San Diegans for Open Government attorney Cory Briggs has threatened to sue San Ysidro School District if district officials do not recover the $400,000 in severance pay it awarded to former superintendent Julio Fonseca after he resigned last month amid a personnel scandal.
In a September 14 letter, Briggs said the board erred by awarding Fonseca a severance and failed to provide proper notice to the public of the special meeting.
According to Fonseca's June 2015 employment contract, reads the letter, severance may be awarded if the “board elects the option to terminate [the] Agreement without cause...”
Reads the letter, "...[I]f Mr. Fonseca resigned, then every member of the board authorized an expenditure of public funds that is not allowed and is therefore illegal under the Employment Agreement….
"Had the public known what the board was planning to do, someone would have told you that you were about to make a mistake; my client certainly would have done so. Keeping the public in the dark is not reasonable and easily supports an inference that the Board was not prudent in trying to avoid illegal expenditures of public funds."
If the district refuses to recover the money then a lawsuit will likely commence, making it the second lawsuit to be filed this year for improper severance agreements.
As reported by the Reader, in March 2017 San Diegans for Open Government sued Fonseca for using more than $113,000 in public money to silence a former employee who had accused Fonseca of hiring his girlfriend without informing the board of his relationship.
The employee, José Enrique Gonzalez, was fired in January 2015 after he informed school-board members that he had seen Fonseca and then-girlfriend Alexis Rodriguez out on a date days before Fonseca recommended the district hire her to run its after-school programs.
Regarding Fonseca's severance package, Briggs/San Diegans for Open Government give the district until October 13 to respond or a lawsuit will be filed.
Interim superintendent Arturo Sanchez-Macias did not respond to a request for comment.