School Superintendent Charges $11,516 for Meals, Despite Having Large Expense Allowance

In San Diego County, Superintendent Jesus Gandara of the Sweetwater Union High School District receives an $800-a-month allowance for expenses in addition to his $250,000 annual salary and generous benefits. That didn't stop him from using his taxpayer-funded credit card to charge $11,516 in meals from November 2007 through December 2010.

Mr. Gandara charged food items 303 times during that period, averaging 101 meals per year in a district where the school year is a little over 200 days.

The section of the superintendent's contract describing the expense allowance states: "This $800 per month expense allocation shall include reimbursement for meals and other incidental expenses."

On April 8, the district announced that it has canceled Mr. Gandara's credit card, and described the cancellation as "a joint decision" between the superintendent and the school board president.

In his message to parents and students in the district's budget documents, Mr. Gandara states that the district "has continued to face an unprecedented economic challenge," and adds: "To meet these challenges we have taken several steps to ensure that the cuts we've made stay as far away from your child's classroom as possible."

The superintendent's judgment on another issue also has been the subject of recent headlines. On March 23, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported: "Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara hosted a bridal shower for his daughter at a Bonita restaurant this month, inviting contractors who stood to benefit from his decision-making on district business. The invitation, which indicated a money tree would be available, was also extended to employees who work for Gandara."

(Sources: San Diego Union-Tribune, March 23, April 4 and April 8; Sweetwater Union High School District 2010-11 Proposed Budget.)

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