advise Sweetwater Union High School District on its $644
million construction bond two years ago, employees and outside experts interviewed four firms.
They ranked them on their experience, their credentials and their fees.

Two of the four seemed unlikely to get the job. Bowie, Arneson, Wiles & Giannone was ranked
Garcia Calderon & Ruiz, was ranked last.

Yet two months later, both were hired over higher ranked firms. District staff said Bowie had
helped sit on the committee that proposed the bond and would charge less than the
competition. Garcia had "experience and knowledge of the district." The interview committee
decided to override its own rankings, Chief Financial Officer Dianne Russo later explained.

It had happened before. As Sweetwater hired help to spend the $644 million that Proposition O
authorized for school construction, the district repeatedly ignored its own rankings of

Superintendent Jesus Gandara pushed for an architect that built schools he liked, even though
it ranked lower than others. Sweetwater chose a company to manage the construction bond that
wasn't initially ranked first. Another company got points in its ranking for being local, but still
rated lower than nine other firms. School officials moved it to the top anyway because it was a
local company. Their recommendations then went to the school board for approval.

To gauge how closely rankings were being followed, reviewed the scores
for five major functions of the facilities bond. Lower-ranked companies won work four of the five

The rankings are compiled by employees and outside experts in facilities,
finance or the law. Firms are ranked on clear, agreed criteria.
But getting the
highest ranking doesn't guarantee that a company will get hired. School officials say rankings
aren't final decisions, only the beginning of a process in which numerous other factors can
intervene. Interviews and records show that Sweetwater often picked companies based on
intangible factors that were not included in the rankings.

Choosing a company based on factors that aren't quantified in a ranking "is the least
transparent (method) and it is the most subjective," said Tad Parzen, formerly general counsel
for San Diego Unified. "But the best decisions aren't always made on quantitative information."

Those factors are often invisible to the public, unlike the listed criteria in rankings. That makes it
difficult to gauge why a company was chosen and whether the process was fair. And when
companies with lower scores are picked because of other factors, it appears to render the
rankings irrelevant.

The rankings became controversial when Sweetwater chose a program manager for the bond.
The program manager schedules construction projects, tracks costs and documents progress.
Nick Marinovich, a community member who sat on the oversight committee for an earlier school
construction bond, complained about the process for picking the new program manager,
Gilbane/Seville Group Inc., which had ranked lower than another company.

"The superintendent steered it the way he wanted it to go. It was bogus," said Marinovich, who
has worked for more than a dozen years as a project manager with the county of San Diego and
briefly for the losing company. Marinovich said in his experience elsewhere, it's "very rare" that
the highest-ranked company wouldn't be chosen.

School districts and other government agencies have wide latitude to decide who to choose
when hiring professionals such as architects or attorneys. They do not have to choose the
lowest bidder, nor do they have to follow any particular process to pick the winner. They don't
have to rank candidates, as Sweetwater has repeatedly done. The law says only that for
architects and engineering services, government agencies must use a "fair, competitive
selection process" untainted by conflicts of interest.

No such conflicts are apparent in Sweetwater. Some seemingly unlikely winners did donate to
help the campaign convince voters to pass the construction bond in 2006 or elect school board
members. But other winning companies gave less than their competitors or not at all. Neither
Gandara nor the school board members report having any financial interest in the firms.

Unlike Marinovich and other community members who oversaw the last round of construction
projects, members of the new oversight committee for Proposition O said they don't get involved
in decisions about which companies to pick, nor would they second guess them. Rudy Gonzalez,
who leads the oversight committee for the bond, said he ultimately didn't care how the
companies were chosen as long as the bond was run well.

Not every winner was an unlikely one. Sweetwater opted for the same financial advisor that its
panel of interviewers ranked as the best. But firms with lower rankings were repeatedly picked:

* Sweetwater chose the two law firms, Bowie and Garcia, that were ranked lowest by
interviewers. One interviewer wrote that he wouldn't recommend Garcia at all
because the firm already worked for the district in a different legal capacity and he
wanted to see "checks and balances."

Russo, the district's chief financial officer, said the rankings were only the prelude to a
discussion where the interviewers decided which firms they wanted to recommend. They chose
not to recommend the highest-ranking firm because it had been used before, Russo said, and
the school district wanted to give another firm a chance. So it chose Bowie instead.

Russo said their recommendations then went to Gandara to choose the top candidates to send
to the school board for approval. When asked why the staffers ranked candidates if the
rankings weren't used to thin the herd, Russo said: "I don't know. I guess we didn't have to." She
said they were nonetheless useful because they helped staff decide if any companies were
* To pick an architect, Sweetwater first screened dozens of applications and eliminated more
than half. A panel then interviewed nine architects. Two firms that it ranked at the bottom of the
list were later recommended to the school board over other, higher ranked firms, along with
some of the top ranked firms.

School district spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said one architect was recommended because it
was local. Another winner, Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke, had built two local schools that Gandara
considered better looking than most in Sweetwater. The company was ultimately recommended
to the school board despite having been ranked second-to-last. It was founded in Riverside and
has a Carlsbad office.

"If I wouldn't have participated in that process, Ruhnau Ruhnau and Clarke -- who is local --
would have been cut out," Gandara said. "What a shame if that would have happened."

* School districts with construction bonds typically hire a program manager, a company that
supervises the multi-million-dollar effort. An initial interview panel comprising district staff and
outsiders ranked Harris Gafcon first among the companies competing to manage the bond. It
was the program manager for the district's last facilities bond.

But when the choice went to a second interview panel, another company emerged as the
winner. Gandara said all but one interviewer chose Gilbane/Seville Group Inc. Meeting minutes
indicate that then-facilities director Ramon Leyba said Gilbane/Seville "had a better sense of
what diversity meant" than did Harris, and would do a better job of increasing minority hires
among contractors.

Gandara said Sweetwater had good reasons for weighing other factors besides Harris Gafcon's
ranking. He was displeased with renovations done under the last bond at Sweetwater High
School. Stucco around new windows didn't match the surrounding building. Rain gutters on the
buildings were twisted.

"Here's the bottom line. You can talk about process -- should you have filled out a form, could
there be more transparency -- but the average person out there wants to know, 'Are you giving
me a better product at the same cost as before?'" Gandara said.

Not everyone was swayed. Marinovich wrote a letter to the school board questioning the
process. Dan Malcolm, who led the oversight committee during the previous bond, said Harris
had done a good job and it seemed unusual that the highest ranked firm would not win.

* Sweetwater also needed a company to sell bonds to investors, known as a bond underwriter.
Among the bond underwriters who competed to work in Sweetwater, a lower-ranked company,
Alta Vista Financial, got moved to the top of the pack because it was a small local firm, Russo
said. It was pushed ahead of nine firms with equal or better rankings, even though it had
already gotten added points in the ranking for being a local firm.
Sweetwater Education Association (SEA)
Attorneys Bonny Garcia and Dan Shinoff
The Battle for Montgomery High
Community College
Law firm gets caught between agencies
Otay water district’s attorney steps aside, stays on with Sweetwater schools
By Tanya Sierra
January 5, 2011

A law firm that represents two South Bay governments, a school board and a water district, has had to
drop one because of an apparent dispute between the agencies.

Garcia Calderon Ruiz, LLP, has tendered its resignation to the Otay Water District board after 10
years, in a letter saying partners had “been placed in the middle of adversarial relationships that have
developed between members of the Otay board of directors and the board of trustees of the Sweetwater
Union High School District.”

The firm would not elaborate.

The president of the
Otay water board, Jaime Bonilla, said he may have caused the rift by
making an offhand comment to one of the attorneys at the firm.

Bonilla is friends with Bertha Lopez, a board member of the Sweetwater Union High
School District who is being sued by a district admistrator who accuses her of
meddling in the alternative education department. Lopez says she was just doing her
due diligence as a board member.

Bonilla commented to a Garcia Calderon Ruiz attorney that he thought Lopez was
being treated unfairly.

Bonilla said he was later informed by the law firm that Sweetwater officials issued an ultimatum — either
Otay went away as a client, or Sweetwater would.

The firm chose to drop Otay, which also has Bertha's husband Jose Lopez on its board.

The decision will cost the firm about $500,000 a year from Otay, but will allow it to keep making about $1
million a year representing the Sweetwater schools.

Sweetwater’s legal budget is $750,000, but it paid the law firm $1.2 million two
years ago and at least $904,000 last year.
2009 Voice of San Diego

No Guarantee of Winning Work in

School Construction Firm Faces
Fine for Campaign Finance
Title IX case
Blog Posts re SEA
Builders and board members
San Diego Education
Report Blog
Why This Website

Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz v. Maura
Larkins defamation



Castle Park
Elementary School

Law Enforcement



Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz

Silence is Golden

Schools and Violence

Office Admin Hearings

Larkins OAH Hearing
Shame on the Sweetwater teachers union (SEA) for not calling a halt to corruption years
earlier. There were articles for years in the San Diego Union Tribune about the strange legal
fees paid to Bonny Garcia. Why was CTA silent? Because CTA gets cooperation behind the
scenes from corrupt board members in
most districts.

Sweetwater legal fees effort fizzles
Proposal to fund them for 3 current and one former official dies
Jan. 31, 2012 UTSD
See also: DA: 5 Charged in School Corruption Case
Investigators call it a corrupt, "pay-to-play" bribery scheme
By Sarah Grieco
NBC San Diego
Jan 4, 2012
Calexico Unified School District's Similarities with
Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Jan. 16, 2012

A tipster recently brought to the Reader’s attention the fact that Calexico Unified School
District is beginning to look like Sweetwater Union High School District.

To begin with, Calexico’s district counsel is GCR, LLP, the attorney firm that recently was
suspended by Sweetwater’s interim superintendent Ed Brand. The firm used to include
Bonifacio Garcia, Yuri Calderon, and Rogelio Ruiz.

Ruiz is now suing his former partners for, among other things, “making
thousands of dollars in political contributions
to favored political candidates in an effort
to influence government officials…,” according to court papers filed in Santa Clara County in
April of 2011.

Yuri Calderon of GCR was hired as Calexico district council in January 2011. Shortly after
GCR was hired, Eric Hall and Associates was hired by the district to work as a financial

Hall & Associates was also recently contracted by Sweetwater Union to conduct an audit of
Proposition O funds and came under fire for using David Randolph to conduct the audit.
Randolph had worked with Seville Group, Inc., the suspended Proposition O bond program

Bond money caused problems in Calexico as well. In 2004, Calexico's Measure J, a $30 million
construction bond, was passed. A 2010-2011 Imperial County Civil Grand Jury stated that they
had “uncovered irregularities” in Measure J spending.

In a January 16 interview, Diana Harvey, a Calexico teacher, said, “In April of last year,
Calexico Unified began an audit into Measure J spending. But on October 27, before the
results of the audit were even made available to the public, a new bond proposal was brought
before the board which named Calderon and Hall as those responsible for the bond.”

Board minutes from October 27 indicate that Calderon advised the board, “The proposed
bond would consolidate both bonds and any costs incurred would be borne by the bond funds,
and there would be no cost to the District if the bond was not approved by the community.”

The board voted down consideration of the bond measure. However, on December 14, 2010,
the Imperial Valley Press reported that “Calexico Unified School District directed its
superintendent to find an accounting firm outside the community to conduct a forensic audit of
Measure J funds as well as to ask the District Attorney's Office to review implications of fraud
related to the misuse of Measure J funds.”

On January 12, 2012, the Calexico board voted down trustee Joong S. Kim’s
resolution to terminate the services of GCR. In the same board meeting they voted
to censure Kim for “unprofessional behavior.”  

[Maura Larkins' comment: Mr. Kim didn't know that the law is frequently ignored in schools;
many school boards do whatever they want, and the lawyers to whom they've channeled large
amounts of tax dollars  protect them from the consequences.   
110 out of 111 districts
nationwide gave bond management jobs to donors to board members' campaigns.]

Yuri Calderon is closely tied to the unfolding Sweetwater/Southwestern saga.
Calderon was treasurer for a political action committee that operated out of Garcia’s
office. The committee, called Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay, was a
political action committee that made generous contributions to Sweetwater and
Southwestern boardmembers.
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Did Election Tampering Help Create Sweetwater Union High
School Board?
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Jan. 31, 2012

At the January 30 Sweetwater Union High School board meeting, the Vega report was
released. Parents, teachers, and students have been demanding the report for months. It
appears their suspicions had substance.

Attorney Greg Vega was commissioned by the board in May of 2011 to look into
work done by public relations professional
Scott Alevy, who had been hired by
district’s former counsel — Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz to assist
with union relations. However, a Union-Tribune investigation of the invoice
submitted to the district by Alevy suggested that some of the meetings billed by
him did not take place.

A more serious part of the investigation pertained to the allegation of election
tampering. Many of Alevy’s meetings occurred shortly before the November 2010
election, when Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa were reelected and John McCann was
first elected to the Sweetwater board.

According to the Vega report, Alevy had a number of meetings with McCann in the
months prior to his election. On June 13, 2010, Alevy billed the district for a
discussion with a Chula Vista City Council member. Alevy identified the individual
as McCann (and his wife).

On July 1, 2010, Alevy met with McCann over lunch. Alevy explained to the investigator that “McCann initiated
the meeting and that [McCann] wanted to run some ideas by Alevy. At the time of the meeting, Alevy believed
that McCann had announced or decided that he was going to run for the board.”

The report also tells us that “Alevy stated during his interview that he told John McCann, both before he was
elected to the Board and after, that he was a consultant being paid by the District to do public relations work.
Alevy had many conversations with McCann ‘bringing him up to speed’ on District issues.”

Alevy reported back to Garcia, the district’s counsel. Alevy told the investigator
“that McCann absolutely knew that Alevy was a consultant working with [Garcia,
Calderon and Ruiz] and he agreed that McCann was one of the people he believed
he could trust to keep his engagement confidential.”

“On August 17, 2010, Alevy billed the district for a strategic meeting with John McCann and Garcia.” Alevy told
the investigator that
McCann set up the meeting so that he “could gather information
about district issues necessary to be a better candidate for the board.”

McCann’s memory is different than Alevy’s. In the report, McCann said he didn’t know that Alevy was a
consultant and “did not specifically recall discussing political strategy with Alevy but would not be surprised
if it was discussed.”

The report goes on to say that “
On September 24, 2010, Alevy billed the district for a
‘campaign issues discussion’ with two school board candidates. Alevy believed that
he had a discussion that day with Cartmill and McCann. Both candidates knew that
he was a consultant working with [Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz].”

Attorney Garcia remembered having a meeting with Alevy and McCann and giving McCann “the lay of the

Did all of the boardmembers know that Alevy was hired by the district?

The document states: “Alevy was asked if he believed he was obligated to tell Board members he was
working with the District. Alevy stated he believed that each Board member had a fiduciary obligation to raise
the issue with the Board in closed or open session. It was Alevy’s assumption that Cartmill or Ricasa had
been told Alevy had been hired….and it was their obligation to tell the board….”

There is a curious inconsistency about Alevy’s actions regarding boardmember Bertha Lopez. In the report,
Alevy “stated he asked Lopez about her feelings on the District and its issues. He did not tell her that he was
working for the district because he did not want to jeopardize the confidential nature of the engagement.”

A cursory read of the report shows that former attorneys hired, for
the district, a public consultant to consolidate and promote favored
, among other things. It also appears that only some boardmembers were aware of the
nature of Alevy’s work; some may not have known that the district hired him.

The Vega report concludes with five findings. The fourth “find” is that “Alevy billed the district for meetings
and discussions with potential and actual board candidates in possible violation of California election laws.”
January 01, 2013
Bertha Lopez and Manuel Paul indicted, and, surprisingly, a
white male Republican: Sweetwater's Jim Cartmill
Charges Filed Against Current and Former Sweetwater Union
HS District Officials
By Susan Luzzaro
Jan. 4, 2012

...Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara, former Sweetwater boardmember Greg
Sandoval, and current boardmembers Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa are charged with
perjury, filing false documents, and using their “official position to influence a governmental
decision in which [they] had reason to know [they] had a financial interest.”

former program manager for Sweetwater’s Proposition O and
Southwestern College’s Proposition R bond construction, Henry
is charged with “giving a bribe” and “obtaining a thing of value to influence a
member of a legislative body.”

During the question-and-answer period, Dumanis referred to the corruption as “systemic and
pervasive.” She said that the investigation is continuing and that a hotline will be established
later this week to solicit tips that could further the investigation.

Sweetwater interim superintendent Ed Brand called a noon press conference at which he
announced that he has suspended all activities with
Seville Group, Inc., the
construction company that has been overseeing Sweetwater’s
Proposition O construction.

Several weeks ago, the San Diego district attorney’s office executed a search warrant on SGI’s
Pasadena offices. According to a December 20 Union-Tribune article,
Jaime Ortiz, the
program manager for Proposition O
, said he was informed that his company was
“not a target” of the investigation...
Bond program going from the frying pan into the fire?  
by Maura Larkins

The preceding article, "Charges Filed Against Current and Former Sweetwater Union HS
Officials," continues, "...Brand said that
Proposition O construction would continue and
would be overseen by Sweetwater’s in-house facilities staff and by the
County Office
of Education."

I don't see this transfer of responsibility as an improvement.  It looks like the Proposition
funds are being handed off to some extremely dicey characters.  Skimming money does
undermine an agency, but often it's a small potatoes operation. The folks who don't skim
from the agencies, but subvert the entire agency for their personal goals take vastly larger
sums legally.

For example, Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava at the San Diego County of Education benefit
from a corrupt system, and the SDCOE board and Superintendent Randy Ward do not even
require Diane Crosier to report gifts.  

SDCOE is protected by the news media in San Diego ever since Emily Alpert was
forced to stop her investigation of SDCOE.  

As can be seen in the 2009 article about Seville Group in the right column, Emily Alpert was
quick to report the early warning signs of what has become a large scandal.  No wonder
Emily left San Diego.
Sweetwater Union High School District Money Trail Gets
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
June 7, 2011

In a recent interview, Bertha Lopez voiced a strong opinion about Sweetwater Union High
School District attorney Bonifacio Garcia. Lopez, who has been a Sweetwater boardmember
since 2008 and served as a Chula Vista boardmember for ten years before that, said she
did not trust the advice offered by the attorney. Why not?

Garcia recently advised the board to hire attorney Greg Vega to do an independent review
of district expenditures. According to Lopez, Garcia did not reveal that Vega had worked for
the district. A Union-Tribune story also reported that Vega reviewed Garcia’s employment
contract last July.

Garcia has been the district’s main attorney since l996. In 2006, the Union-Tribune wrote,
“South County’s high school board has scrapped a $400-an-hour contract with its main
attorneys in favor of a $320,400-a-year deal designed to rein in legal spending that topped
$1.1 million in the year ending June 30.” Garcia, with the firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen,
was the main attorney.

Garcia formed a new firm (Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz) and continued to work for Sweetwater.
Changing names does not appear to equal reining in legal spending: Garcia’s current
contract with the district is $84,334 a month, or a little over $1 million a year.

Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay was a political action committee that
operated out of Garcia’s office until March, when it became inactive. Yuri Calderon, a
member of Garcia's law firm, was the treasurer. Garcia gave generously to this committee,
as did Laura Martinez, who co-owns a house with Garcia in Sierra Madre, California,
according to documents.

According to records kept by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters,
Jim Cartmill, a
Sweetwater boardmember since l996, received $5000 from the Citizens for Good
Government in South Bay in last November’s election.

He also received $5000 from Laura Martinez.

Arlie Ricasa, first elected in 1998 and re-elected last November, received $5000
from Laura Martinez.

And newly elected John McCann received $900 from Laura Martinez
Attorney Dan Shinoff replaced Bonny Garcia at SUHSD in Jan. 2011
The change, interestingly enough, involved Bertha Lopez.
(See article lower on this page, "Law firm gets caught between agencies.")

Daniel Shinoff was involved in defending Bonny Garcia in a false claims lawsuit regarding
Otay Water District.  

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the following in the story
"Otay Water District's legal advice keeps getting more expensive"
on June 19, 2003:

...Among a half dozen legal actions and complaints pending against the district is a false-
claims lawsuit against board member Jaime Bonilla, General Manager Bob Griego, the firm
of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, and two Burke attorneys, Bonifacio Garcia and Roberta
Sistos. The claim alleges Bonilla directed Garcia and Sistos to perform legal services for the
Otay Water District in December 2000, months before the water district board had hired the
law firm. In fact, Bonilla himself hadn't even been sworn in as a board member when he
ordered the legal services to be performed.

Nonetheless, the law firm submitted bills for more than $32,000 for the months before it had
been hired, and Griego and the board, led by Bonilla, paid the bills in March 2001.

The false-claims lawsuit says that money should be repaid to the water district, plus
damages and civil penalties.

Garcia and Sistos are closely linked to Bonilla. On the first meeting after Bonilla was sworn
in, he helped engineer the firing of the water district's in-house counsel. Burke, Williams &
Sorensen was retained shortly thereafter. The district has paid the law firm over $1 million
and perhaps as much as $2 million over the past 2 1/2 years. Now, the water district board
is paying other legal counsel to represent the law firm and board members for actions taken
by the district on advice from Burke, Williams & Sorensen.

Legal experts say the indemnity given to Burke, Williams & Sorensen by the Otay Water
District is far from normal procedure for public agencies. Most lawyers would not ask to be
released from liability for advice rendered to a client. And why would any client, especially a
public agency supported entirely by ratepayer dollars, agree to such a deal? What kind of
legal advice is Otay receiving if its attorneys won't stand behind that advice without

Garcia says the indemnity clause is perfectly legal and within the rules of professional
conduct. He has a letter from Escondido attorney Ellen Peck, dated yesterday, saying as

But Burke, Williams & Sorensen does not have the same indemnity clause with its other
major South Bay client, the Sweetwater Union High School District. Attorney Dan Shinoff,
who is now representing Otay in the false-claims lawsuit, said he has seen such indemnity
clauses before. But when asked if he had such indemnity from the district for his legal work,
his answer was no.

As a result of the bizarre indemnity clause in Bonny Garcia's contract,  I've had to pay to
defend Bonny Garcia for giving my water district bad advice!!!  Garcia was replaced by Dan
Shinoff of
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz in 2011.  Mr. Shinoff also works for SDCOE, which
has an
unspoken indemnity policy.

Bonilla has been a close associate of Bertha Lopez and her husband Jose Lopez as well as
attorney Bonny Garcia.  See "Law firm gets caught between agencies" story (below)
regarding these relationships.  

Also, the
Union-Tribune published information in January 2013 about this group of friends
during corruption proceedings in San Diego Superior Court.  
 "[On] Feb. 11, 2010: Flores
emails Sweetwater general counsel Bonifacio “Bonny” Garcia to confirm dinner with Otay
Water District board member Jaime Bonilla and Lopez. Garcia was working for the water
district at the time."

Voice of San Diego reported in January 2012, "Jaime Bonilla, another Otay Water District
board member, is also mentioned in search warrants; Bertha Lopez and Seville employees
had an appointment to dine at his house."
Bertha Lopez Received Money From Contractors and Law Firm
Friday, June 17, 2011
posted by Southern Exposure

It’s interesting that Board Member Bertha Lopez keeps throwing stones at everyone else
for taking money from contractors and the law firm for Sweetwater Union High School
District. Most concerning, however, is her complete lack of forthrightness when it comes
to her own campaign donations. Lopez attacks other board members for their donations,
while continuing to say her votes are independent, but where is her openness about the
campaign money she took from the very same contractors and contributor connected to
the legal firm?

Just go to the county website and search under Lopez’s last name to check out her
filings. You will find the following campaign contributions totaling almost $20,000:

Barnhart – $5,000
Design Acquisition Corp – $3,000
Marston & Martson – $3,000
CTE, Inc. (Thomas Gaeto) – $1,000
Rotech – $2,500
Consulting and Inspection Svcs – $1,000
Jose Mireles, Latino Builder – $500
Romero Leonor (HAR) – $250
Seville – $2,000
Laura Martinez – $1,000

The San Diego Reader recently published an article calling out Board members who
took money from Laura Martinez (who apparently co-owns a house with Sweetwater
Attorney Bonifacio Garcia), but the
story fails to mention that Bertha Lopez also
received $1,000 from Martinez.

The Reader story seems to be in response to an interview with Lopez — did it
not occur to the reporter when listening to complaints from Lopez that her
contributions should be checked as well?

Also interesting is that Lopez received a $500 campaign contribution from Mark
Watton, general manager of the Otay Water District, where husband Lopez sits
on the board. What on earth could Mark Watton care about who gets elected to
the board of SUHSD? He and his wife live nowhere near the district. Yet, Jose
Lopez, Bertha’s husband, is Watton’s boss.

Yes, I know, anybody has the right to donate to a campaign. The reason for bringing this
up is that Lopez tends to throw stones at everyone around her — but it seems she lives
in a glass house.
Sweetwater school board avoids campaign donations talk
Confronted three times in past year
By Susan Luzzaro
Dec. 12, 2012

In December 2011, Nancy Stubbs brought before the Sweetwater trustees a campaign-
reform resolution. Because of the exorbitant amount of money ($150,000), given to
boardmembers Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa, and John McCann from vendors during their
2010 campaign, Stubbs said she felt it was necessary to pass a resolution limiting
campaign donations to $500.

The resolution died for lack of a motion...

Trustee Bertha López and community members urged the board to include
language about campaign contributions i
n their conflict-of-interest code. The
board equivocated and revisited the policy in November and again on
December 10...

Trustee Lopez responded, “When? When are we going to do something? We’
ve been talking about these bylaws for three months now.” ...
Blog posts re SEA:
CVESD Reporter
Dan Shinoff
handles lawsuits
for Sweetwater
Yuri Calderon Oct. 23,
2006 present in
session board meeting

Subdivision (c) of
Government Code Section
President Sandoval called
the closed session
meeting to order at 6:12
Board members present
were Jim Cartmill, Jaime
Mercado, and Arlie N.
Ricasa. (Charla Wilson,
student board
representative, was
excluded from
the closed session
meeting.) Pearl Quiñones
was absent.
Board Unadopted Minutes
October 23, 2006
Page 2
Also attending closed
session were Jesus M.
Gandara, superintendent,
Castle Park High
Dan Shinoff
prolongs problems
SUHSD Attorney Dan Shinoff and his longtime client,
trustee Bertha Lopez, and questions about free speech at
SDUSD meetings
by Maura Larkins

Attorney Dan Shinoff is advising Sweetwater Union School District, where
Ed Brand is the

It should be noted that trustee Bertha Lopez got rid of Mr. Shinoff's predecessor,
Bonny Garcia, as counsel for SUHSD, which was a good thing.  
(See story below,
"Law firm gets caught between agencies.")   

Mr. Garcia's replacement, however, was perhaps a little to closely connected to Lopez for
Bertha's connections to Dan Shinoff go way back to 2001 when she was a
board member of Chula Vista Elementary School District.
 Dan Shinoff represented
the district when it wanted to prevent me from reporting wrongdoing at
Castle Park
Elementary School.  I was fired by Bertha Lopez and her fellow trustees for filing
grievances and a lawsuit!  As recently as 2009 Bertha again hired Dan Shinoff to help her
avoid being deposed in the
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz v. Maura Larkins defamation
case.  She used CVESD's tax dollars to support his private firm in that case.  It seems that
CVESD was illegally trying to shut down my website.  (Public entities can't sue for

The San Diego Reader reports (in the story below):

"...[A] woman who had addressed [the Sweetwater school board] at a February meeting
subsequently learned from her employer that Brand had called her boss, a captain in one
of the branches of the armed services. According to O’Neill, Brand spoke to her captain
about the woman expressing her opinion."

It would seem that Ed Brand is trying to use the San Diego good-old-boy
gossip network to silence criticism. But he called someone who didn't
want to be a good old boy.  Has Sweetwater developed a policy of
using a wide range of tactics to silence criticism?

Currently SUHSD board member Bertha Lopez seems to be supporting
free speech, although if you look closely at her words you begin to
wonder exactly what she's trying to say (see the last paragraph of the
story directly below).

But Bertha's actions seem to be in direct opposition to the
First Amendment.

When I opposed this bizarre injunction in the Court of Appeal, Stutz law firm
claimed that I could legally be forbidden from mentioning Shinoff's name, either
orally or in writing, for the rest of my life
because the First Amendment didn't
 (Shinoff lost; I won.)

Why didn't Bertha Lopez (and her pals Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham) want to give
testimony in the Stutz v. Larkins case?  Perhaps because they had been on the Chula
Vista Elementary board that fired me for filing grievances and a lawsuit. They desperately
wanted to silence me regarding illegal actions at Castle Park Elementary School. They
feared that the evidence they had concealed about CVESD would come out in Dan
Shinoff's defamation case. No worries.
Judge Judith Hayes ruled that Stutz law firm didn't
have to produce documents, and Bertha, Pam and Larry--and even Dan Shinoff himself!--
didn't have to testify.

Sweetwater school district board seeks to silence
Superintendent Brand calls someone’s boss
By Susan Luzzaro
March 15, 2013

Is there a concerted attempt by the Sweetwater Union High School District to silence or
stifle criticism? That’s what many public speakers told the trustees during the March 11
board meeting.

The meeting was prefaced by a lecture on civility given by Sweetwater attorney Dan
Shinoff. During public comment, former adult school teacher and community advocate
Fran Brinkman asked the superintendent and trustees, “How dare you lecture us on

Brinkman recounted a litany of actions she alleges have been used to intimidate or reduce
the public’s right to speak. Her list included: changing board times, cutting time allotted to
speakers, moving public comment to the end of meetings, removing chairs from the board
room, censoring board tapes, paying the legal fees for one trustee’s “bogus” restraining
order, and calling the employers of public speakers.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, more than five speakers expressed
outrage at the idea that district superintendent Ed Brand would call someone’s employer.

Kevin O’Neill, who sits on the district’s Proposition O bond oversight board, explained to
the trustees that a woman who had addressed them at a February meeting subsequently
learned from her employer that Brand had called her boss, a captain in one of the
branches of the armed services. According to O’Neill, Brand spoke to her captain about
the woman expressing her opinion.

O’Neill used his three minutes to remind the trustees about First Amendment rights. He
said, “This action is beyond the pale, and though this woman chooses to take the high
road, if it were me, my attorney would be talking to your attorney.”

Later, during public comment, a woman who identified herself as having spoken about an
information technology issue at the last meeting began her speech by reading a statement
that said the opinions she expressed were her own — not her employer’s.

A similar concern was brought to the trustees’ attention by bond-oversight chair Nick

On February 21, Marinovich received a letter from the district’s attorney, Dan Shinoff, that
read: “It has come to our attention that your conduct at the District’s most recent board
meeting warrants our involvement. It is important that civility is maintained at all times when
the Board is conducting their business.”

The letter inaccurately referred to a board meeting. A clarification letter followed from
Shinoff; the warning was in regard to a bond-oversight meeting.

In a March 15 interview, Marinovich, said, “This is the first letter of reprimand I have
received in my entire life.” Marinovich worked for the County of San Diego for 32 years.

“Sending letters like this just makes the district look foolish. They are not going to deter
me from doing my job. The letter was not warranted. It is in reference to the entire bond-
oversight committee — not just myself — asking hard questions of a district representative
about iPad expenditures.”

Marinovich was recently named executive director of the California League of Bond
Oversight Committees.

Brand and trustee Jim Cartmill did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Via email, trustee Bertha Lopez responded to the comments made at the March 11
meeting: "It is an inappropriate that a member of the public comes to comment on a matter
before the board and the result ends in district staff calling their employer! Private citizens
have the right to free speech and they are protected....
It seems that instead of finding
ways to resolve concerns or to clarify issues, the best course of action is to
silence individuals."

[Maura Larkins' comment: Instead of finding ways to resolve concerns or to clarify issues,
Bertha Lopez and her fellow trustees at CVESD decided that the best course of action was
to spend tax dollars to silence individuals.]
Bertha Lopez
Famous last words

oneoftheteachers Nov. 3, 2012 @ 12:04 p.m.

God help us all in the Sweetwater District if this man and/or Quinones are elected. Bertha
Lopez and George Cameron are a real threat to the culture of corruption in SUHSD and
are our only chance of salvation.
Blog posts re SUHSD:
from SDER Blog
from CVESD Rptr Blog
from CVESD Rptr Blog
July 2013
School attorney Dan Shinoff sends letter to Sweetwater
bond committee member who criticized board member
John McCann

John McCann, board member elected in Nov. 2010, apparently asked the district to
provide legal representation regarding his claim of defamation against bond
committee member Kevin O'Neill.  

But a public entity is forbidden by law from suing for defamation.  Should
the board be using tax dollars to do legal work in a private matter?
First sentencing in South Bay corruption scandal
Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
March 1, 2013

Henry Amigable was sentenced March 1 with a misdemeanor in a South bay corruption
case. The case is related to Southwestern's proposition R and Sweetwater Union's
proposition O bond construction monies.

Amigable will be on probation for three years, spend 100 hours in community
service, and pay a $1,000 fine.

On January 4, 2012, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis filed charges against five
defendants on multiple felony charges including bribery, perjury, and influencing an
elected official. Amigable was among those charged...
Update on board members charged with corruption
The District Attorney's office searched the homes of Pearl Quinones, Arlie Ricasa and
Bertha Lopez in Dec. 2011.  They and fellow board member Jim Cartmill were arraigned
in early 2013 along with twelve other South Bay school officials and contractors.
New year, new charges
Allison K. Sampité-montecalvo
Chula Vista Star-News
Jan 12 2013

...This is the third arraignment on this case, according to criminal defense attorney Paul
Pfingst, who said he doesn’t expect a trial until fall or winter this year.

Judge Timothy Walsh granted the new arraignment date of Jan. 30 to give defense
attorneys time to review the indictments.

The DA’s office has been gathering a case against South County officials since
December 2011, when several homes were raided after complaints were made alleging
the defendants accepted thousands of dollars worth of gifts, entertainment and meals in
exchange for votes on multi-million-dollar construction contracts under voter-approved

In a prepared statement released yesterday, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the
grand jury process moved the case along faster, saving court time and taxpayer dollars.

However, Pfingst and other defense attorneys say grand jury indictments are one-sided.

“The defense is now unable to cross examine … the sole witness who said there was a
bribe,” Pfingst said, referring to Amigable. “…If the indictment was (somehow) flawed, we’
d have an opportunity to file a demurrer…”
Initial felony charges against Amigable were dismissed in March after he pleaded guilty to
offering a valuable thing to a school district governing board member with the intent to
influence, a misdemeanor.

In addition, the indictments added two conspiracy counts to Gandara’s case.
Mary Anne Weegar case
Ed Brand
Sweetwater Union High
School District incl Title IX
Title IX: Ollier v. Castle
Park High
Mary Anne Weegar case
Sweetwater Union High School District incl Title IX
Title IX: Ollier v. Castle Park High
Lawsuits conducted for SUHSD by San Diego County Office of Education:
Who's replacing the four corrupt Sweetwater trustees who were
forced to resign?
Four people who have controlled the legal shenanigans of
Sweetwater for years

SDCOE board members Mark Anderson, Susan Hartley, Lyn Neylong,
Gregg Robinson and Sharon Jones

All of the above except Robinson will take over the Sweetwater
Union High School District board. (See
all posts on South Bay Indictments.)
These individuals have maintained secrecy about gifts to Diane Crosier,
the director of Risk Management. Also, they have kept Crosier's pal Dan
Puplava in his position despite revelations of enormous amounts of money
he received from financial institutions connected to SDCOE.

Troubled Sweetwater school district served with temporary trustees
May 19, 2014

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Four members of the San Diego County Board of Education will serve
as temporary trustees for the troubled Sweetwater Union High School District, the county
Office of Education announced Monday.

The appointees will fill the seats of Sweetwater board members who were suspended or
ousted after pleading guilty to various corruption charges.

The selections were made today by county school board President Susan Hartley, three
days after Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes granted a request by the district to allow
Hartley to fill the leadership posts...

The appointees are Mark Anderson, who represents inland North County and rural East
County; Sharon Jones, who represents most of the southeastern portion of the county;
Lyn Neylon, who represents the southwestern part of the county; and Hartley herself, who
represents the North County coast.

Last month, board President Jim Cartmill and Trustee Bertha Lopez pleaded guilty to a
misdemeanor accepting gifts charge, and then-Trustee Pearl Quinones was sentenced to
three months of house arrest after her admission to a felony conspiracy count and a
misdemeanor of accepting gifts above the state limit.

Former trustees Arlie Ricasa and Greg Sandoval, ex-Superintendent Jesus Gandara and
a construction company executive, Henry Amigable, previously pleaded guilty in the case.
School Officials
indictments and prosecutions
May 2014
SEA Elections Results
Here are the election results for
the SEA officer, Board of
Directors and State Council

SEA Officers
SEA Secretary (2014-2016):
Ola Hadi
SEA Treasurer (2014-2016):
James Love
SEA Board of Directors
SEA At-Large Seat: Julie Walker
(write in candidate)
SEA State Council Delegates
Roberto Rodriguez
Gretel Liana Rodriguez
James Love
Thank you to all site reps who
held the elections at their sites. I
know it was difficult to do with all
the other issues taking place at
the time.

In Unity,

Martina Gutierrez
SEA Elections Committee Chair
SDCOE administrators and board members have assumed positions at Sweetwater:
left to right in photo: SDCOE administrator Lora Duzyk, SDCOE Superintendent Randy
Ward, SDCOE board members Susan Hartley, Mark Anderson, Sharon Jones, Lyn Neylon,
Gregg Robinson.
For some reason Sweetwater board member John McCann has been
replaced, although he was NOT charged or convicted of crimes as his four colleagues were.
Is Sweetwater Union High School District going from the frying
pan into the fire?
Convicted trustees out; SDCOE trustees in
Bizarrely, the four convicted trustees of Sweetwater Union High School District--as well
as trustee John McCann and Sweetwater administrators--had their seats taken over at
the most recent board meeting by the five members of the current SDCOE board and
top administrators at SDCOE. SDCOE got permission from the Superior Court to
implement the takeover.

News, information and ideas about our
education system
by Maura Larkins
December 2014
Why are the 2014 results of $60 million Promise
Neighborhood grant being concealed?
Board appoints temp until interim is found Robert Moreno
Mar 07 2015
Chula Vista Star-News

The Sweetwater Union High School District’s board of trustees came back from closed session
Monday night to appoint
Assistant Superintendent Sandra Huezo to lead the district for about a

“Sandra Huezo is not the interim superintendent, she was appointed interim for the interim,” said
board president Frank Tarantino.  “So the search for the interim superintendent is still going on.”

Former interim superintendent
Tim Glover resigned from the district Feb. 18, leaving the largest
secondary school district in California without a leader...

“We were advised by our legal counsel that there is no permanent position as duty officer that’s listed
in the education code,” Tarantino said. “We were kind of out of compliance so we needed to appoint
an interim for the interim in order to get back into compliance.”...

The school district’s attorney Dan Shinoff said an appointment  brings the school district
in compliance with the education code by having an interim  superintendent in place...

The governing body took a major step Monday in its search for a permanent superintendent by
The Cosca Group as its search firm...
Karen Janney, appointed by trustees on June 8, returns to
the district as its superintendent
By Allison Sampite-Montecalvo
June 17, 2015

CHULA VISTA — Former teacher and administrator Karen Janney is returning to
the Sweetwater Union High School District as the new permanent superintendent
after a six-year hiatus.

She says that foremost she will work with school board members to restore trust in
the community by making students a priority, a concept that the district arguably
had gotten away from with previous superintendents, she said.

“My approach is if we are transparent and open and are listening to parents,
students, staff and the community … we’re always putting students first,” she said.
“I’m ready. I’m excited.”

Janney, 60, was appointed by the district’s five-member school board June 8. She
replaces interim Superintendent Phil Stover, who temporarily took over in March.
Stover was the district’s third interim leader since Superintendent Ed Brand was
placed on administrative leave last July.

Brand was selected by the board in 2011 after it fired its then chief, Jesus
Gandara. A series of U-T Watchdog stories had shed light on cozy relationships
with vendors and contractors.

Gandara was indicted on charges of felony conspiracy and accepting gifts above
the legal limit, for which he went to jail. Seventeen other South County trustees,
educators and contractors pleaded guilty to more than 200 misdemeanors and
felonies in a play-to-play corruption probe led by the District Attorney’s Office.

Janney now has the responsibility of leading the state’s largest 7-12 school district.

“The people who are the watchdog are important to keep us transparent and
accountable, and they’re important for us to move forward,” she said. “You can’t
just say something — you’ve got to do it and follow through.”

Trustees are expected to vote on Janney’s contract June 22, at which time she will
take her seat on the dais.

Board President Frank Tarantino said Janney would be offered a multiyear
contract with an annual evaluation component.

“I can’t be more confident that we made the right choice,” trustee Paula Hall said
June 8. “Mrs. Janney was definitely the top candidate, and I have no doubt that
she’s passionate about this district and the students.”

Janney is no stranger to Sweetwater...