Southwestern College Director of Student Development and Health Services Arlie Ricasa was placed on administrative leave Friday morning, a college spokesman said.
The decision was a nondisciplinary, administrative action made by the college and follows 26 felony and eight misdemeanor charges announced by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis during a press conference Wednesday morning against five current and former South Bay board members and one contractor.
Ricasa, 47, will receive her regular annual salary while she is on leave, which is $124,668. She is charged with perjury, filing a false statement and wrongful influence of a public official.
“Today’s charges begin the process of holding those officials accountable for their actions…” Dumanis said Wednesday. “Taxpayers, parents and students deserve better.”
Other defendants include former Sweetwater district high school superintendent Jesus Gandara, Sweetwater board president Pearl Quinones, former board member Greg Sandoval and former Gilbane Inc. contractor Henry Amigable.
Dumanis said all defendants, who were notified Wednesday of the charges, were involved in“pay-for-play” with businesses that were awarded voter-approved bond contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ricasa is also a sitting board member for Sweetwater and allegedly accepted $1,800 from SGI President Rene Flores who is contracted with the district, so her daughter could participate in a prestigious National Young Leader’s State conference.
In total, SGI contributed $13,600 to Ricasa while Amigable spent hundreds of dollars in food, drinks, gifts and entertainment between 2008 and 2011, according to investigative documents from the DA’s office.
Ricasa was also fined $2,000 in April 2010 for failing to disclose an $18,000 loan received from Durkee & Associates, LLC on the semi-annual campaign statement between May 18 and June 30, 2008.
Ricasa, who is also the chair of the board of directors for the MAAC Project in San Diego County, was under investigation by state officials early last year for commingling funds from various political campaigns.
In addition, in March 2010, Ricasa used her college email account to thank a contractor for a $3,900 campaign contribution, according to emails submitted by DA investigators. The gifts were in excess of the gift limit and not fully or properly reported by law.
Dumanis said board members “simply lied” by not reporting gifts on their Statements of Economic Interest.
Sweetwater High School District Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand held a press conference at noon the same day announcing the district’s suspension of its $644 million Prop. O contract with joint venture Gilbane Inc./SGI Construction Management’s project.
Dumanis said the investigation in ongoing.
“We are looking at everything,” she said. “Others will be looked at up and down the county.”
Meanwhile at Sweetwater, board members will continue to conduct business as usual until they are convicted of a crime, according to Brand.
The defendants are scheduled for arraignment Jan. 13 at 1:30 p.m. at the San Diego Superior Courthouse downtown.
Ricasa could not be reached for comment.