The San Diego district attorney’s investigation into South Bay corruption involving Southwestern College, Sweetwater Union High School, and San Ysidro school districts is essentially over. Sweetwater Union High School trustees Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor each on April 24. They will continue to serve as trustees until the end of their respective terms.
Both plea deals stem from Government Code 89503 — accepting gifts over the limit mandated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
The Sweetwater Union High School District board will go forward with three trustees instead of five: John McCann, Jim Cartmill, and Bertha Lopez.
In the recent past, two boardmembers were unseated as a result of corruption charges. Former trustee Arlie Ricasa resigned from the board before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in December 2013.
Former trustee Pearl Quiñones pleaded guilty to a felony in March and no longer serves on the board.
However, in regard to Cartmill, the judge found that he “is authorized to continue to serve as a board member…. The court came to that conclusion after reviewing the statute pertaining to that particular offense [accepting gifts].”
The judge’s finding was the same for Lopez.
Cartmill will return to court June 3 for sentencing. Lopez will return June 9. On these respective dates, judge Ana Espana will rule whether or not either of them will be able to run for reelection. Cartmill is up for reelection in 2014; Lopez in 2016.
The wrap-up to this prolonged corruption investigation might have been anti-climatic if not for Cartmill’s attorney, Thomas Warwick. Warwick pressed the judge to limit the number of media photographers to one still camera and one TV camera. As the decision was discretionary, España decided to allow all media photographers who had submitted paperwork — three instead of two.
After the judge’s decision, Warwick continued to make the case for limitations and disparaged people who came to the courtroom “dressed like construction workers.” He went on to state “the courtroom should not be reduced down to reality TV.”