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Since San Diego Unified Chief Administrative Officer José Betancourt pleaded guilty last month to violating federal conflict-of-interest laws for his work on a defense contract, he has been negotiating with the school board over a severance package that would pave the way for his resignation from the district. It now appears that exit may occur within weeks.

Betancourt’s contract provides that he can be dismissed by the district without cause with three months notice, and the current talks deal with whether he would accept payment that would total less than three months pay, said board member John de Beck. De Beck said he could not discuss the details of the negotiations because they deal with a personnel issue.

“If a settlement is agreed to, then we can all go on about our way,” de Beck said. “If there is no agreement, then there’s options available to all parties, and that might be more expensive and more painful.”

Asked why the district won’t simply give Betancourt the three months notice, since negotiations have already dragged on for a month, de Beck said: “If someone knows they’re going, what good are they?”

At meetings, Betancourt has given little indication that he would soon leave the district.

“I think, if you look at his behavior in public, it’s been pretty stiff-upper-lip sort of stuff,” de Beck said. “He seems to want to continue to finish out what he’s doing.”

Betancourt declined to comment on the negotiations through a spokesman on Wednesday, and the district said it would not discuss the matter.

The district’s general counsel, Ted Buckley, said Tuesday that he expects the district to release a statement within the next several weeks.

“I suspect the ultimate settlement will be known very soon,” de Beck said.


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