In a highly contentious Sunnyside Unified School District board meeting Tuesday night, district officials reiterated their position the district has not done anything illegal by hiring relatives of Governing Board members.

The board also stood by a decision to enter into an agreement with LegalShield, a prepaid legal services company that employs board member Bobby Garcia.

And board member Daniel Hernandez Jr. responded to a demand by other board members that he point out examples of corruption he charged exist within the district by saying he didn’t mean to cause harm. But he did not retract the claim he made last month.

Attorney John Richardson made a presentation saying the laws governing a school district’s hiring of a governing board member’s relative allow board members to vote on hiring a relative, unless the relative is a dependent or a spouse.

That didn’t sit well with Hernandez, who has questioned the ethics of the practice. “The issue here is the district is OK with nepotism as long as it’s not illegal,” he said.

Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo countered Hernandez’s claims by attempting to define nepotism only occurring when people in positions of power appoint others without using a process. At Sunnyside, nepotism is not possible, he said, because prospective employees have to go through an extensive hiring process.

Board President Louis Gonzales said only he and Eva Carrillo Dong has relatives who are employed by Sunnyside, one being his son, who is a teacher.

During the LegalShield presentation, district officials reiterated the fact that the prepaid legal service is legal, and asserted Garcia is not making money off of its relationship with the district.

Gonzales compared the service to life insurance, saying employees could sign up voluntarily.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at 573-4242 or