Sweetwater Union High School District bond oversight committee member Kevin O’Neill, held a press conference Feb. 18 to express his disappointment in the school board’s inability to fill a vacated seat left by former trustee Arlie Ricasa, who in December resigned as part of a misdemeanor charge for her involvement in a play- to-pay scheme.
“I’m here to represent to the board my extreme displeasure and unhappiness in their failure to do their duty to meet and decide one of three things: to appoint, to elect or deadlock so they couldn’t do anything as far as filling the vacancy left by Ms. Ricasa when she was forced to step down,” said O’Neill, who is a member of the district.
“They forfeited the game; they never showed up on the field.”
O’Neill said the board of trustees failed in their duty to represent the community and taxpayers by leaving Ricasa’s seat vacated.
He added that the school board “ran the clock out” and suggested that if the superintendent and the board could not successfully do their job, then it should disband and move under the supervision of the San Diego County Office of Education.
According to the board’s bylaws, it had 60 days from Ricasa’s Dec. 19 vacancy to make an appointment. That 60-day deadline was Feb. 17.
Now that the 60 days have passed without an appointment, the open seat will be fulfilled in the Nov. 4 general election, as opposed to a special election.
O’Neill said the board did not make the decision to hold an election in November, rather he said, the decision was made for the board.
“They didn’t make a decision, they simply didn’t show up and they defaulted,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said while he preferred an appointment, he just wanted the board to act on the process.
“Whether I agreed or disagreed with what their ultimate decision is, I would have to respect it,” he said. “These guys never showed up to do their job.”
O’Neill placed most of the blame on Board President Jim Cartmill for failing to force the board’s hand with replacing Ricasa.
“I’m simply critical of Mr. Cartmill, the board president, because he did not use his position as a bully poppet and make these people show up or at least embarrass them,” he said. “Instead, I think he just threw up his hands and quit.”
Cartmill said during a break at Tuesday’s school board meeting that there wasn’t enough time for the board to go through with the appointment process.
“I believe that with the time constraints we had, an election in November is much more preferable than an appointment process,” Cartmill said.
Cartmill’s seat is also up for election this November.
He said holding a November election wouldn’t add any additional cost for the district, and that the board can still operate with four members until the elections, which it has since Ricasa resigned in December.
O’Neill said he wasn’t holding the press conference because he is interested in becoming a candidate for the open seat, but because he said he pays taxes and cares about the community.
He pointed to his involvement with the school district in the last 15 to 20 years as proof that this wasn’t a political stunt.
O’Neill said he sent e-mails to board members, the superintendent and the district’s attorney inquiring about the process.
He said none of his e-mails were answered.