A former school superintendent implicated in a sweeping corruption scandal will spend two months in jail and another 160 days in home detention for accepting gifts and not reporting them.
Former Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara was handed the sentence Friday. He was one of several school officials accused of trading votes on multi-million dollar construction contracts for gifts and other favors.
He pleaded guilty in April to one felony count of conspiracy to accept gifts in excess of the legal limit and one misdemeanor of failing to report the gift.
As part of the sentence, Gandara – who now lives in Texas – must serve the home detention in San Diego.
He was handcuffed and escorted to jail upon sentencing. Some of those in the courtroom who first brought the corruption case to light smiled and congratulated each other.
Asked whether she ever thought she’d see Gandara be brought to justice, a community member who brought the case to the district attorney’s office said yes.
“I believe if you fight the good fight, you’re gonna win,” said Kathleen Cheers.
Gandara’s defense attorney Paul Pfingst said his client was upset that the sentencing would tarnish his legacy.
“Dr. Gandara feels badly that some students will see him being handcuffed. Because he’s felt through his career felt like he was an example for students who wanted to achieve and succeed,” Pfingst said.
Gandara was fired in 2011 after being accused of misusing funds. He's the last of at least 18 people to plead guilty in the scandal that led authorities to raid the homes of some school board members in the district.
In 2006, Sweetwater trustees Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa flew to Texas to interview Gandara for a position at the recommendation of the head-hunting firm Hazard, Young and Attea & Associates.
Gandara's rocky tenure included borrowing bond money to pay off daily general fund expenses; inviting contractors to a "money tree" event for his daughter's bridal shower; hiding PR expenses from the board and a controversial exit strategy that was investigated by state pension regulators.
Prosecutors say he and several other board members spent night after night at expensive meals, sporting events, and trips, funded by contractors seeking work with the district.
Gandara was also ordered to be on probation for three years, which he can serve in Texas, and a fine of nearly $10,000.