Sunday, February 02, 2014

Arlie Ricasa pleads guilty, resigns Southwestern College board position

UPDATE: See new guilty pleas in Feb. 2014 by officials and contractors connected to Southwestern College.

Arlie Ricasa is Southwestern College's EOPS Director. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for crimes committed as a Sweetwater Union High School District trustee.

See all posts on Arlie Ricasa.
Ricasa pleads guilty, resigns board position
Lina Chankar
The Sun, Southwestern College

SWC EOPS Director Arlie Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor in the South Bay corruption case and resigned from her position on the Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees.

Ricasa, who faced 33 criminal counts, including 16 felonies, will avoid prison by admitting to a single count of filing a false instrument.

Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Ricasa made the following admission of guilt:

“I received, reviewed, understood and biannually voted on Sweetwater’s conflict of interest code delineating the Form 700 reporting requirements sent to the Sweetwater Board by the Superintendent. In 2009, I was an elected School Board Member for the Sweetwater Union High School District. I accepted gifts from Rene Flores (SGI) in 2009 with a value of $2,099 and I did not report them. The maximum amount one may lawfully receive from one source per year is $420. Rene Flores provided these gifts with the intent to influence my vote on business awarded to Seville Group Inc.”

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis originally charged Ricasa with the most counts of any of the 15 people indicted in the sweeping corruption case. According to a D.A. Affidavit For Search Warrant, Ricasa had accepted the following items:

1) $1,741.70 – Dinner and wine with her husband Ed Bagaporo, and SGI President Rene Flores.
2) $313.18 – Amigable for dinner with her husband.
3) $3,600 – SGI contribution to Ricasa’s campaign for State Assembly District 78.
4) $13,600 – From SGI for various political campaigns in 2007 through 2010.
5) $1,380.22 – From Henry Amigable to “wine and dine.”
6) $208.78 – Dinner with Amigable on May 12, 2007.
7) $132.98 – Dinner with her husband and Amigable.
8) $3,600 – Contributions from SGI for 2008 State Assembly campaign in June 2007.
9) $1,800 – SGI paid for the sponsorship of Ricasa’s daughter, Natalie Bagaporo, for Leadership Council in July 2009.
10) $5,000 – from SGI for campaign contributions in Sept. 2010.
11) $5,000 – from SGI for campaign contributions in Oct. 2010.

These and other gifts and contributions need to be reported on California Form 700, Schorr said. Ricasa failed to report any gifts or other reportable interest in 2008 and 2010, which is signed under penalty of perjury. The D.A. affidavit stated that Ricasa, trustee Pearl Quinones, trustee Greg Sandoval and superintendent Jesus Gandara all violated the California Political Reform Act Government Code section (8711-91014).

After a lengthy investigation that included raids on their homes, defendants were accused of bribery, perjury, conflict of interest, filing false instrument, offering a thing of value to a member of government and conspiracy to defraud another of property.

After Ricasa’s guilty plea, Schorr said that in every case there is the potential to negotiate an agreement to settle the case without going to trial.

Ricasa’s supervisor, SWC dean Beatrice Zamora-Aguilar, said Ricasa is a dedicated educational professional who cares about students.

“I trust her judgment,” Zamora said. “All of the work she does, anything that has to do with any kind of reporting and budgeting, I provide oversight to. I’m a very careful and meticulous manager and I feel comfortable with any of the information she puts forward.”

Schorr said he is moving forward with the case against other Sweetwater officials and the D.A. is prepared to go to trial.

SWC President Dr. Melinda Nish said she referred the matter to the acting vice president of human resources Lynn Solomita and the college’s legal counsel to see if the guilty plea has an impact on Ricasa’s $125,000 position.

“It was in her capacity as a Sweetwater elected official that the violation occurred,” said Nish. “Unless there is some nexus with her employment here, it has no bearing on her employment. So I’m asking for both HR and legal advice, and that’s where we’re at with it.”

Nish said if any disciplinary action is taken it would be a personnel and confidential matter and would not be discussed publicly. She said she would like to see Sweetwater issues put to rest.

“I’m really pleased that Southwestern has done a lot of work to clean up what it does and how it does it,” she said. “Sweetwater is our educational partner and I would hope the sooner they get their business cleaned up the better for all of us in the South Bay. So I’m looking forward to this coming to closure.”


But that's why Bonny Garcia was hired by the district, right?

Trustee cleared in flap over contract

Company listed wrong address
By Chris Moran
June 6, 2009

CHULA VISTA — No, everyone seems to agree now. The construction firm that got a $7 million contract from the Sweetwater Union High School District board last week is not located in the home of a board member's relative.

A construction industry Web site that compiles such minutiae mistakenly gave Rialto-based RC Construction a Chula Vista address. No big deal, except that the erroneous address happens to belong to the nephew of board member Arlie Ricasa.

“Peculiar,” Ricasa called it. “Bizarre,” said the school board's attorney.

To the attorney for a construction company that competed against RC Construction for the job but lost, it's suspicious.

“How is it possible that the address that they put to RC Construction, out of all the millions out there, belongs to Arlie Ricasa's (relative)?” asked Andrew Berman, attorney for HAR Construction in Chula Vista.

In an e-mail to Sweetwater attorney Kris Vaca that was part of the public record of the meeting, Brian Tyson of Reed Construction Data wrote, “We mistakenly added RC Const. Chula Vista, a company that had been in our database since 1995.”

Tyson did not return a phone call and an e-mail seeking further clarification.

Tyson's e-mail states that Reed has corrected its mistake and now lists RC Construction's proper Rialto address. RC Construction says it has never had a Chula Vista address.

“This is information that was totally inaccurate,” Ricasa said.

She said that neither she nor anyone she knows of in her family has a connection to RC Construction. Her nephew Domingo Ricasa, who owns and lives in the home at the Chula Vista address, works for a telephone company, she said.

Sweetwater attorney Bonifacio Garcia vetted the matter, concluded that it was all a big mistake and cleared Ricasa to vote on the contract. Ricasa said she regularly recuses herself on votes that affect Southwestern College, where she works, or community organizations for which she serves as a board member.

But she has no connection whatsoever to RC Construction, she said, and she participated in the vote on May 27.

In 2003, a grand jury report faulted Sweetwater – but not Ricasa specifically – for appointing Ricasa's husband to the volunteer citizens committee in charge of overseeing the work done through a $187 million bond measure passed in 2000. The grand jury did not allege any wrongdoing.

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