The Star-News

Board member pushes for Superintendent Gandara's leave

Tue, Jun 07 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite

In May, Sweetwater Union High School District board member Bertha Lopez emailed board president John McCann asking him to consider putting Superintendent Jesus Gandara on administrative leave.

Nearly four weeks later she has yet to receive a response.

At issue is whether Gandara, who has come under intense scrutiny for his use of district credit cards to buy meals despite receiving a monthly stipend for such expenses, should receive disciplinary action.

“This is a superintendent who spends a lot of money on travel expenses when his job is to manage the district," Lopez said. "When he travels he is not limited to how much money he spends on his meals and it's not right. He was also using the credit card for gas."

Lopez wants Gandara's behavior discussed in closed session. As board president, McCann has the authority to set the agenda.

In an interview with The Star-News, McCann said the superintendent's evaluation is an important matter but does not take precedence over other district business.

"It will be conducted by all five board members and handled in a professional manner in accordance with legal requirements," McCann said.

The proposed agenda item has been set for June 20 but McCann said the board must pass the budget and work on labor negotiations.

"I want to bring this out to the open and discuss it with my colleagues," Lopez said. We owe this to our community. I feel very strongly that if any other employee would have done this, the person would have been on administrative leave without even thinking about it.".

She wrote in her May 10 email:

“This item will give the board the opportunity to discuss the recent activities of Dr. Gandara in regards to his credit card expenditures, travel expenses and the hiring of two public relations firms through the district's law firm GCR.”

McCann said Lopez has a history of irresponsible behavior and statements.

"We need to be professional about employee issues and limit the district's legal liabilities in handling employees," he said. "We're gonna do the right thing,” McCann said. “We take matters very seriously. People should not be misled by politics."

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