Despite pleading guilty in a corruption case involving South Bay school officials, supporters of Bertha Lopez packed the courtroom during her sentencing Tuesday.
The Sweetwater trustee was among multiple school administrators and contractors indicted in December 2012. Prosecutors say the school officials traded their votes on multi-million dollar construction contracts for gifts and other favors.
Judge Ana Espana sentenced Lopez to three years of probation as well as community service and a fine, even though her supporters asked the judge to remove the misdemeanor charge. They say she helped bring the scandal to light.
“You have no idea how courageous Bertha Lopez has been in her fight to end the corruption in our district,” retired teacher Fran Brinkman said, shaking with anger.
Despite the mark on her record, Lopez said she would do it again.
“We’re the people who went to the district attorney at the very beginning. I also went along with them, and I’m glad that I did,” she said.
“I feel that was the most important thing to do as a school board member.”
Judge Espana agreed that Lopez was among the least culpable defendants in the case and did not impose California Government Code 91002, which states no one convicted of a misdemeanor can run for elected office for four years.
“If I would consider to run again, I would run again for Sweetwater,” Lopez said. “My job is not over yet. There a lot of things that are going on, and I feel I have to finish that job in the school district.”
Former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul did not appear in court Tuesday, but was sentenced to probation, community service and a fine after also taking a plea deal.