Two month delay for alleged South Bay corruption cases

Frustrated South Bay residents unable to be seated in tiny courtroom

Once again on February 15 the wheels of justice did not roll forward. Arraignments for 14 defendants in alleged pay-to-play schemes were postponed until April 12. (One defendant, Yolanda Hernandez, has already been arraigned.)

The South Bay courtroom gallery seats approximately 35 people. Residents and media started lining up as early as 8:00 for a 9:30 hearing; more people were left outside the courtroom than gained access inside.

When court was finally in session, Judge Stephanie Sontag informed the courtroom that all future proceedings would be assigned to Judge Ana Espana.

When Judge Ana Espana materialized approximately an hour later, she told the court that the demurs and a motion to seal the transcripts would be continued until April 12.

Speaking for the district attorney's office, Leon Schorr pointed out that these proceedings have been deferred since January 7. After the hearing, Schorr's only comment was "We're ready to go."

Judge Espana continued the case because she wants to "review the material and understand what the issues are."

Trustees and administrators from three school districts are involved: Southwestern College, San Ysidro and Sweetwater Union High School District.

Judge Espana presided over a controversial Sweetwater case last May. Sweetwater board member John McCann sought a permanent restraining order against Stewart Payne. Payne is the parent of a Sweetwater student and one of the five people who initially took complaints of alleged corruption to the district attorney's office.

Espana dismissed McCann's request.

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I have heard that the wheels of justice move slowly, but this is ridiculous. Are the wheels, in this case, attached to a covered wagon?

Every court proceeding costs money, lots of money!

Why does the court room only hold 35 people, geesh, those 35 seats will be taken up by the defendants and their attorneys. What about the community, the very persons whose taxes were being played with, DO WE NOT MATTER? Downtown San Diego has a court room that would hold many more. What is going to happen when the trials start? Will the tax paying public be locked out of the proceedings?

So many questions, so few answers.

One thing for sure this is turning into a circus, and the powers at be are instrumental in making it so. This is a very serious issue, no matter what side you stand with, when will the courts begin to treat it as such?

I see signs of a power struggle, breaking down along the lines of--do I really need to say it?

Yes, D.A.'s office vs. Filner and friends.

Still, we need to put some faith into the legal system (like putting a penny into the old gumball machine...).

This is a serious issue, which is why there is the jockeying for position. For some, it may still look penny ante, but the reverberations are potentially shattering if enough of the real story gets out (I'm guessing).

People do not act this way unless there is some sort of reason, unless someone is directing this kind of action. It simply does not happen by itself.

What we need to ask is why...why the need for this chess game?

We, the taxpaying public need to be relentless in our pursuit of the truth and of our pursuit of justice, because apparently there are forces who would rather we, the taxpaying public just stay ignorant, out of touch and/or paralyzed by fear. Fear of what? Our betters? HARDLY.

Fear of knowledge? Wrong group for that.

Fear of action? Don't think so.

It's perfectly understandable that judge Espana would want to, "review the material and understand what the issues are". It just seems that a judge could've been assigned as soon as the decision to keep the cases in the South Bay was made. Why the delay?

Anyone remember the old game of "hot potato"? I really don't know that's what is going on, but I do think there is some sort of gamesmanship happening.

At this rate, the defendants will probably be out of office before they're tried, which would mean that if convicted, they would've been allowed to sit in positions of power even though they had committed a crime. How does that serve the public?

Joepublic: I agree, my concern is that they are still there, getting paid a monthly stipen PLUS insurance coverage, and what are we getting for our money? Anyone attending a board meeting sees right thru what is going on, it is a charade. It is obvious that they have predetermined their votes and with the exception of Lopez sit there mute. Thousands upon thousands voted on each month. Is it millions or thousands that Brand is borrowing from Mello Roos each month? Do we know? What assurance do we have that the monies are being paid back, are we to trust Brands word? Are we to trust the new CFO that was hired WITHOUT board discussion or community input - a person with a controversial past - why on earth would we do that?

how much does all this crap cost the taxpayers--let's add it to the money poured down the drain in bond props, which most of us voted in good faith to the school districts. let's add it to the attorney fees that are probably padded into the district spending--who knows the subterfuge we are paying for...let alone the subterfuge in the court system. how much does a useless day in court cost the taxpayers?

The attorneys don't mind it is just an extra pay day for them. I did find it interesting that they are jacking into position for dismissals which will be addressed in April. Another question where was Pfingst ( spelling) Gandara's attorney. We know that Gandara was excused from this hearing but where was his attorney? Did he know that this was in the making or am I getting paranoid?

I saw Pfingst at the 220 W Broadyway criminal Court Monday.

cvres: Many well intentioned community members voted for the new tax back in November. They believed in doing so they would be saving the much needed teaching positions. Guess what is on the agenda for the board meeting on Tuesday night, Propective PINK SLIPS.

How much more can our students take? How many more will be packed into the classrooms of PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT SCHOOLS, of which Olympian was just added.

Case in point, at last months meeting there was an agenda item for a cell phone contract, I believe the expenditure was AT LEAST 50k. Stuart Payne questioned the expense as did Alex Anguiano - when Jim Cartmill asked Mr. Knott (recent CFO) to explain, " I am sorry I am not familiar with this item". Knott then turned to Calhoun who also had NO CLUE. Now lets analyze this NOTHING goes on that agenda that Brand does not approve - after all the board has turned over ALL POWER to him. SO! WHY DIDN'T BRAND do one of his "members of the board, members of the community - blah, blah, blah, RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED" speeches advising us WHAT THE FREAKIN 50k was all about. NO , he sat there silent - it appears that for once THE CAT HAD HIS TONGUE. Yet, again this month it is up for a vote. So let me ask you, in the year 2013, when most cell phone contracts include unlimited calls and unlimited texts. Do you know of any professional who does not have a cell phone? WHY ARE WE PAYING FOR CELL PHONES, and whose cell phones are they? The suits? Brand is looking to give SOMEONE(S) cell phones yet putting pink slips on the table AGAIN..................

Are we paying for Administrators cell phones? Are we paying for Board members cell phones? Tell me we are not paying for Brands -

WTFEd can not sleep..check out the time. My focus these many years has been on education of students. I thought this was our core mission. Now that my head has cleared from the fog, I hate to say this, of Ed Brand's Spin on everything. I do know his good side. His ego has caught him up in power and control over a quest to be an innovator and thinking out of the box. Because he has not spent sufficient time on District cores issues that we find this mess. He is a brilliant man...brilliant men or women of course can let their quest for power and recognition and yes money cloud the business of Education.

You know there are no do overs in Education. These young people will live with what Education the Sweetwater School District gives them. Some will get great Educations as there are great teachers and people that make up this organization. It would have crumbled earlier if it were not for the dedication of our employees. But this cloud and pall of corruption both political and YES bureacratic limits our ability to say to every student you got the best Education possible. My eyes were opened up by the "L" Street, Knott revelations and Alt selections. In the case of "L" this is a poster child of Ed Brand's let's make a deal attitude. The District spending more money than it takes in..per Knott's presentation. This is not Greece!!! The selection of Alt totally defied logic. I don't care if he goes to Church and Temple the same week now. Why would you choose somebody with that baggage when there certaintly there are others who are just or probably more techincally qualified?

This stuff bugs me and the delayed arraignment just continues the paralysis of Leadership at this District. This Board needs to come together and reach the same conclusion. It needs a Superintendent that ALL Board members can agree would be the best for our kids. A government that is not united is just not efficient. Just look at our Federal Government and our elected officials.

It is time for this Distrct to Unite. For those who have thought just give Ed Brand a chance one more time I say no. If we have to eat this contract so be it. He duped three people into somehow things would be different now..or worse maybe I will take care of you. They are vulnerable after all they face some time incarceration perhaps most likely in some type of work release IF convicted. Remember we have not really heard their side. For instance did Jesus Gandara mislead them into what was permitted. Who knows? Frankly I will let the judicial process deal with the Board members.

My point is this crescendo of financial concerns under Ed Brand, the cloud of what exposure does the District really have with "L" Street, and the selection of Mr. Alt yes again under Ed Brand's watch has sealed the is time he go away. Hopefully we can recoup any payout f. How does he live with himself?

Fast Eddy lives with himself because he is ego driven. In his own mind, other people aren't as important as he is. In his own mind, the law and the educational system are not as important as he is. Which is why it is very dangerous to follow someone with his pathology.

Too bad the majority board members didn't get that--but maybe they do now.

We still need that forensic audit, back many years to the first Brand reign. Just think of all the casualties over the years, the good people who wouldn't stand for what Brand wanted--and who lost their jobs.

As for Ed Brand, I hope he hasn't bamboozled anyone into 'taking the rap' for him. Reality noir, here in Chula Vista.

If the judge releases the Grand Jury transcripts in April( hopefully) I bet fast eddy's testimony will added to the best seller list under fiction. I believe we will see where his true loyalities lie. That will be with his longtime supporters that have surrendered their power to him. I understand that the Adult program and Rop programs will take a huge hit. The state will not release the monies for ROP. We had enough to give Alt an $18,000 dollar raise though.

I'm willing to wager that several individuals have testified in ways they are not so sure of at this moment.

Fast Eddy must be able to talk a good game, but he can't change history. Time to go honest, or--risk years of incarceration. Pretty sure honest is still the best policy, because once one starts rolling over, the house of cards may well collapse, as I think Visduh (or one of the other regulars) posted.

Time to tell the public the real story, the bitter truth, the facts of the matter--so we can start the much-needed cleanup.

The Grand Jury testimony, ah yes, the defendants have surely seen them - they know what Brand said and WHO Brand thru under the bus. Wondering if there were any mistrusths spoken that will come back and bite him in the proverbial butt.

I am wondering if ALL the board members know what he "testified" to. Wonder if they are wondering "WHOSE MY BUDDY NOW" - truth be told he was NEVER your buddy, he just wanted all of you to think he was. Brand is ALL ABOUT BRAND, if you think otherwise, think again.

My grandmother use to have a saying "a dog that brings a bone, will carry a bone".

anniej... Brand will throw anybody under the bus if it will deflect the attention away from himself. I have seen some of his "testimony" to the grand jury. Any current board member who thinks he is on their side is a fool.

What's that old piece of advice--"Don't play both halves against the middle!"?

Do you think that some of that has been going on?

Yes, I do - and those who have been played will take it very hard. Many tried to tell them but hey, what do we know? Even those who think they are protected will learn the truth. Colleagues, they think they are colleagues - THEY ARE ALL BRANDS PAWNS - and they will soon learn.

Remember what the antagonists have long been saying - it's all about the money, the money trail - if only there had not been a trail..................

Here is something I have been thinking about for a while: the Sweetwater district has quite a few parents and community members who are active duty military, and quite a few who have been and/or are deployed.

Just think of that. Many households with students having a parent gone for long periods of time. Many times there are multiple deployments.

Do these people deserve the type of representation they have been getting from SUHSD?

Of course not. The corruption, the disarray, the wild schemes, the cushy jobs for friends--when what these, and all families need, is a healthy, stable environment. A reliable educational system, not an educational system about to flame out.

Part of me would love to see and hear this majority board of trustees and their fearless leader, Fast Eddy, get a thorough and scathing military-style dressing down from those who know how to do it best. But, these taxpayers, parents and community members are too professional to do that. They are not going to parade around, grandstanding, though in this instance they are well within their rights to want a thorough-going explaination for all that is wrong in Sweetwater.

People need to be called to task. People deserve answers to all the questions regarding misuse of funds, conspiracy and the deliberate destruction of this school system.

People are very fed up with the shallow and self-serving, not to mention larcenous behavior of this board, and people are repulsed by Ed Brand's overweaning and undisciplined voracity for the districts funds, at the expense of the students.

eastlaker: you continue to raise the bar; ask the tough questions that must be asked and demand answers for the alleged corruption that has plagued suhsd for years.

at risk now is the very solvency of our district.

no doubt none of the board members will ever run for the school board again - not even mccann - much will be brought out in the trials that will no doubt prove to be embarrassing. we have stood firm and demanded accountability, and we are going to continue to do so. not because we don't have better things to do, not that we relish the many hours and money spent on research and not because we are in need of mental health (had to throw that in as I was accused of that recently) BUT BECAUSE WE CARE! we earnestly believe that politicians should serve in an ethical manner - we are proud to live in the south bay - and we want accountability for our tax dollars, especially when it comes to educating the youth.

to sum it all up, we are not going away until they go away, and YES brand is on the top of my list.

Anniej, don't assume there will be trials. These charges are usually concluded with pleas, fines and modest jail sentences or probation. There may be little or no open sworn testimony to report. And if that happens, goofs like McCann could end up untouched.

If McCann knows what is good for him, he would distance himself as far away from SUHSD as he possibably can. The longer he stay on the Board, the more likely he will be included in the scandal.

If what I read about the financials of SUHSD are even remotely close to reality, the current board and Gandara/Brand have driven this district into insolvency.

Visduh: my primary thoughts about the need for trials are really quite simple - SET AN EXAMPLE and REMOVAL FROM OFFICE.

never hearing their names again would suit me fine!

on the heels of their departure, BRAND IS OUTTA HERE. As WTFEd has said, we will have to eat yet another retirement package in paying his benefit package til he is Medicare age, but at least we won't have to listen to his RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED bs any longer and his keys to our vault of educational dollars will have been taken away.

once they are gone the real work begins - rebuilding.

regarding McCann, he has been exposed for the imposter he is, fiscal conservative - NOT - bottom feeding, do nothing, whining opportunist - YES!!!

Bonnie "The Clown" Dumbass, and her idiot minions, do NOT have to do a plea bargain, in fact they should insist on going to trial, or make the dirtbags plead out to all the charges with a written confession on all disputes of material fact.

The prosecution of the Border Patrol agents was an example of a DDA that did not allow a plea bargain.

I know that they don't have to do a plea bargain. But corruption trials in this state are rare, and are far from a "slam dunk" for the DA. So, I think that these cases, if they actually ever have a resolution, will go the non-trial route. Of course, I'm still most amazed that this DA actually pursued corruption in the So County when she has ignored worse in the more central political circles of the county.

IMO, the Sweetwater mess had reached critical mass, and could no longer be ignored or avoided--it was bad, then Gandara took it to new levels of revolting greediness. The public outcry lead to action, and continued public outcry has made an impact, even if it seems things are taking longer than absolutely necessary.

I haven't heard an outcry from anyone about the political circles you mention--

I am looking forward to the day when those serving on the Board of Trustees for Sweetwater are there for the students, and not for themselves, their bank accounts and their dreams of higher offices and rewards for being in the pockets of law firms, developers, educational speculators and so forth.

Visduh: it is hard to believe that any where or any group could be worse than this bunch, but then I am not as familiar with the central area as you are.

Regardless of where it is occurring, it needs to stop. Those who want to ensure that this nation continues to be great must take the steps to make it so. Many have gone to great lengths down here to expose the alleged corruption - it has not been an easy to road, but, no doubt well worth it.

I have learned much, I have been educated about things they do NOT teach in books.

One lesson we have all come to know, Party does not define the person.....................the person defines the person

Anniej, you haven't followed the corruption in SD city government over the past five to six years. It has been ignored by the DA. So, kudos for her for taking up this SUHSD mess and pressing some charges.

As I mentioned previously, this level of corruption in a school district is unprecedented in the county within recent history. And yes, it IS hard to believe that any group could be worse than this bunch.

I'm glad that you have discovered that national/state party affiliation has no relevance to these local issues, and that those who are registered in your party can be crooked, no more or less than those registered in another party.

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