The Star-News

2012: the bad, the good and the famous

Sat, Dec 29 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Staff

The year started on a troubling note for current and former members of the Sweetwater Union High School District governing board and a contractor when District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced multiple felony corruption charges against them.

Dumanis said the five defendants, whose homes were raided in December 2011, were former Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Jesus Gandara, former district board member Greg Sandoval, school board trustees Arlie Ricasa-Bagaporo and Pearl Quinoñes and contractor Henry Amigable.

Felony charges include perjury, filing a false statement, influencing an elected official and bribery, for a total of 28 felonies and eight misdemeanors.

In March Amigable pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of providing gifts to influence elected offcials.

A former Southwestern College administrator, Nick Alioto, was also indicted as part of the corruption probe.

Dumanis said board members “simply lied” by not reporting gifts on their statements of economic interest, which is required by law. They also demanded campaign donations and other favors, according to affidavits.

“They traded their votes … for bribes,” Dumanis said.

Later in the year the school board members who had their homes raided or who had been charged by Dumanis had considered asking the school district to pay their legal fees but public outcry disuaded the board from considering the matter.

In November, indicted board member Pearl Quinoñes was re-elected to her place on the board despite her critics’ hope that she would not win her bid to return to the district.

The Sweetwater trial is expected to begin in February 2013.

When  the state supreme court eliminated redevelopment agencies throughout California,  significant redevelopment projects, programs and services in Chula Vista and National City were left in limbo.

In Chula Vista and National City, city managers were trying to cope with the mess.

“This is a game changer,” National City City Manager Chris Zapata said. “You’re talking about $16 million that the city used to control through its redevelopment agency. When you lose control over that much funding on a $100 million budget, there’s got to be some real changes.”

The Chula Vista City Council and the city’s redevelopment agency secured $172 million in public improvement funding for pending city projects that eliminated blight and had no other reasonable means of financing.

Development Services Director Gary Halbert said that securing the funds was a precaution against Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment.

• • •

Chula Vista voters significantly changed the political landscape this year when they voted to limit the salary and powers of future city attorneys and, in a separate measure, move to district elections.
Voters were asked to create the office of legislative counsel as an alternative to the Chula Vista City Attorney during instances in which a conflict of interest  might arise. They also voted to reduce the city attorney’s yearly salary from its current $208,000.

In November voters overwhelmingly supported the idea of moving the city to district elections.

The measure was drafted to provide this city’s nearly 250,000 residents better and more responsive representation at City Hall, supporters said.

The first district elections will be in 2016.

• • •

Former Chula Vista resident and student Jessica Sanchez captured the city’s attention and hearts as she made a run at the top spot on the television show “American Idol.”

The 16-year-old placed second in the nationally televised competition and signed a record deal this year.

Other notable South County alum include Racquel Pomplun who was on the April cover of Playboy with Bruno Mars and former Sweetwater Union High School student and soccer player Joe Corona who won a national soccer championship with Club Tijuana Xoloquintizcles.

• • •

The Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce disbanded it’s Tourism and Marketing District after a grand jury report called into question the organization’s accounting and spending practices.

The TMD was supposed to increase tourism to Chula Vista by having the city collect taxes from local hotels and motels for marketing purposes. The grand jury report found that a bulk of the costs were used for the TMD’s personnel costs.

• • •

National City celebrated 125 years of existence on Sept. 17 as San Diego County’s second-oldest city.

The city celebrated with a picnic on Sept. 22 in Kimball Park, which included food, crafts, games music, activities and other entertainment. The picnic also featured a tent that housed numerous historical items including photos, books, and more from the late 1800 and early 1900s.

The National City Historical Society entertained attendees with turn of the century themed attire.
• • •

The Chula Vista bayfront master plan received unanimous approval from the California Coastal Commission in September and was approved by the city council following recommendations to modify portions of the plan based on environmental concerns. Elected city officials and dignitaries called the approval a game changer for the city, which has worked for more than a decade to move progress forward on transforming 556 acres of Chula Vista bayfront property into a working waterfront and world-class destination for residents and visitors. It includes a land use mix that balances coastal development and protected coastal open space. Part of that dream becoming a reality relies on the demolition of the South Bay power plant, which sits on the bayfront as an eyesore. A single implosion is expected to occur sometime early next year.

© 2009 The Star-News