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Sweetwater District Decides Against Paying Legal Fees In Corruption Case

The Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees decided today against paying legal fees for members under investigation for alleged corruption.

The district also released results of a separate investigation into billings of a public relations consultant.

Proposals to compensate the legal fees for former board member Greg Sandoval and current members Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones died because no one made a motion during the board's meeting that ran into the early morning hours at Hilltop High School.

Sandoval, Ricasa and Quinones face bribery, perjury and other charges.

Ricasa and Quinones recused themselves when their requests were considered.

They are accused of involvement in a "pay-for-play" culture with businesses that were awarded contracts for voter-approved bond projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announces charges against current and former Sweetwater school district officials, Jan. 4, 2012.
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Above: San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announces charges against current and former Sweetwater school district officials, Jan. 4, 2012.

Between 2008 and 2011, the defendants frequented San Diego-area restaurants with Henry Amigable, a contractor who worked for a construction company hired by the school district, and others, racking up hundreds of dollars in food and drink bills at a time, in some cases reaching more than $1,000 per outing, Dumanis said. The defendants were also given Los Angeles Lakers playoff tickets, Rose Bowl tickets and a trip to Napa Valley, she said.

Another current board member, Bertha Lopez, withdrew her request to have her legal fees paid. She was investigated in connection with the case, but has not been charged.

The separate six-month investigation by former U.S. Attorney Gregory Vega into invoices sent by Scott Alevy to a law firm hired by the district found that his contract was so broad that he billed for activities that were barely related to district business, according to the district.

Vega also concluded that Alevy submitted invoices to the law firm of Garcia, Calderon & Ruiz for services that were not performed; and billed for meetings and discussions with individuals he could not identify, and for meetings and discussions with potential and actual board candidates in possible violation of California election laws.

Alevy, now the president and chief executive officer of the East County Chamber of Commerce, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Superintendent Ed Brand said the district will no longer work with the law firm and will not pay Alevy's last two invoices. He said he expects to turn the results of the investigation over to the District Attorney's Office.

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