Vasquez: Setting the record straight
In response to a Friday Rostra opinion piece by Southern Exposure, the following was submitted as a guest column.
by Bernardo Vasquez
Please allow me to set the record straight for you and clear up the baseless inferences you make in your story.
I have been on the Sweetwater Union High School District bond oversight committee since April 2009. I became chair in April of 2011, and my term ended in June 2012. During this time period, many scandals rocked the school district. Superintendent Jesus Gandara was replaced by Ed Brand, two current trustees were indicted due to Prop O related activities, and Prop O Program Manager SGI was fired by the district.
As I am certain you are aware, there have been a multitide of investigations by the DA, and numerous stories by many publications and news organizations during this time. All of those investigations and stories have been deeply and thoroughly investigated before being reported. Something that is clearly lacking in your story.
With all of the detailed investigations and stories done on this district and Prop O, never has the committee, or me personally, been alleged to be involved in any way. Never have any inferences or allegations ever been made against our all volunteer committee.
I have never received any meals or other gifts from contractors. I have not gained any clients from the district, contractors, trustees, politicians or any others that you question.
So you’re aware, we are an oversight committee, with absolutely no decision making authority. We do not get involved in any aspects of Prop O business, other than reviewing of documents provided by the district and reporting to the Trustees and public. We don’t get involved in interviewing, recommending or selecting contractors, approving contracts, bids, change orders, or any other decision making aspect of this program.
You claim I fell asleep at the switch, but I never had access to the switch! Your friend on the Board of Trustees has access to the switch. He and the majority of the board have fallen asleep at the switch!
This committee has never been required to sign the Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700), not when Gandara was the superintendent, not when Brand became superintendent, nor at any other time other than now. Lack of transparency has always been the district’s issue, never the volunteer committee’s issue.
We are not required by law to sign the Form 700, we are a volunteer committee with no decision making authority! Heck, the PTA and ASB advisors who are volunteers have more decision making authority than the bond oversight committee. They handle finances and make decisions on how to spend district money, but the district is not requiring them to fill out a 700. I imagine the district will now require the PTA, School Site Council, and other parent volunteer organizations to be required to fill out the 700.
And if they don’t, I expect you will report on this and call them out on their lack of integrity, honesty and transparency if they question the need for this form.
Clearly, the district and majority of the board are unhappy with the committee’s recent vote of no confidence in Superintendent Brand. Ironic that with all of the issues currently facing this district, this is one of the first things Brand does upon getting his contract — bully an all volunteer committee and community volunteers.
He never questioned my transparency when I was chair, but the community has always questioned the district’s transparency. Nothing has changed in that regard. Now that a group of parents and I are questioning the district’s use of the Mello Roos fund, the district’s recent Open Boundaries decision, a recent vote of no confidence by parents and the oversight committee, Brand has threatened the committee and me.
Rostra, shame on you for your lack of thoroughness in this story. Picking on a volunteer that gives his time to help the district. It is well known that you are good friends with a trustee at Sweetwater, and many feel you are just his ghostwriter or mouthpiece. Too bad he does not have the courage to discuss these issues with me or the committee, or bring it up during our public meetings or the trustees public meetings.
I may sign the 700, or I may continue to refuse. Do your homework to see if there is any merit to your baseless inferences. And to those in your audience who criticize me and the committee, we have an at-large position open and could use the help. I invite Gordo, Tiffany, Jose, Maria or Joe or any other who thinks they can help to submit their application. Let’s see if you have the courage to be involved and be part of a solution to these district issues, and not another part of the problem.
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