Three San Ysidro board members have made amendments in recent weeks to their campaign disclosure forms, after the superintendent testified in June to accepting $2,500 in cash from a contractor in a restaurant parking lot.
In a June deposition with a lawyer for a spurned contractor who is suing the district, San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul said he took $2,500 in cash from a different contractor for trustee Yolanda Hernandez’s campaign. He added that he took the cash to a printer in Tijuana and had campaign signs made-up.
State law says candidates can only accept $99 in cash from a contributor.
Trustees Yolanda Hernandez, Jason Wells and Jean Romero all filed amendments to their disclosure forms in August. The forms reflect a $700 in-kind donation from contractor Loreto Romero to trustee Yolanda Hernandez for posters. Wells disclosed $830 from Romero for yard signs on his amended forms.
Jean Romero, who is not related to the contractor Loreto Romero, changed the name on an in-kind contribution from consultant Gareth Maden to Loreto Romero and reported a $700 in-kind donation. She included a receipt with the amendment that appears to be an invoice for campaign signs for all three board members.
Jean Romero said that someone anonymously delivered about 100 signs to her doorstep before the November 2010 elections.
“I thought it was very nice. It was a good surprise to me,” trustee Romero said. “But, then I found out that it was Mr. Romero that had the signs made up. I was surprised and rather upset because I don’t take donations from contractors at all, if I know. I never have and I never will.”
Trustee Jean Romero noted that she listed the signs as an in-kind contribution in 2010, according
to the receipt she found next to the anonymously delivered signs. She said the math on the receipt didn’t add up, and she didn’t remember receiving more than 100 to 150 signs that she thought cost about $2 a piece, according to the invoice.
The billing was addressed to Gareth Maden, a campaign consultant who is married to a fourth trustee on the board, Raquel Maden.
“I think the cause of this is partially an issue of people not really knowing how to report things on their forms,” Maden said. “When you first get into office, unless you go ask the registrar for help, you’re kind of on your own for paperwork. The only time you find out you’ve made a mistake is when you have authorities telling you that you’ve broken the law.”
The invoice says the grand total for the signs for all three trustees is $1,401. Paul said in the June deposition that he received $2,500 in cash from contractor Loreto Romero in the parking lot of the Chula Vista Butcher Shop, a restaurant that has since changed its name.
About the discrepancy Paul said:
“I delivered $2,500 to the printers as I said in my deposition. After that, I was no longer involved in the transaction. It is my understanding that the three candidates have attempted to report the donation to their best of their ability with the information that they have.”
Romero said she couldn’t explain the discrepancy in math and didn’t understand the receipt, as Maden was not her campaign consultant.
“I run my own campaigns and raise my own money, and that’s just the way I’ve always done it,” said Romero, who has served on the board for 19 years.
She noted that the contractor Loreto Romero never received a contract with the district.
About Paul, Romero had this to say:
“He was not that familiar with the rules. He’s done an excellent job in our district, and I know he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his or the district’s integrity. I feel really bad that this has come up as an issue. I don’t think he did it maliciously or for any personal agenda. I think he did it because the guy offered it,” Romero said.
Gareth Maden said he wasn’t sure why his name was included on the receipt and that he had nothing to do with transferring the cash to the StudioK sign-making shop in Tijuana. He said he did not receive the signs or leave them on the trustees’ doorsteps. He added that he thought board member Wells had the paperwork sent to his office so he could help keep track of it.
NBC7 interviewed San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams about the exchange, who said the donation should have been given in a check so the money could be tracked more easily.
“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,” said Adams, who has written a book on local and state campaign finance laws.