A San Ysidro trustee, who was the alleged recipient of campaign signs paid for via a cash drop-off between the school district’s superintendent and a contractor, paid nearly all of her campaign funds out to a company she owns, documents show.
Trustee Yolanda Hernandez paid the MUH Corporation $6,000 during the 2010 election cycle, according to campaign disclosure forms. She raised about $6,245 in campaign money during the same period.
Documents with the Secretary of State show Hernandez is the CEO and Agent of Service for the MUH company, first formed in 1994. The stated business of that organization is to provide bus and charter services. Her campaign finance forms state she paid MUH for “fundraising events, campaign literature and mailings, postage, print ads, web, information and office expenses.”
Those campaign forms also reflect an amendment to include a $700 in-kind donation from contractor Loreto Romero. The modifications were made after NBC 7 Investigates first reported the superintendent testified under oath that he had received $2,500 in cash from Romero in the parking lot of a Chula Vista restaurant.
Romero, a construction contractor, was seeking work with the school district during the cash exchange.
The money was for Hernandez’s campaign, Superintendent Manuel Paul said.
Several other board members have also modified their forms since Paul testified to receiving the campaign cash in the parking lot of a restaurant then- named The Butcher Shop and now called The Steak House on Broadway. State law prohibits campaign donations of more than $99 in cash. Donations over that amount must be issued with a check so the transaction can be documented, according to local campaign finance experts.
Paul said in June he took the cash to a sign-making shop in Tijuana to produce signs for Hernandez’s 2010 campaign, but said he did not get a receipt from the printer. School district officials later produced a receipt from Studio K printer in Tijuana that totaled $1,401, and three trustees amended their forms to reflect $1,897 in in-kind and donations from Romero.
San Diego State professor Brian Adams said candidates can by law amend their forms, but it doesn’t erase the mistake.
You can of course amend your form and that does frequently happen with candidates who make mistakes, but the initial mistake is still there and they can still be fined for that,” Adams said.
Candidates are allowed by state law to provide professional campaign services and pay their own companies. However, state law does limit “personal use” of campaign funds to prevent candidates, elected officials and others who control campaign funds from receiving a financial benefit or profiting from the campaign contributions.
A federal grand jury is meeting to hear witness testimony about the parking lot cash exchange, according to multiple sources. Hernandez and Paul have declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, the San Diego County Grand Jury is scheduled to begin meeting this week to hear witness testimony on the neighboring Sweetwater school district where two current and two former officials are facing felony charges of accepting bribes in the form of meals and gifts from contractors. The Sweetwater defendants have all pleaded not guilty.No officials in the San Ysidro school district have been charged with any crimes.