SAN YSIDRO (CBS 8) - Board members of the San Ysidro School District voted unanimously Wednesday night to reject a proposal to pay the criminal defense legal fees of the district's superintendent Manuel Paul.
Paul, along with board vice-president Yolanda Hernandez, are among fifteen South Bay school officials and contractors indicted on corruption charges in an alleged pay-for-play scheme involving lavish dinners, monetary contributions and other gifts in exchange for votes on multi-million dollar school bond construction contracts.
The agenda for Wednesday's hastily-called special board meeting had originally contained two items calling for a vote to allocate $100,000 each for Hernandez and Paul's legal fees.
"The kids should not have to pay," said retired teacher Josie Hamada before the meeting. "The community should not have to pay for his bad choices."
"If he cannot afford an attorney, he can get a public defender!" another outraged community member suggested during the meeting's public comment period.
A couple speakers at Wednesday's meeting defended the accused district leaders.
"All of us are innocent until proven guilty," said district employee Carmen Valenzuela.
Yolanda Hernandez, who said she is innocent, added that she did not believe that taxpayers should have to cover her legal fees.
"Because all this will come from the general fund, I am not in agreement," she told News 8 before the meeting.
Ultimately, the agenda item involving Hernandez's legal fees was withdrawn and did not require a vote.
As for Superintendent Manuel Paul, the board voted to place him on paid administrative leave for 45 days, before voting unanimously to reject the plan to pay his legal fees.
Paul and Hernandez are scheduled to be arraigned on corruption charges on January 30.