Voters oust 2 Sunnyside board members in recall

2014-05-21T00:00:00Z 2014-05-21T18:34:04Z Voters oust 2 Sunnyside board members in recallBy Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Challengers defeated two Sunnyside district board members in Tuesday’s recall election, ending the majority support for controversial Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo, who asked Friday to be bought out of his contract.

Rebecca “Beki” Quintero, a longtime community leader, took 58 percent of the vote in defeating board member Bobby Garcia, who had 22 percent of the vote. Another challenger, Mike Polak, had 19 percent of the vote in that race.

In the second race, Eric Giffin, who previously served on the board for 12 years, won more than 74 percent of the vote as he unseated board clerk Louie Gonzales, who has been on the board for 16 years.

Only about 15 percent of the ballots sent out in the mail-in election were returned.

Quintero and Giffin will be sworn in after the Pima County Board of Supervisors certifies the election results, which is set to happen on June 3.

Quintero said she is “terrified” the current board will support buying out the remaining two years of Isquierdo’s contract — which would cost the district more than $526,000 — before she and Giffin are sworn in.

Gonzales and Garcia did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday night.

Quintero and Giffin said their first order of business will be to conduct an audit of Sunnyside Unified School District’s finances and organization.

“We’re going to need to get our administration restructured; we’re going to need to get some trust rebuilt in our staff in the school district so that we can actually start educating our kids again,” Giffin said.

The district has been forced to make cuts to save $6 million after voters rejected a budget override last November.

Three overrides have failed in the district during Isquierdo’s tenure, which Giffin and Quintero attributed to voters’ mistrust of district spending under Isquierdo’s leadership.

Quintero said she chose to run for the board to ensure money is being used to provide the best education possible for students.

“Our kids deserve the best education and we want to give it to them, and we want to make sure that it’s happening and the money goes into the classrooms for the kids and not anywhere else that it’s being diverted,” she said Tuesday night.

Garcia, a retired Tucson police officer who is in his first term on the board, and Gonzales were part of a three-member board majority that supported Isquierdo.

They voted, along with current board President Eva Carrillo Dong, to extend Isquierdo’s contract last summer after he withdrew as the lone finalist for a superintendent position in San Antonio. The vote drew the ire of critics and prompted the recall.

Isquierdo has been criticized for his personal financial and legal problems, including filing for bankruptcy, having his driver’s license suspended, failing to pay several thousands of dollars in taxes, and making more than $12,000 in unauthorized charges to a district credit card, which he later repaid.

A special board meeting was called Friday to address allegations by board member Buck Crouch accusing Isquierdo of misrepresenting the district’s graduation numbers. That is when Isquierdo asked the board to consider buying him out of his contract. Crouch and board member Daniel Hernandez were not at the meeting.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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