Friday, September 12, 2014

Gandara released, consultant relationship dissolved…L Street property?

Busy week at Sweetwater school district
Gandara released, consultant relationship dissolved…L Street property?
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Sept. 6, 2014

On September 5, the U-T reported that former Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Jesus Gandara was released from jail on August 26. Gandara was sentenced to seven months in the county jail on June 27 for felony conspiracy and accepting gifts of travel meals and event tickets in excess of $4000.

Additionally, the U-T reported that although Gandara was released from jail, he remains in custody in an undisclosed South Bay residence. Gandara will also “forfeit more than $65,000 in retirement benefits.”

In other Sweetwater news, on September 4, at a monthly board meeting, the district’s troubled land deals got some costly relief.

The district contracted with a consultant group, E2ManageTech, to entitle three pieces of district property for high-density development. The board voted on September 4 to dissolve the relationship and pay E2ManageTech $750,000.

The Reader queried the Sweetwater’s attorney, Randall Winet, via email, if this was a buy-out. Winet responded, “The District performed an analysis of their work performed and agreed to a payment commensurate with industry standard wages and the parties agreed to a mutual release.”

E2ManageTech was paid $82,500 for three consecutive years (2011, 2012 and 2013) to move the three district properties through design reviews, zone changes, environmental studies, and a general plan amendment.

To date, only one piece of property, located on Third Avenue, was entitled. When the property was put on the market for $7 million, there were no bids...

Rubio also indicated that the district would not solicit a new proposal for consultants until an independent analysis of the “asset property utilization plan” has been performed. The plan is the district’s proposal to dispose of district properties and purchase a new district office.

Also this week, on September 3, an announcement was sent out to all Sweetwater trustee candidates by the California Trust for Public Schools. The trust holds the title to the district’s L Street property in a complicated agreement that binds all the district’s “asset” properties together.

Because all five Sweetwater trustee seats are up for grabs in the November election, the trust will be holding an October candidate forum. Marc Litchman, the CEO of the trust, said in a September 4 interview that one of his goals in holding the forum is to acquaint the public with the trust’s soccer academy concept for the district’s L Street property...

[Maura Larkins' comment: It's sad that Mr. Lichtman is only interested in promoting democracy when he's involved in a real estate deal.]

To that end, he announced: “In conjunction with local, state, and national soccer organizations, the nonprofit California Trust for Public Schools is developing a proposal to build a state-of-the-art soccer training and development academy with conference facilities and a charter school on surplus property owned by the Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista.”

The current asset utilization plan put forward by Sweetwater for the L Street property is the development of 869 residential mid-rise units.

Here's a look back at another story about Gandara from June 2014. I share the concern of some commenters that while a few scapegoats were prosecuted in the South Bay Indictments scandal, the underlying problems in San Diego County school districts continue to be ignored by the media and the justice system. Ed Brand's problems, for example, were not limited to South Bay. He had some unknown problems in San Marcos School Unified from which he resigned after only a year as superintendent.

Paula Meyer · University of California, San Diego
Well, these are the ones who got caught. We're not seeing the every-day mis-appropriation of funds and general incompetence within the administrative workings of the district. And, granted that Gándara was criminally corrupt and ineffective as at his job, a big question remains, and that is, Why, considering his past performance, was Ed Brand brought back to further degrade the district?

Gloria Smestad · Top Commenter · Creative Arts, San Francisco State University
Excellent question that many find themselves asking. It has been said that he already knew the playbook.

Jaime Mercado · San Diego State University
Gloria, Brand WROTE the playbook. When I was summoned to testify, I told the Court, the DA, and the Grand Jury that I ran for the SUHSD Board in 2004 to try to stop the corruption that was well underway. I had limited success when as Brand told the Grand Jury that I ran him out of the district. Unfortunately, the dark side proved to be too strong and they banded together and defeated me in the 2008 election. I tried to warn John McCann, Board President, about bringing back Brand. I prepared folders for him and the board regarding Brand's past actions, but he gave instructions not to distribute the folders. It appears that he and Cartmill had been planning to bring back Brand all along.

Matias Garcia
The new Sweetwater High cost $56 million and should have cost half of that. The bonds were in the range of $700 Million. The amount lost to this corruption, just at this one construction project, was in the tens of millions.

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