Henry Amigable stood with his back to a pale courthouse wall Wednesday. His chicly-bearded attorney at his side, Amigable wore the expression of a chastened little boy.
It wasn’t long ago the construction executive by trade was sharing expensive meals with players in the Sweetwater Union High School District. The people he dined with were in charge of making multimillion-dollar deals.
And the deals went his way, presumably making him and his employer a lot of money.
It was a fine life.
Then the DA’s Office raided his home at Christmas time.
Then in January he was accused of and charged with bribing those same officials with whom he broken bread.
He said he wasn’t guilty. There was no way he did what they were saying he did.
Maybe prosecuters believed him. On Wednesday they dismissed the felony bribery charges against him. As a result, Amigable pleaded guilty to violating an obscure education code. He also said he’s looking forward to cooperating with the prosecution.
In a roundabout way that’s what he appeared to be doing in the hallway that spring afternoon.
The picture he painted was one of insatiable appetites. While attorneys for former district superintendent Jesus Gandara and current board member Pearl Quinones looked on, Amigable’s attorney said his client felt tremendous pressure to fulfill the wishes of board members. They wanted dinners — expensive ones it turns out — and theater tickets.
Wining and dining is a normal part of doing business in the private sector. Keep your clients happy and they’ll keep the contracts going your way. Disappoint them and, well, it was good doing business with you. That’s how business is done.
That’s the impression Amigable was under. The 47-year-old wanted to please so he did his best to fulfill the board members’ wishes. It wasn’t his job to fill out political forms and keep track of the electeds’ expenses. His job was to keep everyone happy, the school board and his bosses. He wasn’t intending to bribe anyone. That’s the story he painted.
And so the first casualty in what the District Attorney’s Office has characterized as the largest public corruption case of its kind has started off with a not guilty turned guilty plea, albeit to a lesser charge.
If Amigable continues to seek public contracts after this epsiode, he may need his head examined. If he changes careers, no one would blame him. Perhaps he’d consider a job as concierge at a grand local hotel. He appears to be talented at fulfilling the wishes of others.