Recall Committee Activists Ape Sweetwater Union HS District Board

Protesters at press conference to announce recall of Sweetwater Union High School District boardmembers, April 16, 2012
  • Protesters at press conference to announce recall of Sweetwater Union High School District boardmembers, April 16, 2012

The first signatories of a petition to recall Sweetwater Union High School District trustees Jim Cartmill, John McCann, and Arlie Ricasa gathered at a press conference in front of the district office on the evening of April 16.

The recall committee, formed by members of the activist group named Occupy Sweetwater, had petitions available for Cartmill and Ricasa; however, the petition for McCann is in the final stages of approval at the San Diego County Registrar’s office.

Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara and former boardmember Greg Sandoval have been indicted by the district attorney for various charges related to what has been described as a pay-to-play culture in the district. Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quiñones also face charges but continue to serve as trustees.

Speaking for the recall group, Stewart Payne, one of the five people who initially took complaints to the district attorney’s office, told the assembled press that the trustees should be recalled for “failing to act in the best interest of students.” Payne articulated a number of reasons for the recall effort, including: failure to fire for cause a superintendent that abused his district-issued credit card; improper hiring practices and mismanagement in the cafeteria department that resulted in loss of nearly $500,000.

A major concern for the recall group is campaign contributions from contractors and vendors in the 2008 elections of Cartmill, McCann, and Ricasa. To dramatize the concept, one of the recall group’s members dressed as a contractor and wandered through the crowd handing out cash.

March 31 affidavits released by the district attorney’s office recount this story in connection with campaign contributions and contractors: “He [Hector Romero, president of HAR Construction] additionally reported being with [former] Superintendent Gandara in Mexico when Superintendent Gandara contacted SGI Program Manager Jaime Ortiz [manager in charge of Prop O construction] and solicited a $20,000 contribution to Jim Cartmill’s campaign for SUHSD School Board. Romero also advised that SGI made a $12,500 contribution to John McCann’s campaign for the school board.”

Petitioners enclosed in their recall information a list of campaign contributions. According to the list, Cartmill received a total of $81,500 from district vendors, McCann received $51,750, and Ricasa $54,600.

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The campaign contributions while being legally acceptable, are just not acceptable by a very skeptical public.

the sweetwater board is simply not getting it - the campaign donation situation is simply not going to go away.

It's truly wonderful to just read the real facts not opinion in your articles. You have written things that have made me less than happy, but your research and impartiality keeps me coming back. Too bad the U.T. didn't get you. But I shouldn't say that because now I read the Reader just to get a Susan fix, and the restaurant reviews of course.

Better than a recall would be a conviction of these jerks. That would remove them from office almost immediately. Of course, that would not get replacements for them. I just wonder how many board members are required to transact business, and if two board members could act to replace three who were removed. But rather than a recall, the reformers really need to get opponents ready to replace these incumbents when they are up for reelection--assuming that they would even try to run again. I can only agree with anniej when she says they still don't get it. All of those indicted trustees should resign immediately, cop a plea deal, and go crawl back under their rocks.

Visduh: the situation continues to worsen, the meeting last night was filled with emotion - tears, many tears. students pouring their hearts out, desperately pleading for the jobs of their counselors (some given pink slips after close to 20 years), computer lab teachers basically being told they were no more than babysitters and therefore not needed - persons who are there at the crack of dawn til after dark - purchasing supplies out of their own pockets, fixing computers using their own expertise, counselors warning of the irrational student - counselor ratio.

we are paying for consultants for the mariachi program but do not have enough money for a chemistry teacher for southwest?????????? those students are expected to go to night school for the credit. ah, yes, we have money for what the superintendent wants -charter school - but none for our students 7-12. we have money for ipads and we have money for 2 security guards at each meeting - but alas none for the students.

last week they approved $100,000 for soil inspection and the removal of the dirt (that the old principle at southwest had carted in there for a pet project of hers) and now a week later they are asking for over $9,000 more for soil testing, i guess they forgot that was listed on last weeks board doc. but hey, it is only money right? our money!!!!!!!! interesting isn't it, that anniej knows of these budget items yet the very board who swore to do their due diligence does not.

The school board's job is to represent the public's interest. We elect them to do that. They will make decisions that not all of us like, but we should at least be given reasonable explanations for why they voted one way or the other. For example, I'd like them to explain how uncontrolled gifts and campaign donations are in the best interest of the public, and why they support it? Their reaction to the public's suggestion to consider limiting gifts and donations was silence. Their response to their independent auditor's recommendation to consider changing their gifts/donation policy was the same " fingers in the ears, la la la la" routine. It looks like recalling them is the only solution to this mess.

Joepublic: not sure if you have ever attended a sweetwater board meeting but let me tell you it is quite an experience. there are NO explanations, quite the opposite - they offer up as little supporting information as possible, and the board, hell all they are worried about is getting home. NO DISCUSSION, none. the item is read, the vote is taken.

oh if MCCANNT sees the opportunity for photo op he jumps on it with one of his "when i was on the city council, or when i was in afganistan" speeches. the man has never seen a reporter that he wouldn't jump on his trycicle and ride after!!!!!!!!!!!!!! RICASA, all about the political speech. CARTMILL, rarely speaks - wish he would have taken a different path as he is at least intelligent. LOPEZ, now there is a board member who does her home work - consistently questions what needs to be answered, no rubber stamp with this one. QUINONES, well now,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, it is hard to find the words to describe what comes out of her mouth - unintelligible nonsense - still trying to figure out how she was voted in the first time, dummy me i forgot about those contractor donations and her aspirations for a state appointed PAID position. (and we think we have problems in sacramento now, OMG).

MCCANNT well he is telling all who will listen that he plans on running for mayoral seat - again OMG. he really wants those campaign donations to continue - he truly wants to remain very cozy with the contractors, remember Chula has all of that port land that something needs to be done with. research indicates that MCCANNT was backed by the police and firefighters, yet to hear him talk THE UNIONS ARE AT THE FOUNDATION OF EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY, THE CITY OF CHULA VISTA, AND THE SCHOOLS.

How to characterize the Sweetwater Board of Trustees and Superintendent Brand? On the one hand, there is the hapless behavior, as if no one could possibly know any better. On the other hand, there is the endless grasping and grubbing for 'treats' and campaign contributions, in exchange for massive construction and other contracts. Then, there is the very selective issuing of lay-off notices for teachers, because there isn't funding. Then, we have iPADS being promised to all incoming 7th graders (so that students will not stay with Chula Vista Elementary School District's programs that are now reaching into middle school).

Do you want more? There is much, much more.

And why does this out-of-control situation continue? The teaming vortex that just won't quit that is Sweetwater UHSD going down the drain?

Because of a lack of qualified, ethical leadership even though warm bodies are in positions. We need much more than warm bodies, however, we need people who can actually think and act with clarity, purpose and integrity. I think we know who should stay and who should go.

Eastlaker: I have followed your view points on this issue and have enjoyed reading your insight. I have a couple of questions for you, if you have time and might be so inclined?

1- why is there such apathy about the issue in the Eastlake community? the amount of taxes we pay compared to others in the District is astronomical, why do you think more of us are not involved?

2- have you ever considered running for the School Board of Sweetwater?

Regarding your questions--Many people in Eastlake, like people elsewhere, already have a great deal to handle: jobs, kids, yard work, supporting the kids' schedules and activities--and the day isn't long enough for political involvement as well. Plus, no one really likes confronting ugly messes. I think people in general hope that if they are living in a good community, good people will naturally step forward when the time comes--without actually being that person stepping forward.

And regarding your second question, I know my plusses and minuses. I can articulate, I have some available time and I am familiar with many of the issues facing this school district. But--I doubt that I have the "right" ethnic identity to get elected here.

I am very grateful for the compliment you have given me. I will continue to do what I can.

All comments are valid and also quite "interesting". Specifically "eastlaker's statement that he or she does not have the righ "ethnic' identity to get elected. What does ethnicity has to do with the getting or not getting elected in Chula Vista?.

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