Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bertha Lopez Received Money From Contractors and Law Firm Connection

This article is interesting for two reasons. First, it has intriguing information. Second, it suggests who may have put pressure on Bonnie Dumanis to conduct these raids.

Bertha Lopez Received Money From Contractors and Law Firm Connection
June 17, 2011
posted by Southern Exposure
San Diego Rostra

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 [see below] 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...

Sweetwater Union High School District Money Trail Gets Longer
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.

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