Sweetwater Scandal Prompts Vocal Response

The audience had a clear message


A huge and very vocal turnout Monday night at a local school board meeting could have a lasting impact on education and politics. 

Three current and former school board members in the Sweetwater Union High School District are facing corruption charges.

They wanted $400,000 of taxpayer money to pay their lawyers.

The answer from the audience was a very loud, and emotional, "No!"

"If the public wasn't there ‘en mass’ last night, those legal fees would have been approved,” teacher’s union president Alex Anguiano said on Tuesday.

The gym at Hilltop High School was packed with hundreds of parents, students and community activists.

The district is racked by scandal.

There are allegations of graft and corruption by current board members Pearl Quinones and Arlie Ricasa, and former board member Greg Sandoval.

Prosecutors say the three allegedly accepted gifts worth thousands of dollars from construction firms and then awarded lucrative contracts to those same companies.

The three board members want the district to pay their legal fees. But they backed down, under withering criticism from the audience.

Superintendent Ed Brand admits that emotions ran high. But on Tuesday, he urged parents to stay focused on education and acknowledge the excellent job being done by district teachers and staff.

“What we have to remind ourselves is, don’t get distracted,” said Brand, who said he respects the strong feelings of those who attended the meeting.

Brand, who recently re-joined the district with a mission to straighten out its affairs, also said the school board acted properly by allowing the public to express its strong opinions.

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