Arlie Ricasa, Jim Cartmill and John McCann recall, Sweetwater, California (2012)
An effort to recall Arlie Ricasa, Jim Cartmill, and John McCann from their elected positions on the school board of Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista, California was launched in January 2012. The recall efforts failed due to a lack of valid signatures. There are five members of the Sweetwater Union High School District Board. Pearl Quinones and Bertha Lopez did not face recall because their terms end in November 2012.
Reasons for recall
At a seven-hour long school board meeting on January 31, Mar Vista High School teacher Lauren McLennan served Ricasa, Cartmill, and McCann with recall notices. McLennan is a member of the "Occupy Sweetwater" movement. She says the recall targets "have let scandal after scandal occur on their watch because they are more focused on their political careers than their duties as school board members." The school board attempted to have the school district pay up to $1.3 million in legal fees for current and former officials. Ricasa was charged by the District Attorney’s Office with accepting gifts from contractors, failing to report gifts on required state forms and then voting for contracts for the donors.
In December 2011, the homes of Quinones, Lopez, and Ricasa were raided. Search warrants for those raids were sealed, but boxes of documents were taken from the homes by investigators. Quinones, Lopez, and Ricasa are all defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by HAR Construction, Inc. The lawsuit accuses the officials of breach of contract, charging them with "intentionally interfering" with the contract "for personal reasons." The district attorney has called the case the largest public corruption case the D.A.'s office has ever prosecuted.
The recall committee said the targeted officials "have been inattentive and dismissive of community members who have demanded they put a stop to the corruption."
Board members respond
McCann claimed that unions were behind the recall effort. He noted that recall organizer Lauren McLennan is a labor union representative who has run for president of the Sweetwater Education Association. He said, "Serving recall papers and having votes of no confidence are typical strategies that labor unions use to attack non-labor candidates."
McCann responded to the filing of the recall petition by releasing a statement: "Since January a small group named Occupy Sweetwater has been set on wasting over a million dollars of taxpayer money for a special election by diverting it away from our children's education, while supporting candidates like Bertha Lopez whose home has been raided by the District Attorney. After being elected a little more than a year ago, I have led successful efforts to reform the district, increase test scores and balance the budget."
In early May 2012, McCann received a temporary restraining order against recall supporter Stewart Payne. The order was granted by Judge Francis M. Devaney. McCann alleged that he was heckled by Payne and a group of recall supporters after a school board meeting. Payne alleged that McCann was the aggressor in the incident. On May 9, Judge Ana Espana denied McCann's request for an order of protection against Payne, saying, "I expect more adult behavior from everyone involved here." The school district is paying McCann's legal bills in the matter.
Path to the ballot
Petitions against all three recall targets were approved for circulation in April 2012. August 27 was the deadline for signature submission for Ricasa and Cartmill's petitions. On August 28, recall supporters announced that they had collected roughly 10,000 signatures on the petitions for Ricasa and Cartmill, which was not enough to trigger a recall election. Recall supporters would have needed to submit 18,000 signatures on each petition in order to force a recall election. The deadline to submit signatures on McCann's petition was September 24, 2012, but sufficient signatures were not submitted.
- San Diego Union-Tribune, "Sweetwater legal fees effort fizzles," January 31, 2012
- Sweetwater Patch, "Sweetwater Board Members Recall Falls Short; Attention Turns to McCann," August 28, 2012
- NBC San Diego, "Investigators Raid School Board Members' Homes," December 20, 2011
- NBC San Diego, "2 Petitions Approved to Oust Sweetwater Trustees," April 16, 2012
- San Diego Union-Tribune, "Is Sweetwater recall driven by teacher's union?," February 3, 2012
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Sweetwater board member gets TRO against parent," May 7, 2012
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Judge denies protection to Sweetwater's McCann," May 10, 2012
- NBC San Diego, "Final Petition Approved to Oust Sweetwater Trustees," April 24, 2012
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Time becomes issue in recall campaign," May 8, 2012