Former District Contractor; Legal Foe Now Wants Seat on School Board

A former district contractor, who recently won a $7.3 million settlement against the Sweetwater Union High School District, now wants a seat on the board.

Hector Romero was a whistle-blower and witness in the District Attorney's sweeping public corruption case against South Bay school officials that spanned three school districts.

The 2014 criminal case resulted in 20 guilty pleas to felony and misdemeanor crimes, including bribery and conspiracy.

Prior to the indictments, a series of news stories focused on a "pay-to-play" culture in which businesses were awarded voter-approved bond money worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier this summer, Romero settled his civil suit with the district for a $7.3 million award to his company. The lawsuit made similar accusations against the district as the criminal prosecution.

The lawsuit, litigated for about 5 years, alleged the district breached a construction contract with Romero's company, HAR Construction, Inc.

HAR accused the district and then-trustees of "intentionally interfering" with the contract "for personal reasons," according to court records.

For example, Romero claimed former trustee Pearl Quinones interfered because Romero supported her opponent in her unsuccessful 2010 bid for state assembly

The HAR lawsuit claimed the district and trustees purposely cut off resources necessary for construction because Romero's gift-giving wasn't rising to the level of expensive gifts, dinners and favors that the larger construction firms were providing to district officials.

In court records, Romero admitted to providing some gifts to the district officials, but said because of his construction business' smaller size, he could not compete with the larger construction firms ablity to provide lavish meals and other favors to school leaders.

The school district terminated the contract because of the "company's failure to execute work in an efficient manner to stay on schedule," according to a statement.

DA Bonnie Dumanis' criminal prosecution alleged South Bay school officials accepted, for example, stays the Biltmore Hotel, Rose Bowl tickets, an Albus Dumbledore costume for Halloween, and tickets to see "Jersey Boys" from contractors who had work or were seeking work with the district.

Romero pulled papers Friday, the filing deadline, to run for a seat on the Sweetwater school board. Two seats are up for re-election after being filled mid-term amid the resignation of prosecuted trustees.

In 2011, the County of San Diego terminated a contract with Chula Vista-based HAR Construction to rebuild the Lincoln Acres library.

The county said HAR "failed to supply an adequately skilled work crew and proper materials in line with its contract," while Romero alleged the county interfered with his work, in a manner similar to Sweetwater, after he refused to pay $50,000 in fees to San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

Contact Us