Docs: Indicted Ex-School Supt. Still “Boss”

Emails show Manuel Paul sent instructions to staff, wrote letters of recommendation and agreed to represent the district even after the board accepted his resignation

A San Diego area school superintendent under a criminal indictment kept sending email instructions to his staff despite the school board ordering him to stop.

Former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul continued emailing staff and issuing directives on how to run the district after he was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 16 and after the board accepted his resignation April 4.

Emails obtained under the California Public Records Act show the former schools chief made staffing decisions about new hires; accepted an April 4 invitation to represent the San Ysidro school district at a June 20 meeting of area superintendents, and wrote letters of recommendation for departing employees.

The communications were dispatched from the Paul’s district email account, after the board asked him to leave.

Paul, 62, was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 16. In December, he was criminally indicted by the San Diego County Grand Jury on four felony and two misdemeanor charges related to accepting meals over the legal limit from contractors and not properly reporting those meals on state-mandated forms. He also admitted in a June deposition to accepting a couple thousand dollars in cash from a contractor who was seeking work with the district. He said the money was for campaign signs for board members.

The cash exchange took place in Paul’s black Mercedes Benz parked late at night outside the Chula Vista Butcher Shop, a restaurant that has since changed ownership and been renamed. The issue was first reported by NBC7 Investigates.

Board President Jason Wells said the trustees initially asked Paul, who ran the district for seven years, to remain available should questions about district business arise.

“There wasn’t a firing at that time. We expected him to be available should staff need information or documentation and he knew where it was,” Wells said. “Our request for him to be available was understood to be – if staff needed something then … we would contact him to request the information, not necessarily that he would broadcast or offer information to the district.”

But, the board soon discovered the communications were not what they considered in-line with district policy.

For example, on Jan. 22, Paul instructed a personnel technician to make sure a new hire received her fingerprint clearance and started work the next day.

On Jan. 29, Wells wrote a letter to Paul instructing him that he should “refrain from issuing any directives or requests to any District employee or representative.” The letter also asked Paul to not act as a representative of the district at any functions.

But Paul continued emailing instructions to staff, even after the board accepted his resignation on April 4.

For example, on April 11, Paul told former Human Resources Director Jason Romero to talk to area principals about buying signage to display their rank as a “California Distinguished School.”

“Absolutely boss will do!” Romero wrote back.

Many of Paul’s emails simply praised staff for accomplishments and honors.

However, former teacher Josie Hamada said even the positive emails made staff uncomfortable because they weren’t sure who was in charge.

She said teachers got the impression that Paul was continuing to contact staff as a means of reminding them he was still involved in district business.

“That’s the interpretation that the teachers got. Paul was saying ‘I’m still here. I’m not gone. And I’m still in charge,’” Hamada said.

Paul and his criminal defense attorney did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

See a timeline of the communications here.

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