Sweetwater Trustees: Vote or Appoint Seat Vacated by Ricasa?

Seat was vacated by Arlie Ricasa who pleaded guilty to accepting gifts

By Rory Devine and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014  |  Updated 8:59 AM PDT
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Sweetwater Trustees: Vote or Appoint Seat Vacated by Ricasa?

NBCSanDiego

Arlie Ricasa faces angry parents, teachers and members of the community on January 30.

The Sweetwater Union High School District must decide how it will replace a seat left vacant after the resignation of a board member who admitted her role a “pay to play” corruption scandal.

Trustees have until February 17 to appoint someone to fill the vacant seat or they can decide to put it to a vote of the people in an election that could cost up to $1 million.

In December, former school board member Arlie Ricasa pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts above state law.

The charge stems from an investigation that began in 2012. Homes of some board members were raided amid allegations that they accepted gifts from contractors in return for their votes on construction projects for the district.

Board member John McCann, who has not been indicted in the case, wants to see the next trustee elected by the people. He said the three trustees who still face felony indictments should not get to appoint the next board member.

Trustee Bertha Lopez said the board should not spend money on an election. She said the money should stay in the district.

McCann believes the election could be accomplished by mail-in ballots to save cost.

Kevin O’Neill, a resident who sits on the Bond Oversight Committee, said he has asked the board to get moving on this issue.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on an election could be used to fund other programs, he said.

“If you look at the cost-benefit, if they do elect a replacement for Ricasa, it might be six months which might be maybe five meetings which works out to $200-$250,000 per board meeting. It just doesn’t make sense,” O’Neill said.

O'Neill says he would be among those who would throw his hat into the ring in the case of an appointment process.

If the board decides to appoint someone to fill Ricasa's seat until November when her term would have ended, it would need time to advertise the position, screen eligible applicants and go through a public process to make the appointment.

If that appointment doesn’t happen, an election would be held.

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