Two guilty pleas entered by defendants in the Sweetwater corruption case have created vacancies on the school board.
While the school district is waiting for the November election to fill the seat once held by former trustee Arlie Ricasa, suspended board member Pearl Quiñones’ seat remains in limbo until her April 28 sentencing.
“Once she actually agrees to the plea and the court says ‘we agree with it,’ she’ll be entirely off the board,” said Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand.
Quiñones pled guilty in March to a felony conspiracy charge and a misdemeanor count of accepting gifts above state limit.
Brand said Quiñones was “suspended” as a board member the instant she entered her guilty plea.
Dan Shinoff, an attorney for the district, said board policy and government code1770.2 prevent Quiñones from serving the district.
“If you are convicted of a crime related to your role as a board member you can be removed, that’s what the law says,” Shinoff said. “Whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor.”
California government code 1770.2 states: “…the person found guilty shall not assume the office for which the person is otherwise qualified or shall be suspended immediately from the office the person then holds.
“During the time of inability to assume an office or suspension from office, the person shall not be entitled to receive the emoluments of the office including, but not limited to, the exercise of the powers of the office, the rights to be seated in the office, and the compensation including benefits prescribed for the office.”
Quiñones’ name plaque was removed from the dais and the district removed her photo and biography from the trustee website the day after she pleaded guilty, said district spokesman, Manny Rubio.
Brand said the district has 60 days from the time of Quiñones’ sentencing date to act on the vacancy or go to the November general election.
That leaves a projected date of June 28.
Shinoff said there wouldn’t be enough time for the district to hold a special election.
Shinoff said Quiñones’ case differs from that of Ricasa’s because Ricasa’s resignation was part of her plea deal, whereas Quiñones must quit because of the law.
“As far as I know there was no such condition imposed upon Pearl for the plea,” he said.
Shinoff said a resignation letter is not needed from Quiñones if the board takes action to remove her.
Two of the three remaining board members — Bertha Lopez and Jim Cartmill — remain indicted in the same corruption case that saw guilty pleas from Ricasa and Quiñones.
Lopez and Cartmill could also be removed from the board if they reach a plea agreement before the start of an April 28 trial.
Shinoff said if the board gets to less than three members it cant function.
The next steps, Shinoff said, should Lopez or Cartmill plead out and are removed from the board is for the County Office of Education to intervene and temporarily fill the vacated seats through an appointment.
“The business of the school district has to continue,” Shinoff said.
Trustees John McCann, Lopez and Cartmill make up the three of the five serving board members.