Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sweetwater legal fees effort fizzles

Shame on the teachers union 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
Ashly McGlone
Jan. 31, 2012

An effort to have the Sweetwater school district pay up to $1.3 million in legal fees for current and former officials ran into trouble Tuesday as the idea lacked support from the community and the school board.

Items on the agenda to fund the legal defense of former board member Greg Sandoval and current board members Pearl Quinones and Arlie Ricasa did not move forward, as no one on the board moved the items for action.

Quinones, Sandoval and Ricasa are charged by the District Attorney’s Office with accepting gifts from contractors, failing to report them on required state forms and then voting for contracts for the donors. They have pleaded not guilty. All three were on the agenda for $400,000 in fees.

Board member Bertha Lopez, whose home was raided but she was not charged, was on the agenda for a $100,000 of legal fees. She withdrew the request around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday at the end of a seven-hour meeting.

As the district laid out the agenda, board members would be able to recuse themselves from the vote on their own legal fees, but approve the expense for colleagues.

Attorneys Cory Briggs, from a citizens group suing for return of payments to contractors, told the board that recusal would not work to cure a conflict of interest for board members voting.

The meeting was the first since Jan. 4, when District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis issued the charges.

More than 700 people gathered in the gymnasium at Hilltop High School for varying reasons. A group of about 30 people in attendance supporting board member Arlie Ricasa wore blue ribbons.

At least 200 held signs reading "Recall or Resign."

Mar Vista High School teacher Lauren McLennan served three members --Ricasa, Jim Cartmill and John McCann -- with recall notices.

McLennan, a leader of the newly created "Occupy Sweetwater" movement, said trustees must be recalled because they "have let scandal after scandal occur on their watch because they are more focused on their political careers than their duties as school board members."

"We are not recalling them simply because of the felonies and misdemeanors,” McLennan said. ‘’This is for years and years of neglect."

Craig Miles, teacher and varsity tennis coach at Montgomery High School, said, "You have to be here because this is about the future of the district, not only for the board members but about the bond money and how it is being used and who is trying to control it."

Miles cautioned the public to reserve judgment.

"The turnout is good and this process will play out but the legal issues have to be respected and they often take time and everyone is innocent until proven guilty, not just accused."

Many members of the public expressed ardent opposition to the proposed payment of legal fees.

Sofia Reyes, 11, took to the podium Monday to urge board members to not approve the legal fees.

"That money shouldn't be used to pay for the board member's attorneys. It should go towards improving the schools," Reyes said. "Clean up your act. Next year when I enter middle school I want to be proud of my district, not ashamed by what they have done and hidden from us."

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