Julio Fonseca is shown at a July 9, 2015, school board meeting at the San Ysidro School District office. (Megan Wood/inewsource)
Julio Fonseca is shown at a July 9, 2015, school board meeting at the San Ysidro School District office. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

A former San Ysidro School District superintendent who state auditors say possibly committed financial misdeeds sued a school board member this month for defamation, claiming the trustee ran a “malicious” and “despicable” campaign against him.

Why this matters

The San Ysidro School District, which serves some of the poorest students in San Diego County, has been roiled in scandal and controversy for years. A recent state audit found potential mismanagement of district funds by two former top administrators.

In the lawsuit, Julio Fonseca, the district’s superintendent for about two years before resigning in September, accused trustee Rodolfo Linares of spreading false information to the news media about him and another district employee.

Fonseca doesn’t name the employee in his lawsuit, but it’s clear he’s referring to his deputy, Jose Arturo Sanchez-Macias, who resigned amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

Fonseca said the trustee falsely alleged the two conspired as part of a scheme to cash out their vacation days and deceive the school board about life insurance payments made to them. The suit said Linares made the statements to reporters specifically to harm Fonseca and cause him “severe emotional distress.”

Linares told inewsource on Thursday that everything he has said about Fonseca is true.

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“I laugh about the complaint,” said Linares, who added: “I believe what he wants is just to silence me.”

Fonseca did not specify an amount requested for damages, and his attorney did not respond to messages requesting comment.

A San Ysidro spokesman said in a statement Thursday the district, which is not named in the suit, “is not in a position to comment.”

Last November, Linares told reporters outside the district office that school board trustees “were manipulated by our most trusted administrators who used their positions of authority to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from our students.”

“With the information I have put together,” Linares said at the time, “I now have to be the whistle-blower on the illegal actions of both Julio Fonseca and Arturo Sanchez-Macias.”

San Ysidro School Board member Rodolfo Linares joined the board earlier this year. He has questioned what was happening during the district's years in near-bankruptcy. Megan Wood / inewsource

San Ysidro School Board member Rodolfo Linares stands in front of the district offices in 2015. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

Questions about payments to the men and their financial practices at the district led to a state audit. It concluded last month the two engaged in possible financial fraud and misuse of district funds.

It found Fonseca and Sanchez-Macias were overpaid almost $324,000, including $103,200 for vacation days and $207,000 for life insurance.

The audit was referred to the District Attorney’s Office, the state controller and the state superintendent of schools.

The District Attorney’s Office rarely confirms an investigation. But in a statement last month to inewsource, a spokesman said the office “welcomes any information about suspected public corruption” and “is committed to holding individuals accountable who would misuse public funds intended to support the education of children in San Diego County.”


State audit: DA should investigate ex-San Ysidro superintendent for possible financial fraud
State auditors found the San Ysidro School District’s former superintendent and his top deputy engaged in possible financial fraud and misuse of district funds.

Ex-San Ysidro superintendents received hefty payouts for vacation and leave days
Two former top administrators in the San Ysidro School District cashed out nearly $178,000 in vacation and leave days during the approximately two years they worked there.

We’ll let you know when big things happen.

Megan Wood was a multimedia journalist for inewsource. To contact inewsource with questions, tips or corrections, email contact@inewsource.org.