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Board member sentenced, wants job back Robert Moreno | Sat, Jun 28 2014 12:00 PM

San Diego Superior Court Judge Ana Espana sentenced former Sweetwater Union High School District board member Bertha Lopez to three years probation with a $4,589 fine for accepting gifts above state limit in a pay-for-play scheme that has left the school district in disarray

Lopez must also complete 40 hours of community service by Dec. 1.
Espana also ruled that California government code 91002, which prevents a person convicted of a misdemeanor from running for office, does not apply to Lopez.

Instead, the decision for her to sit on the board of the largest secondary school district in California is put in the hands of the voters.

“I will have the voters of the South Bay decide whether or not they want Ms. Lopez representing them in elected office,” Espana said.

Lopez was suspended from the school board earlier this year after pleading guilty. She is expected to ask a judge in July to allow her to return to her place on the board. If she is reinstated she will finish her current term, which runs through 2016.

After reviewing all of the evidence, Espana said she found Lopez to be “one of the least culpable offenders” in the case that netted 15 school officials and contractors.

Defense Attorney Jill Cremeans said her client plans to fight the school district’s suspension from the board at a July 11 injunction hearing at San Diego Superior Court in downtown San Diego.

It is at that hearing where Cremeans said the specifics of Lopez’s bid for a reelection would become clearer.
Lopez said she has unfinished business at Sweetwater.

“If I was to consider to run again I would consider to run for Sweetwater,” she said. “My job is not over yet, and there are a lot of things that are going on that I feel that I have to finish that job in the school district.”

The question, however, is if voters will hang the misdemeanor charge over her head or if they can overlook that and give her the same victorious results she achieved in previous elections.

In the November 2012 election, Lopez managed to get 65,103 votes.

The former Chula Vista Elementary School District board member first ran for Sweetwater in November 2008, where she garnered 48,804 votes in defeating then-incumbent Jaime Mercado.

Espana made the same ruling regarding reelection for former board president Jim Cartmill on June 7. She also characterized Cartmill as one of the lower offenders in the case.

Espana received more than 100 letters in support of Lopez over the course of a few months.

Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand submitted a letter asking the judge to not allow Lopez the opportunity to run for reelection.

“I had addressed direct experiences with Ms. Lopez that I thought were, at best, unethical and, at worst, illegal,” Brand said about the letter.

Brand said in the end he respects Espana’s ruling.

Before her sentencing, supporters of Lopez addressed the court asking for Espana to repeal the misdemeanor charge, saying she helped tip off the district attorney about the corruption.

John Brickley, a retired teacher from the district and a whistleblower for the district attorney, said Lopez shouldn’t have been involved in the case.

“I will tell you this, had I known that this case was getting ready to go against Bertha Lopez, I would have never gone to the District Attorney’s Office,” he said.

Former San Ysidro superintendent Manuel Paul was absent at court Tuesday but received three years probation and a $4,589 fine. He also got 47 hours of community service, which he has satisfied.

Jeffrey Flores, president of Seville Construction Services, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of aiding and abetting the false filling of a document.

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Moche Says:

Sat, Aug 09 2014 05:21 PM

Whistleblower? She blew the whistle because she was trying to direct attention to the others. She didn't do it for Sweetwater. She did it to keep some of the heat off of her.

anniej Says:

Sat, Jun 28 2014 03:59 PM

In reference to the video shown below: I find it very interesting that Mr. Pfingst accuses us of eating our young yet defends 'the Gandara's' eating off of our young! Take a moment and consider what it would have meant to students to be offered some of those tickets to Charger or Laker games that our school board members were treated to. Give pause to what it would meant to an aspiring plumber, electrician or carpenter students to be offered the opportunity of an apprenticeship by one of these contractors.

We did not ruin Jesus Gandara's career in education, HE DID! the choices he made, HE OWNS!

One last point, the night that John McCann allowed Gandara to walk away, he gave him as a parting gift 500k as part of his package, so,,,,, it appears any way you look at it Paul Pfingst was paid by we the taxpayers - and Pfingst has the nerve to chastise the 5 who have been working for the students -

I own the 'high 5' - if I could have I would have been clapping my feet. If in his eyes that makes me a bad person - so be it - everyone is entitled to their opinion (but we all know what they say about opinions) - this has been a 5 year, L O N G. H A R D journey.

Google Gandara Socorro, Texas - so much for doing great things for the great State of Texas!!!!!!!!!!!!

sosocal Says:

Sat, Jun 28 2014 01:32 PM

The fact that Ed Brand would go so far as address a letter to the judge requesting that Ms. Lopez NOT be allowed to return to the board is actually sufficient reason for her to return to the board.

Bertha Lopez tried for years to get this board and ringleader Brand to do the right thing, on many occasions.

Brand is still trying to run things his way, which is to say, in the way that benefits Brand, not the District, the students or the taxpayers.

How about those real estate deals? How about those jobs-for-friends? Those types of developments are not simple accidents--they are Ed Brand plots and plans.

Let's not let Ed Brand wind up winning the final round.

Erupting Says:

Sat, Jun 28 2014 12:59 PM

Poor Eddie, didn't get his way,and leaves himself open to slander because he couldn't get to Bertha. I guess it's ok for his friend Jim to return.

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