Past and present officials from three South Bay school districts arraigned

Trial date set for alleged pay-to-play defendants.

On April 12, in the South Bay courthouse, officials and ex-officials from the South County school districts were arraigned. Despite urgings on the part of the district attorney's office for an earlier trial date, Judge Ana Espana set the trial for February 18, 2014. In making her decision, Espana referenced the voluminous amount of material to be considered.

The defendants from Southwestern College were: Raj Chopra (pictured), Nicholas Alioto, Yolanda Salcido, Jorge Dominguez, and John Wilson. From Sweetwater Union High School District the defendants were: Jesus Gandara, Greg Sandoval, James Cartmill, Pearl Quinones, Bertha Lopez and Arlie Ricasa. The only defendant from the San Ysidro school district was Manuel Paul; Yolanda Hernandez was arraigned at an earlier date.

A partial list of the various charges includes: perjury, conspiracy to commit a crime, wrongful influence, accepting a bribe, accepting gifts from a single source in excess of legal amount, filing a false instrument, and so on. All the defendants pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for Jeffrey Flores, CEO of Seville Constructions Services, (the company initially engaged to manage Southwestern's Proposition R), sought a demurrer, that is challenged some of the charges filed against Flores. However, Espana overruled the demurrer and Flores was also arraigned.

Espana asked deputy district attorneys, Eric Ludwig III and Leon Schorr, to provide more detail for some charges.

An example of one charge against Flores that was released in the December indictments reads: "On or about January 9, 2010, Gary Allen Cabello [previously arraigned bond manager] and Jeffrey Steven Flores attend a dinner at Donovan's Steakhouse with Raj Chopra [former Southwestern superintendent], Henry Amigable [former Southwestern Prop R program manager], and Paul Bunton [a BCA architect hired for Prop R, who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor], following John Merrill Wilson's retirement party. The cost of the dinner is over $1,160." Wilson was a former facilities director at Southwestern. Upon retirement Wilson began to work for Seville Construction Services.

Judge Espana also ruled on a motion to seal the records from the November/December 2012 grand jury investigation into the alleged South Bay corruption. In considering her action, Espana weighed "the tremendous public interest in the case and expenditure of public funds."

Espana discussed whether the release of the documents would taint potential jurors. She decided that the jury pool was sufficient that even with the release of transcripts, twelve honest jurors could be found.

Espana asked all of the attorneys involved to get together and agree upon inflammatory material that should be redacted from the transcripts and return to court on May 24.

More like this:


Makes me want to know just how much material there is--and what will be left for the public to read after all the redactions.

But, good to know the legal process is on-going.

Nice that everyone will be able to enjoy Valentine's Day prior to the start of the trials.

This sluggishness on the part of the "justice system" has me wondering if anything will ever come of these indictments. Why it should take almost another year just to bring these long-delayed cases to trial also is most troubling. Will this judge claim again and again that they are "too voluminous" to be handled? Seems to me that if the DA really wanted a quick resolution there are steps she could have taken.

All the while, four of the five Sweetwater "trustees" are still sitting on the board, still running the school district, still spending public monies, and making educational policy.

Perhaps all should be grateful for baby steps toward a conclusion. I still think that cases like these should never go to trial. If we get very lucky, they'll start making deals, rat each other out, and get kicked out of office. But now we cannot count on anything.

Yes, the trustees are still sitting on the board, still making majority decisions that defy logic and decency...true to form.

I'm still hoping, maintaining trust in those wheels of justice.

Someone said something to me a few nights ago, and it made sense. "We'll keep being professional, keep holding their feet to the fire, keep up the pressure and we will get them."

Interesting that the U-T video all but defended the defendants by saying that similar charges had been made to some north county board members, and they were allowed to file paperwork and go on their merry way. However, filing paperwork is not sufficient for these charges. Way to muddy the waters, as if they weren't murky enough already.

The UT video to which you refer is unknown to me. I don't know what the charges were, but I suspect that they were for things far less egregious than you see at every SUHSD board meeting. I've also said that we may be living in a fool's paradise here in No County, with crooks running our cities and school districts. Maybe we'll be the next area to have massive corruption exposed.

Visduh - if you go the the UT watchdog, one by one their pictures appear and the charges they are facing listed below each individuals pic.

It was available yesterday on the U-T website--the Watchdog minute, with Ricky Young.

How does this happen? How is it that we are held captive by an arrogant superintendent and board members that would not know integrity if it were served up to them on a 24 karat gold plate?

It is time for the County Board of Ed to step in and take over, THERE IS SIMPLY NO OTHER OPTION!

Ed Brand, take our monies and go, just go! Pick an excuse, any excuse, we won't fight it, we will relish it.

Randy Ward, pres of County Board, we are coming and you had better have your listening ears on. Your friendship with brand, be da****. WE ARE FED UP!!!!!!!!! You have sat by and watched this mess deteriorate and CHOSE to value friendships over students. ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

Hopefully you all scrolled thru the watchdog line up - there for all to see - when the trials start it is going to take a good hour to read thru them all.

These are the folks that represent our students best interest - doesn't it just make a taxpayer proud!!!!! ----- NOT-------- Embarrassed is more like it.

I have said it before and I will say it again. All of this doesn't happen because all the planets are in alignment...our majority board and Brand and perhaps others have been conspiring to make these decisions, to cover for one another, to perhaps have legal representation...who knows what all, but it is not by accident. They have worked together to get around the law, and I believe that is conspiracy. Which is why I think there will be further charges once things start rolling.

You are right that there are more people involved and more crimes have been committed. As to more charges, what good would they do if it takes over two years to schedule trials on them? In the interim, the beat goes on, more is stolen or wasted flagrantly, and these crooks keep running the districts.

I agree, these delays do not instill a feeling of great joy.

As long as we keep making progress toward the goal, it is something for which we can be grateful.

I do not want to see this community resigned to the disgusting, pathetic "leadership" of Ed Brand and his voting majority sock puppets.

We deserve far better, and we are working toward that. The slime-merchants are not going to win the day.

I understand the state is trying to formulate some rules regarding propositions, committees that lobby for them, bond companies--that little dinner of Flores is an example of why we need something. You can't dangle millions of dollars in front of people and not expect corruption.

Many school districts have already adopted policies that do not allow gifts to board members...and this has been attempted in Sweetwater. Yet, Sweetwater board members do not want campaign donation controls/limits and they do not want to adopt regulations which would prohibit gifts from individuals or companies affiliated with individuals or companies trying to get contracts.

Again, what does this tell you. They WANT to be able to take what they can get, and of course, do little to nothing for the students, up to and including cutting students off from the programs they were counting on.

Have you ever seen such a miserable bunch in charge of anything...?

And no, this is not normal for the south bay.

Please don't forget that Ricasa, Gandara and Sandoval are all also charged with Extortion...they just didn't sit back and passively 'accept' the bribes, they ASKED for stuff (money trees, tution for children's conferences and beauty pageant entry fees) in exchange for their votes!

Also, there is an additional defendant in the Southwestern matter, that would be Jorge Dominguez.

Yes, let us please not forget Jorge who has been in on this since the first bond passed years ago. Brand, Sandoval, and Dominguez. Peas in a pod!

Oops, I forgot to include Quinones in the list of those charged & indicted for EXTORTION. There are four in that illustrious group.

All of those years that they paraded around as if they were somebody, all of those perks that they allegedly asked for and then flaunted. All of the awards "-------- OF THE YEAR" - what a joke!

Yes, anniej, they were quite the mutual admiration each other awards!

Now we know it is more like the society of parasitic politicos. Wouldn't it be great to make sure they get exactly the awards they deserve?

Yikes, thanks all for reminding me to add Dominguez's name. He is one of those crossover people who worked at Sweetwater but sat on Southwestern's board--I had taken him off one list and meant to add him to another.

As for extortion, I did say only a partial list, but thank you for the useful reminders.

The fact that a number of school districts are passing bylaws and policies limiting gifts to board members is not lost on those said members. Better to do it now, so as to officially remove temptation. I don't mean to imply that this stuff hasn't happened elsewhere, but as of now no one from those districts is even under the microscope, let alone indicted.

However, the SUHSD board is a different matter. Any move forward to amend the by-laws and policy to reduce or prohibit gifts, gives the appearance that there were flaws in the old policies and by-laws. Those indicted say "We have done nothing wrong." For them now to admit their regulations were flawed just flies in the face of those statements. McCann, while not one of the indicted, knows full well he is hamstrung by circumstance, so he does his usual... nothing. He takes a wait and see position, all the while holding his finger up in the air, testing the wind.

Is McCann truly hamstrung by circumstance, or is he incapable of taking a stand against Brand and his voting pals?

They must have promised him something.

Jmbrickley- Thank you for presenting a side that I, for one, never considered. Never thought they would believe changing the bylaws would give the appearance that they were wrong in the first place.

Thinking about it, I am wondering how much they had to pay their attorneys for that piece of advice - too much.

Having said that, your thought leaves me more troubled than ever. It has come to this - they will not budge even for the good of all.

The voting block and Brand, like engorged ticks, they have dug in and are greedily sucking the lifeblood from the district.

I say we keep at them, match to their feet, until they pull out.

While thinking about the extended and convoluted problems of Sweetwater, I started to wonder what the mathematical probability is of Cartmill, McCann and Ricasa ALWAYS voting in a block...then, quite frequently we have Quinones voting along, with Lopez being the lone dissenting vote.

But when you think of it, isn't it mathematically impossible for that to often as it does...because ordinarily don't people at least occasionally have an opinion that differs from cohorts? If they are really considering the issues that is?

Can any experts in probability theory help me out here?

For whatever reason this alleged corruption is still flying UNDER THE RADAR.

If we want action, WE NEED NATIONAL ATTENTION! We are being asked to wait close to another year for justice, and in the mean time WE WAIT - WHILE THEY SPEND -

Each of us needs to reach out, in our own way to get the national spotlight to shine on our situation. Write a letter, make a call - send an email.

Here's something interesting: The Star-News article on the defendants, dated 4/12 can only be accessed via the archives! Could there have been a request to hide this away? Or--were there just so many articles that there wasn't any room...

Almost as peculiar as that Watchdog "minute" report that misleadingly downplays all the indictments.

Gosh. I wonder why this may be happening.

I do know that the Star News has recently lost their reporter, the UT, well let us not forget two things - Brand met with the UT and allegedly asked that they run stories by him - additionally a member of the UT is one of Brands advisors. Soooooooooo

Other than The READER and local TV news the truth is being muzzled in my opinion. That is why we need NATIONAL attention. Bell, California - look how long it took National news to focus on their issues? But ONCE THEY DID - the rest is history.

Anyone ever heard of a guy named Anderson Cooper?

Yes, I know that the Star-News reporter left--was hired by the U-T I believe. But the article that has already been archived was written by someone else, and was dated the 12th of April. Quite soon to get shoved aside I'd think.

You could be right about the muzzle on Sweetwater news--but why? Since when is a school district so vital that a blackout of news is taking place?

How completely out of proportion is this? Defies logic, like much of what goes on in Sweetwater.

Perhaps it is this: Brand thinks that if he stifles the worst of it and gets "everyone" to go along downplaying, stifling, denying and distracting, he might be able to squeak by...

However, if he really wanted to squeak by, he'd start actually responding to community wishes. Fund ROP/CTE. Stop with the iPAD nonsense. Cut off arrangements with his pals in the for-profit education camp. Stop the insanity with his CIF spin-off. In short, stop acting like the mentally ill Bond villain he has been a dead-ringer for of late.

Remember the firm we brought in to audit Prop O last year? Guess who is now employed there? Dianne Russo,

Remember when we questioned this choice due to Husson?

My, my, my...................

Barbque - you out there? Can not seem to find notification of the two meetings this week you has told us about.

How is the district notifying the community?

If I overlooked it please tell me where the notification can be found.

Thank You much!

Let's start writing letters to the editor of the UT. I'm going to start. AnnieJ, Eastlaker, et al, we met after the last board meeting. I gave you my email. Please contact me.

I still comment online, but oddly never get the posts/tags to facebook that I used to get, so I wonder if I am the only one who sees my comments! I have heard that is a mechanism by which newspapers can control comments and commenters they feel say things they would rather not see.

So--let us first start commenting online and try and figure out if our comments actually appear.

It's really pretty simple. Any site you comment on, including the Reader has the right to remove any comment they want, for any or even no reason, and to block any one they want from commenting, for any reason they want or even no reason at all. All you have to do is go back and look to see if some of the comments to which you refer are still posted.

I have been told it is--or can be somewhat more complex than that. I.e., an online newspaper can keep an individual's comments from being seen by others, but that individual can still see their own comments--therefore, they do not know they have been blocked. Anyway, I was told that's what the L.A. Times does. I can't say it is absolute truth, however!

I could go into a long winded reply, but instead I'll simply say that I believe you have been given bad information.

Fair enough. I have had some peculiar experiences while attempting to log in on the U-T website, however.

Depends on what you mean by logging on. If you're referring to commenting on a story, I believe U-T uses facebook for comments. If you mean logging in as a subscriber, that's something completely different and separate from the commenting process.

Reader2 - if I believed writing would help I would be the first one, unfortunately we have been there and done that to no avail.

The READER is our PRIMARY source of real news when it comes to Sweetwater. I have no doubt Brand has made every attempt to control the stories, fortunately for us, The READER is old school - believing in freedom of the press - fortunately the owner(s) have/has integrity.

tomjohnston: All you have said is true, especially your words on blocking. While any entity has the right to block whatever for whatever reason, I am believing that is but one of the reasons why subscriptions to 'what, once was a leading newspaper' have fallen off dramatically.

Dummy me had no reason to think I would be blocked simply because a certain 'little man who wants to be king' placed a call to complain. While I am able to do so now, it takes quite a bit of maneuvering - so I rarely do.

Don't know which website that you are referring to, but it is really pretty easy to get around blocks, even when it's your ip address that is blocked, so I'm not sure what you mean by it takes quite a bit of maneuvering. And if you're referring to actual printed papers, I seriously doubt that the blocking of comments on their websites has anything to do with falling subscription levels. Studies have shown that most people who read and comment in the online versions of a newspaper don't maintain print subscriptions. On a typical day, 61% of Americans use the internet as one of their sources for news , just behind television and ahead of newspapers as a news source. That is why print subs are falling.

There are some articles on Sweetwater that have appeared online in the U-T in the past couple of days. Should we try and post and find out if we are allowed, or what is allowed?

There was also a letter to the editor maybe a week or so ago that didn't get much response. Maybe we are out of the habit of looking at the U-T, as they haven't covered much (regarding Sweetwater's reality) for such a long time.

eastlaker after 5 yrs of commenting on the Reader, you really can't be that much of a neophyte in terms of commenting. First off, comments are either "allowed" or they aren't.
As for what is allowed, those are set by filters. Look at the TOS of any site allowing comments and it's spelled out. A brief look showed no recent stories about Sweetwater that had comments turned off. If editors don't want comments critical of Sweetwater in general or of specific individuals, specific words or phrases would be filtered. However since I just read a comment critical of both Sweetwater and Brand and his band of gypsies, that doesn't appear to be the case. And maybe people just don't care about commenting there much anymore because they switched to facebook for comments. Across the board, the number of comments have dropped precipitously for sites requiring the use of facebook to post. U-T is no exception


I am not questioning how Reader comments are handled.

I am aware that comment handling can be tailored to the wishes/requests of each online entity. The questions I have raised, I have raised in the interest of determining if it is worthwhile to comment at all on the U-T site.

Does it somehow bother you that some of us are making an effort to figure this out?

You seem to be well-versed in many things. I congratulate your willingness to share.

Well, I don't live in SD and before today, It's probably been a year or more since I visited the UT site except for occasional sports related info. As such whether or not you comment there has no more impact on me than what the writes in it's stories. Which is to say none. As for your comment as to determining if it is worthwhile to comment at all on the U-T site, that is not what you said. Your previous comment was '' Should we try and post and find out if we are allowed, or what is allowed?''. That is what I addressed. Whether or not it is worthwhile is: A). nothing that interests me in the slightest and is B). an individual point of view based on C). what you are trying to accomplish.

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