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Sweetwater Union High School District residents thought they were getting a clean slate this November.

The final convictions were handed out in June following a corruption scandal that left the Sweetwater Union High School District with only one elected board member.

Turns out, at least one of the convicted board members will once again turn up on voters’ ballots.

Former board president Jim Cartmill filed earlier this month for a spot on the November ballot. Cartmill is running for a seat representing District 3, which includes schools on the east side of Chula Vista.

Former trustee Bertha Lopez, one of 18 officials convicted in connection with the scandal, said at a hearing last week that she plans to run for re-election but has not yet filed the official paperwork, according to the Registrar of Voters.

So, is it really that easy for two officials convicted of on-the-job misconduct to try and reclaim their positions? Yes, it turns out. That’s because the prospect of running for re-election was built into their sentences.

Both Cartmill and Lopez were charged with bribery in a pay-to-play scandal that has been reverberating throughout the South Bay for years. Each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of accepting gifts over the limits set by the Fair Political Practice Commission.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Ana Espana initially ruled that Cartmill and Lopez could continue to serve in their elected positions until the end of their respective terms  but later reversed that based on a California code that suspends public officials from office after they’ve entered a guilty plea.

At Cartmill’s sentencing, the judge ruled he could run for re-election. Espana said she believed Cartmill, who served as a trustee for 24 years, was one of “the least culpable offenders” in the scandal.

“I will let the voters of the South Bay community decide whether or not they want Mr. Cartmill to continue to represent them in elective office,” Espana said, according to U-T San Diego.

Cartmill was sentenced in June to three years’ probation, 40 hours community service and just under $5,000 in fines.

The scandal and subsequent convictions left the large high school district with four empty school board seats. The lone remaining member, John McCann, will be termed out of his seat and has moved forward in a bid for City Council.

Bianca Bruno

Bianca Bruno is Voice of San Diego's News Literacy program manager. She works with Chula Vista residents, promoting equal access to news through civic...

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