San Ysidro School District trustee Rodolfo Linares is seen at a board meeting in this undated photo. Megan Wood/inewsource
San Ysidro School District trustee Rodolfo Linares is seen at a board meeting in this undated photo.(Megan Wood/inewsource)

A San Ysidro school board member called Wednesday for the district’s interim superintendent to resign, saying he had deceived school trustees about financial perks the board had approved for him and his predecessor, Julio Fonseca.

[one_half][box type=”shadow this-matters”]The San Ysidro School District serves some of the poorest students in San Diego County, but its school board is mired in controversy over allegations of financial mismanagement by an ex-superintendent and his successor.[/box][/one_half]

Trustee Rodolfo Linares accused Fonseca and the interim superintendent of deceiving the board when they received payouts for deferred term life insurance and cashed out more vacation days than allowed in their contracts. He wants them to return the money, and he has called for a forensic audit of the district’s finances.

“We were manipulated by our most trusted administrators who used their positions of authority to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from our students,” Linares said. “With the information I have put together, I now have to be the whistle-blower on the illegal actions of both Julio Fonseca and Arturo Sanchez-Macias.”

Through a spokesman, Sanchez-Macias declined to comment on Linares’ allegations. Attempts to reach Fonseca, who resigned in September after receiving a $376,000 separation agreement, were unsuccessful.

Linares’ allegations follow an inewsource investigation last month that revealed the district paid Fonseca at least $1 million for the 26 months he worked there. That averaged out to make him the highest paid superintendent in San Diego County and the second highest paid in the state.

San Ysidro is one of the poorest school districts in the county. Just a few years ago, the elementary and middle school district was on the brink of bankruptcy but avoided a state takeover by stabilizing its finances. However, a year after Fonseca was hired, the district had a nearly $1 million budget shortfall and projects a roughly $925,000 shortfall for fiscal 2018.

Linares told inewsource last month that he thought the school board had been misled about the compensation packages the trustees approved for Fonseca and Sanchez-Macias, who at the time was the deputy superintendent in charge of the district’s finances.

On Wednesday, Linares was more specific. He said that at a Dec. 14 school board meeting, the two district leaders “purposely confused and manipulated the board discussion to deceive the board” about the deferred term life insurance and how it could be cashed out.

“The board never voted to authorize the cash-out,” Linares said.

He also claimed that Sanchez-Macias helped Fonseca “cover up” a $113,000 payment to a former district employee who said he was fired after he accused Fonseca of having a romantic relationship with a woman the superintendent recommended the district hire.

Hours after Linares’ made his claims at a noon news conference outside the district offices, he and another trustee said a special meeting of the school board has been called for Friday. The meeting has not yet been posted on the district’s website.

District spokesman Francisco Mata declined to speak about Linares’ comments but said they will not distract the district from its mission of educating students.

School board President Rosaleah Pallasigue did not return messages seeking comment on Linares’ allegations. She and school board member Antonio Martinez were singled out by Linares, who said they had “wasted taxpayer money” in dealings with Fonseca.

In an email, Martinez took credit for Friday’s special meeting being scheduled. He said the board will discuss “legal action to win back the taxpayers’ money from the former Superintendent, immediately cut the interim-Superintendent’s compensation and initiate further reforms to guard against bureaucratic abuses, like we’ve seen in school districts throughout San Diego.”

Some San Ysidro residents are trying to recall Pallasigue and Martinez. Their first attempt failed when the petition was deemed deficient by the county Registrar of Voters Office. Martinez is also a candidate for San Diego City Council.

Leonardo Castañeda was a reporter and economic analyst for inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email leocastaneda [at] inewsource [dot] org.