Mayor takes aim at Sweetwater during speech
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox delivers final state of the city, addresses issues at Sweetwater
By Allison Sampite-Montecalvo
Feb. 25, 2014
CHULA VISTA — Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox delivered her final state of the city address Tuesday night to a packed city hall, using the forum to zero in on the Sweetwater school district, which she said needs to improve its relationship with the community...
Cox said the Sweetwater Union High school District's problems continue to affect the city’s reputation and students’ future. A major issue in the district has been the prosecution of four of five school board members on corruption charges. One has since pleaded guilty and resigned...
Cox said she’s done watching poor governance get worse.
[Maura Larkins comment: I see no indication at all that Sweetwater has gotten worse. Mayor Cox seems to be forgetting decades of bad behavior. Or perhaps Cox is only worried about contractor kickbacks, not the deeper corruption that affects students directly.
Does Mayor Cox think that the Mary Ann Weegar case was a result of better governance than what SUHSD has at present? And does she think Bonny Garcia gave better legal advice than Dan Shinoff does? Just over two years ago attorney Dan Shinoff took over Bonny Garcia's duties as SUHSD's lawyer for day-to-day advice. Shinoff continues, as he has done for over a decade, to defend the district when it gets sued. The board seems to think that Shinoff is good at silencing public comment about the district, but Mr. Shinoff seems to have lost his touch in that regard. He doesn't appear to have been much help to San Ysidro School District recently. Does Mayor Cox think that perenniel SUHSD Supt. Ed Brand suddenly became corrupt?]
See all SDER posts re Dan Shinoff.
“I am compelled to confront Sweetwater’s current problems through my ability to convene community members in constructive conversation,” she said. “It’s clear that the district is an asset that reflects on perceptions the city.”
In essence, she said it’s time for the district to overcome its bad reputation.
...In a statement released the following day, Sweetwater district superintendent Ed Brand said that putting learning first has been and will continue to be, the commitment of the district.
“Is the Sweetwater Union High School District going through a difficult time? Yes," Brand said. "Are there actions that we can take to improve the district? Of course there are. We appreciate the concern of Mayor Cox and welcome a dialogue on how to move forward."
Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said her comments were poignant.
“I understand where she’s coming from and I look forward to improving our relationship and collaboration with Sweetwater,” he said.
[Maura Larkins' comment: Escobedo is right not to attack Sweetwater. He needs to clean up corruption at CVESD, but he has shown absolutely no interest in any such effort.]
Councilman Rudy Ramirez said he was glad to hear her weigh in on the issue.
“I like that she stepped out on Sweetwater,” he said. “It was a little uncharacteristic and edgy for her.”
[Maura Larkins' comment: Edgy? Are you kidding, Mr. Ramirez? It's about time someone made an issue of school corruption.]
Cox also discussed the concept of unifying the Sweetwater district with local elementary school districts, a proposal brought up last month by fellow Councilwoman Mary Salas.
“The idea of unifying K-12 was … in response to what I perceive to be frustration with the Sweetwater district,” she said. “First, it doesn’t address the issue of better governance, and second, minus the support of districts themselves, unification is dead on arrival.”
[Maura Larkins' comment: Good point! The unification project does NOT address the issue of better governance. Cheryl Cox knows that there are problems at CVESD. I suspect that she was pretty disgusted with CVESD by the time she left.]
Cox, who will be termed out of the mayor's office in the fall, said the culture at Sweetwater should change at the top before a conversation about unification can be had.
“We’ve turned things around at city hall in the face of dire circumstances,” she said. “The same can be done at Sweetwater.”...
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014
Why did this case result in puny plea bargains? My guess is that no one in downtown San Diego wants the public to learn about the true scope of corruption in our schools. This whole circus seems to have been about who gets to stay in the education establishment rather than actually cleaning up the establishment. There's absolutely no reason why business as usual will not proceed in our educational institutions.
It's not that I wanted harsher punishment for these defendants. Absolutely not. I think these people are just fall guys. I would like to see a public trial in which these people could talk about the culture they encountered when they first got involved with Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School District.
Alioto, Dominguez, Salcido, Wilson plead guilty
Written by: Lina Chankar / Senior Staff Writer
Southwestern College Sun
Four more former Southwestern College officials pleaded guilty to felonies and misdemeanors in the South Bay Corruption Case. Former administrators Nicholas Alioto and John Wilson along with former trustees Yolanda Salcido and Jorge Dominguez all likely avoided prison sentences by admitting guilt to one count. They joined former superintendent Raj. K. Chopra as former college officials guilty of crimes related to Proposition R funding.
College employees expressed disappointment over the lenient sentences approved by Judge Ana España and the San Diego County District Attorney, but also relief that the scandal and criminal proceedings may be finally winding down. Of the 15 defendants in the case, 12 had direct links to SWC either as officials, employees or contractors. Defendants originally faced 262 charges in what District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis called the “largest corruption case in the history of San Diego County.” As of press time, 11 of the cases have been settled through plea bargains.
Salcido was originally indicted on 14 counts, including extortion, perjury and accepting bribes. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for filing a false document. Her sentencing is April 22.
Also pleading guilty to criminal charges were former SWC contractors Paul Bunton, Henry Amigable, Jeff Flores and Gary Cabello. SWC EOPS Director Arlie Ricasa pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for crimes committed as a Sweetwater Union High School District trustee (see adjacent story). Charges against former SWC Interim President Greg Sandoval, a former SUHSD trustee, are pending. Sweetwater trustees Jim Cartmill, Pearl Quiñonez and Bertha Lopez still face charges, as does former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara.
All defendants had extensive affidavits detailing the charges against them. Most were more than 100 pages. Chopra originally faced 13 charges — nine felonies — including perjury, receiving a bribe and conflict of interest. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of filing a false document. Chopra will not make any more court appearances, said his attorney Michael Attanasio. Chopra was fined and will perform community service, said Attanasio, but amounts are pending.
Former SWC facilities director Wilson pleaded guilty to one felony, as did former trustee Dominguez. Former vice president of business Alioto originally faced 12 counts, including bribery and perjury, but was allowed by the DA to plead guilty to just one felony. Alioto, Chopra and Wilson will be sentenced Jan. 7.
Former Seville Construction executive Amigable cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for a misdemeanor plea deal. An email he sent to SWC construction contractor Flores explaining how Dominguez could influence Chopra was described in an affidavit.
“Had a good dinner this evening with George (Jorge) Dominguez Board member at Southwestern College, his wife, Greg Sandoval and his wife and Angela and I,” wrote Amigable. “Greg encouraged George to support us to get the Program management assignment at Southwestern College. Right now the President of the college Raj Chopra has gotten real close to George. George believes he can influence Chopra right now because he needs his board support. He is going to set up a lunch with the President and let us pitch to him directly why they need to hire a PM (program manager) right away they want to go over John Wilson. In addition, George is going to try and influence who will be put on the selection committee.”
SWC officials were treated to expensive dinners, extravagant wine and cocktails, theatre tickets, sporting events and other gifts in exchange for support and favors for Proposition R contractors and hopefuls. Some dinners approached $3,000 with wine and bar tabs of nearly $600.
Proposition R-related events have rattled the college since 2008 when the $389 million construction bond passed. Chopra punished college employees who spoke against passage of the measure and layed off at least one classified employee for not supporting the bond.
Chopra, Alioto and Salcido engaged in an assault on the student newspaper and its faculty when it began investigating irregularities in contracting, campaign contributions, extravagant gifts to college administrators, and secretive transactions at the college’s educational foundation in 2009. Alioto twice froze newspaper funding, refused to authorize payment of printing bills and publically accused the adviser of financial mismanagement. Chopra physically assaulted a journalism student and the newspaper adviser, then offered the adviser “whatever it is you want” to influence his students to stop the investigations. In 2010 Alioto ordered campus police to arrest three staff members of The Sun. When four armed officers approached the newspaper building the adviser locked them in his office and refused to turn them over. A two-and-a-half hour standoff ensued and a crowed gathered. Police left when Professor Robert Unger, a lawyer, convinced them that their action was illegal and they needed to leave.
Alioto also took control of the newspaper’s advertising revenue and failed to collect more than $11,000 over a period of 12 months. Journalism students billed the college for the funds in 2011, but the request was ignored. In September 2010 Chopra directed former Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Mark Meadows to order The Sun to cease publication until after the November 2010 governing board elections. Journalism students raised private funds and printed the September 2010 issue of The Sun in Los Angeles County. The issue broke the story of Alioto accepting luxurious vacations and other gifts from contractors and potential contractors. The Sun also published investigations about unreported campaign contributions to Salcido, Dominguez and current board president Terry Valladolid. Valladolid cooperated with the DA and has not been indicted.
Salcido and Dominguez were defeated at the polls by Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader. Days before the new board majority assumed office, Salcido, Dominguez, Valladolid and former trustee Jean Roesch voted to give Chopra a $100,000 severance package and he resigned before he could be fired. Alioto resigned in March 2012, followed by more than a dozen other Chopra allies in the administration, including the VP of human resources and the campus police chief.
Friday, February 14, 2014
CVESD teacher removed for requesting massages: another member of the Castle Park Family causes a scandal
Comments regarding this post can be found HERE.
Stephenie Pettit has been placed on administrative leave for requesting massages from students. (See Channel 10 News story below.)
No one, including the police, has found that there was any hint of wrongdoing in Ms. Pettit's classroom--only bad judgment.
(Updated Mar. 14, 2014) But a parent has made me realize that Ms. Pettit's actions could result in serious harm to students in the future because they conditioned children to touch an adult on request. Even worse, kids were given class currency to do the touching. If CVESD used my plan for master teachers, this would not have happened. Our system puts untested teachers in full and solitary control of classrooms right after getting their teaching credentials. There is no close oversight or support to guide them.
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo will need to be careful in this case. A couple of members of his administration have more to hide than a few massages.
Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Human Resources director Peg Myers will want to go easy on Ms. Pettit. They will want to continue the district's policy of avoiding investigations. It's a good policy when the people with the most to hide are not the ones the district is targeting. Ms. Pettit might say more than they want to hear if she were pressed for information.
WHAT KIND OF INVESTIGATIONS DOES CVESD CONDUCT?
Let's compare two situations: kids giving massages in the current case versus a report that a teacher might come to school and shoot everybody in an earlier case involving Peg Myers and Stephenie Pettit. Why was there NO investigation in the earlier case, while the police were called in in the second case? Because no reporters were interested in the earlier case.
The fact is, CVESD doesn't do thorough investigations to keep kids safe. Instead, it tries to protect its reputation. Too often this means covering up truly illegal actions by staff. As soon as as a report of child molestation surfaces in any school, a district administrator runs over to the school and threatens all the teachers that they'd better keep quiet. And they do keep quiet. The public has the right to vote for board members, but clearly does NOT enjoy the right to know what's going on at school districts.
Stephenie Pettit would NOT be the target of any investigation in the earlier case, but she'd be a star witness. She knows the truth about the reports of "fear for their lives" by teachers Jo Ellen Hamilton and Linda Watson when they taught at Castle Park Elementary in 2001. Pettit knows the role that Peg Myers played in the cover-up of crimes by Robin Donlan and other teachers.
And Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Francisco Escobedo also know, or they should know.
Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga might want to review her bizarre dealings with Peg Myers.
Peg Myers at her deposition
When Myers was the site representative at Castle Park Elementary School about ten years ago, she kept a tight rein on Stephenie Pettit in order to make sure that illegal actions were kept hidden. Stephenie Pettit was not involved in the original illegal actions, but she did keep her mouth shut after she found out about them. Later, when Myers was President of Chula Vista Educators (CVE), she continued to use her position to cover-up events at Castle Park in 2000-2001.
When she was President of CVE, Myers apparently impressed Villegas-Zuniga as someone who would help the district manipulate teachers. After sitting across from Myers at the bargaining table for a number of years, Villegas-Zuniga convinced Myers to clamber across the table to the other side and accept the job of Director of Human Resources. Obviously, Peg's intimate knowledge of individual teachers, and the workings of the teacher union, have been very helpful to the district in intimidating teachers. [Yes, I know that the district website claims that Myers is in charge of "classified" staff. Don't be fooled. She spends at least some of her time intimidating teachers.]
So here's the problem in the current situation. Stephenie Pettit knows the details of who was involved, and what actions they took, during the years when a large number of violations of civil and criminal laws were committed at Castle Park Elementary School, the district office, and the teachers union. The near-destruction of a school by power-hungry teachers and administrators was just the boost Peg Myers' career needed, and she has catapulted dramatically to higher positions since she was just an ordinary teacher at Castle Park Elementary in 2001.
CASTLE PARK ELEMENTARY
The effects of the decade-long teacher meltdown at Castle Park Elementary--that resulted in the school having 11 principals in 11 years--continue to ripple through the district.
It staggers the imagination to realize how many teachers involved with Castle Park Elementary's descent into a miasma of dysfunction have continued to make news long since the Chula Vista Star-News and San Diego Union-Tribune lost interest in supporting a troublesome group of teachers, parents and administrators that brought the school to its knees during their years of arbitrary power.
Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham
Current Chula Vista Elementary board members Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham oversaw the cover-up of illegal actions by CVESD employees at the school in 2000-2001. (I was a teacher at Castle Park Elementary, with Stephenie Pettit and Peg Myers, at that time.)
Former CVE president Jim Groth wanted a replacement who would continue the teacher versus teacher culture that he had helped create. Peg Myers fit the bill perfectly. See all Jim Groth blog posts.
It should be mentioned that current member of the statewide CTA board of directors Jim Groth played a big role in the concealment of illegal actions. He was then, and still is, a member of the Chula Vista Educators board. I imagine he's already hopped in his car and driven over to the district office to remind the administration that the district and the teachers union need to continue the cover-up.
After the district paid $100,000s of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to lawyers Dan Shinoff and Mark Bresee for their successful efforts to protect teachers and administrators who had committed crimes, the prevailing teachers apparently felt invulnerable. They delighted in their arbitrary power to do whatever they wanted and get away with it. What else could the district expect when it had fired a teacher (me!) simply for demanding an investigation, and for refusing to come back to work until something was done about the relentless harassment of me by teacher thugs.
Kids are being harmed every day in CVESD classrooms by cruel and/or incompetent teachers and administrators as well as those with faulty judgment. The district needs to take steps to prevent and mitigate harm to children.
Former CVE President Gina Boyd. See Gina Boyd's deposition HERE.
Robin Donlan, notorious along with her husband for $7 million Wireless Facilities stock options fraud case. See Robin Donlan's deposition HERE.
The rogue teachers were led by Robin Donlan, a personal friend of both Peg Myers and former CVE president Gina Boyd. Gina Boyd was a member in extremely good standing of the self-styled "Castle Park Family". The self-styled "Castle Park Family" resisted all efforts by a string of principals (averaging one principal per year for 11 years) to get them to settle down and do their jobs. I myself was a target of the ruling teachers. Administrators Libia Gil and Rick Werlin did the bidding of those teachers.
Before my lawsuit was even finished, five teachers were transferred out of the school during the summer of 2004. Stephanie Pettit was one of the "Castle Park Five" group that included the notorious Robin Donlan, Peg Myers, and Nikki Perez.
This district keeps finding that its favored employees have big problems. Perhaps an effective evaluation system for teachers would help? But no, that would interfere with the politics that currently guides employment decisions at the district. And the district wouldn't have hired Peg Myers if it didn't want to keep politics in the forefront of district decisions.
I doubt that the district will try to fire Mrs. Pettit. She knows too much about criminal actions by teachers and administrators. I predict a settlement.
And as far as the parent who says Stephanie should not teach again, I don't see how voluntarily giving a massage to a teacher could seriously harm a child. The situation is no more serious than if Stephanie were rewarding kids to fan her. The problem with the behavior is that the students are being asked to treat the teacher like a queen rather than a professional. The touching was clearly NOT sexual. It's only wrong because kids shouldn't be performing personal services for teachers--like combing hair, cutting hair, shining shoes, etc. Of course, Stephenie used poor judgment, but she's been taught by the district and the teachers union that she and other teachers with political connections are free to indulge any whim without repercussions.
A more important issue is that kids are being damaged by teachers every day in CVESD classrooms. There is psychological damage being done by cruel, rigid teachers who take pleasure in causing pain. Stephanie did not cause pain to the kids who volunteered to give her massages.
It would be interesting to know what else was happening when the kids were giving the teacher a massage. Was she teaching them at the same time? This could very well be the case. But there are so many classrooms where teachers spend huge amounts of time NOT interacting with their students that it would be very dangerous for anyone to criticize Stephanie even if she had not been teaching while receiving a massage. She could easily get plenty of witnesses to talk about the time wasted in classrooms while teachers are doing something other than teaching. I could write a book about it.
Stephanie deserves the due process than she herself helped to deny to me. Lawyer Dan Shinoff of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz took tax dollars for his successful efforts to keep Stephanie from being deposed in my case. I would be happy to deposed in any case she might file--which is exactly why I think that the district won't try to fire her. Here's my deposition in the current defamation lawsuit against me by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. Stutz is quite miffed, it seems, that the Court of Appeal says I have a constitutional right to discuss the lawyers who act on behalf of public schools.
Though I was not able to depose Stephanie, I was able to take the depositions of Castle Park Family members Gina Boyd, Peg Myers and Robin Donlan. (I recommend clicking on these links for these depositions if only to see the hilarious expressions on the faces of teachers who don't like being asked to tell the truth.)
Channel 10 News and San Diego Union-Tribune have covered this story. Let's see if Channel 10 will investigate further the failure of school districts to do meaningful evaluations of teachers. The SDUT has been covering up for CVESD for years. I hope they will start to cover the real stories instead of only the sensationalistic ones.
Researches say that 10% of teachers are doing a bad job, failing to add value to their students' academic abilities. Many teachers have serious personality problems. But the fact is that CVESD really doesn't know its teachers. I never met a principal who really observed and really talked to staff members to find out what they were up to.
It's time that ALL teachers in CVESD were properly evaluated.
Chula Vista teacher removed from job, accused of soliciting massages from studentsTeacher on leave over massage claims
CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Some parents at a South Bay elementary school told 10News they couldn't believe what their kids said went on inside their third-grade classroom.
"This behavior, to my son, has become so normalized that he did not report it to me," said parent Andy Stumph.
Some parents say Salt Creek Elementary School teacher Stephanie Petitt solicited massages from the students during reading time in exchange for $10 in class money. The parents also say Petitt also encouraged the third graders to give each other massages.
"The most children I've heard at any one time that was massaging the teacher was seven -- one on each leg, one on each arm, one on each shoulder, one playing with the hair," Stumph said.
The parents voiced their concerns at a school board meeting Wednesday night but weren't happy with the outcome, so they contacted 10News.
Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said Chula Vista police were called in to investigate but did not find any criminal wrongdoing.
"This behavior is absolutely not acceptable. We have professional standards at Chula Vista," Escobedo said.
Escobedo said Petitt is no longer teaching at the school, but is still employed with the district.
"She's on administrative leave; these allegations we take very seriously and we have to do due process to investigate," Escobedo said.
Parents say that's not enough, and they worry the teacher's actions could have a lasting impact on their kids.
"If there's a goal to be had ... Mrs. Petit would never be able to teach again," parent Samantha Trickey said.
Three parents pulled their children out of the school, 10News learned.
The district says a long-term substitute will replace the teacher.
U‑T San Diego
Feb. 14, 2014 - She reported back to work Monday and taught her class after investigations by the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Chula Vista ...
Sunday, February 02, 2014
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
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.”
SCHOOL ATTORNEY BONNY GARCIA CLEARED ARLIE RICASA IN 2009
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.
Saturday, February 01, 2014
Why does "fiscal conservative" John McCann want to spend $1.4 million on special election instead of simply appointing a successor to Arlie Ricasa?
John McCann discussion with Mary Adato
Photo from San Diego Reader
Arlie Ricasa. See all posts on Arlie Ricasa.
Board must act
Carlos R. Davalos
Chula Vista Star-News
Jan 23 2014
Outspoken critic of the Sweetwater Union High School District, Kevin O’Neill, urged district officials to take immediate action to fill a vacated seat at a Thursday press conference in front of the district headquarters.
“I, as a resident, of this district have great concern about the district’s seemingly inability to move the appointment process forward on the vacancy with Ms. Ricasa’s force(d) removal,” said O’Neill, who is a member of the district’s bond oversight committee.
O’Neill accuses district officials of purposely letting the “clock run out” on a provisional appointment, so that the district can go to a special election.
O'Neill has expressed interest in either being appointed or elected to the position.
“I believe that they can better control the outcome of an election then they can of an appointment process,” he said.
At a special board meeting in January, Trustee John McCann said he wanted to move forward with a special election by mail.
O’Neill said he questions McCann’s intentions as to why he wants a mail ballot.
“A mail ballot particularly in a special election is going to favor white male Republicans and you’re not likely to get a good response from the general district,” O’Neill said. “On the other hand, voters in this district have never done a mail ballot.
O’Neill notes in the press conference that McCann used the stance of being a fiscal conservative when running for the district, and O’Neill said he can’t understand why McCann wants a special election if the district can’t afford the $1.4 million for the election.
He also said Superintendent Ed Brand is on a two-weeks vacation during a time when a decision on the process of filling the seat needs to be made.
“The timing of it all leads me to believe that the power block doesn’t want an appointment and that they don’t mind spending the money to get what they think will be a better outcome for their interest.
In the end, O’Neill said he just wants the district to publicly make a decision of what their plans on filling Ricasa’s seat entail.
O’Neill said he has sent e-mails and called board members to ask for an update of the process. None of his correspondence has received a reply.
McCann did not return calls from The Star-News seeking comment. A district spokesman was also available for comment.