The Sunnyside Unified School District hired Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo’s brother-in-law as an on-campus school monitor despite knowing he had a felony drug conviction.
Ismael Posadas, who pleaded guilty to selling, distributing or dispensing marijuana in 2001 in Laredo, Texas, was hired in 2008, a year after Isquierdo took over as superintendent.
Posadas, who was sentenced to four years’ probation and fined $1,000 according to federal records, was recently promoted to become the district’s new security coordinator. His salary was not immediately available.
Sunnyside board President Louie Gonzales said the board was aware of Posadas’ criminal record when he was hired but felt he deserved a second chance.
Posadas completed his probation in 2006, and his civil rights were restored in 2010 by the Arizona Superior Court, according to court records.
Posadas hung up on an Arizona Daily Star telephone request for comment. Isquierdo declined to comment through a district spokeswoman.
Posadas’ supporters say he is a model employee.
But others view the hiring and subsequent promotions as an example of nepotism, which has become a focal point for controversy in the district, where four of the five board members are the subject of recall petition drives.
“It’s not surprising, and it goes along with what I’ve already heard and seen,” said Sunnyside board member Daniel Hernandez Jr.
Hernandez, who was elected to the Governing Board in 2011, has spoken out against what he calls favoritism and other forms of corruption.
“It’s very concerning,” he said. “It’s just concerning that anyone gets special treatment because they are related to the board members or superintendent.”
Gonzales and board member Eva Carrillo Dong were on the Governing Board at the time it approved Posadas’ hiring. Gonzales supported the hiring, referring to Posadas as being “very well-liked.”
“Yes, we were aware of it. He had some documentation from people in Texas, and they had charged him with it,” Gonzales said. “We pretty much agreed he was a good person and should be given an opportunity.”
Gonzales described Posadas as “very intelligent, very professional.”
“He’s a very religious man. He is easy to get along with.”
He said after Isquierdo brought the matter to the board to discuss, they held an executive session to consider what should be done.
The board subsequently voted unanimously to go forward with hiring Posadas in 2008.
Posadas rose through the ranks, serving as a truancy prevention specialist before he was promoted to security coordinator in August, according to the district.
The district issued a statement Tuesday describing Posadas’ employment as exemplary.
According to the statement, Posadas has a master’s degree in criminal justice and was awarded the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Scholarship for academic achievement when he was a graduate student.
He received the scholarship in 2010 while he was attending an online program through Grand Canyon University.
Posadas is a youth pastor at his church and has volunteered with LULAC — the League of United Latin American Citizens — and programs aimed at helping troubled youths.
He has “worked very hard to be an excellent example to youth” within the last several years, according to the statement.
The board made a decision based on the fact that he continued his education, had applied for a pardon and that the arrest occurred in 2001.
Posadas went through the regular hiring process, which included standard school district and state requirements for background checks, according to the district.