San Ysidro Officials Seek $200,000 in Legal Fees - NBC 7 San Diego

San Ysidro Officials Seek $200,000 in Legal Fees

Special board meeting to be held to discuss legal fees



    San Ysidro officials are asking the board to consider allowing the district to pick up a $200,000 legal tab to defend the superintendent and a trustee against criminal charges brought on by the District Attorney’s office.

    The San Ysidro school district board will consider the proposal at its board meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m.

    The district is seeking $100,000 each in legal fees for Superintendent Manuel Paul and trustee Yolanda Hernandez, according to the board documents.

    Paul is facing six felony criminal counts –  two counts each of filing a false instrument, perjury by declaration, and accepting gifts in excess of legal limit.

    Hernandez faces four felony counts -- two each of filing a false instrument and perjury by declaration.

    Hernandez will not likely be allowed to vote on the measure to allocate legal fees to herself without running afoul of California government code 1090, which states: 

    "Members of the Legislature, state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members. Nor shall state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees be purchasers at any sale or vendors at any purchase made by them in
    their official capacity.   As used in this article, "district" means any agency of the state
    formed pursuant to general law or special act, for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries.”

    Prosecutors state the officials dined at expensive meals and took other gifts without reporting them and then filed state-mandated forms under penalty of perjury.

    Paul and Hernandez are also involved in a separate federal investigation into a story NBC 7 Investigates first brought you in August involving the exchange of cash between a contractor and the superintendent in a restaurant parking lot.

    Whether taxpayers ultimately end up footing the bill for the criminal defense of those involved in the District Attorney’s corruption probe, is a matter of history.

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    Last January, Sweetwater officials that were already facing charges sought funding for some $1.3 million in legal fees to fund defense of current board members Pearl Quinones, Arlie Ricasa and former trustee Greg Sandoval. That effort, which drew community uproar and criticism, failed to secure support from a board majority. Now two additional trustees have been charged (Bertha Lopez and Jim Cartmill.)

    Sweetwater brought the motion forward with the blessing of their then-legal counsel Dan Shinoff, who is also the district counsel for San Ysidro school district.

    In 2000, San Diegans spent $30,000 for attorneys on then-Councilwoman Valerie Stallings to defend her in a federal investigation into stock trades. (She ended up pleading guilty to two misdemeanors for taking gifts.)

    South County taxpayers also footed the $194,314.90 bill for the criminal defense of Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda in 2008 after he was acquitted of perjury charges. (The council voted 3-0 to pay. He recused himself from the vote.)

    The special board meeting will be held at the district's Education Center at 4350 Otay Mesa Road.

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