Tough road leads to GUSD trustee’s resignation

In college I worked at a full-service camera shop. We took in rolls of film (remember those days), ordered up enlargements and sold all kinds of new and used cameras as well as higher-end items like Sony TVs and telescopes. It was a great college job with nice co-workers and customers who were interested in photography.
The owner, a very tall lanky man with gray hair and glasses named Jim, would walk behind us, his sales employees, when we were showing a camera or a lens to a customer, bend down a bit and carefully but clearly whisper,  “Get the money first.” He meant it, and it presented a dilemma.
I worked there for years, others had been there far longer, and, invariably, if Jim were around, you’d get the annoying whispered mantra, “Get the money first.” The irony was that Jim’s place was successful because, save for any newbie who felt intimidated, we didn’t. We all knew how to close a deal, but the staff cared about the customers – the Jim’s Campus Camera community – more than “Get the money first”  and that’s what I was thinking about when the newspaper learned that Francisco Dominguez’s lucrative $120 per hour contract for community outreach with a PR firm hired by the high speed rail authority had been suspended.
I thought of Jim and the college job because his mantra reminded me of how the Board of the South County Collaborative responded a few months ago when accountant John Blaettler, at his moral wit’s ends when the Board chose a “hush-hush” path, went public with embezzlement allegations against Gilroy Unified School District board member Francisco Dominguez. The Board, unfortunately and collectively,  yelled “Get the money first” when they decided not to seek law enforcement’s involvement in determining whether the very serious allegations had merit.
Instead, local attorney and Rotarian Lloyd Lowery was brought in to craft a civil agreement with Dominguez to pay back more than $52,000 and the can was kicked quietly down the road.
Nobody wants to deal with “bad” but the truth is, it’s better to deal with “bad” then to deal with “bad and ugly” down the road. What’s happening right know at Penn State is a prime example.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” is something people who sit on Boards who find themselves in a “bad” situation should remember.
It really wasn’t enough for the South County Collaborative Board to seek restitution in order to make the organization “whole.” That judgment, or I should say, lack of judgment, put the organization before the community. It’s hardly the same on the horrific scale, but the same justification – putting the university and the football program before the community – led to the “bad and ugly” events which are unravelling in No-so-Happy-Valley, Pennsylvania right now.
Doing the right thing is hardly ever taking the easy road.
What non-profit Board involved in community services wants to have the public, which supports its good work with donations, scrutinize the lackadaisical manner in which it handled its finances? What Board members want to have their name in the local newspaper associated with a financial scandal? What Board members want to be interviewed by the District Attorney’s office?
The conversations the Board had behind closed doors under the guidance of Chair Lynn Magruder are understandable – the easy road is alluring.
Fortunately, that’s not the road John Blaettler took. Nor is it the road this newspaper took.
When it surfaced that  Dominguez’s firm had a community outreach consulting contract with a huge firm hired by the California High Speed Rail Authority, we wondered about it. Public Records Act requests for billings and information took a few months and more than a few phone calls. But we persisted and, when we contacted community members whose names were on DZ Consulting’s bills, they said the meetings never happened.
Dominguez, following that story and a strong opinion piece by the newspaper’s Editorial Board which called for him to step down until the District Attorney concluded the investigation, resigned from the GUSD Board Wednesday.
At last, the right thing was done.
It doesn’t take a lot to imagine a quite different scenario, an easy one with just a smidgen of financial pain.
A civil agreement regarding the alleged embezzlement of more than $52,000 is quietly reached between the South County Collaborative and GUSD Trustee Dominguez who, it should be noted, made an unsuccessful attempt to become our state Assembly district representative. 
Dominguez pays the money back relying heavily on his $120 per hour contract associated with the taxpayer funded High Speed Rail Authority. Suspect meeting billings are never questioned.
In a few years, our state Assembly representative, Luis Alejo, moves to the state Senate and, aided by his exposure in his previous Assembly race and a number of political connections, Dominguez runs for state Assembly and wins the seat, moving from the passenger’s slot to powerful driver. New laws, bills, the state budget, it all would be in Francisco Dominguez’s hands.
Perhaps that was the plan. I do not know. I do know that this community should thank John Blaettler, and I do know that this statement written on the Collaborative’s Board’s behalf is wrong: “We consulted three different attorneys and concluded on the basis of their advice that, as board members, our legal and fiduciary obligations superseded our personal feelings of outrage and … that getting the disputed funds returned to the Collaborative was our first obligation.”
The first obligation was to do the right thing, and the Collaborative did not.
Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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