La prensa

CV Council Appointment Could Create Other Vacancies

Chula Vista City Council
Author: La Prensa
Created: 19 March, 2024
Updated: 20 March, 2024
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6 min read

By Arturo Castañares
Editor-at-Large

A school board member already running for a community college board seat has now applied to fill a vacancy on the Chula Vista City Council which could cause a domino effect of vacancies on two local school boards.

Nick Segura, Jr., who currently serves on the Sweetwater Union High School District board, is one of eight individuals who applied to fill the vacancy created when Chula Vista City Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas resigned after she was indicted on eight felony counts of fraud and theft. 

Nick Segura, Jr.
Nick Segura, Jr.
 

Cardenas pleaded guilty to two felonies last month and is facing up to a year in jail when she is sentenced in August. 

Segura was already running for a seat on the Southwestern College governing board in the November election that coincides with the end of his second and final term on the high school district board.

Segura SWC 410

But if Segura were to be appointed to the vacancy by the current City Council members he would abandon his high school district board seat immediately to serve on the City Council through the end of the year. Two candidates are already running in the runoff election to win a full four-year term to replace Cardenas.

Councilmembers receive a salary of more than $5,000 per month, in addition to health benefits and a car allowance, plus one full-time staff member. 

Segura’s resignation from the Sweetwater district school board would create an immediate vacancy for the remainder of his term through the end of the year. The remaining board members could select someone to fill the vacancy through December. 

Sweetwater district board members receive an $827 monthly stipend, plus health benefits, but not a salary. 

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The leading candidate running to replace Segura is Rudy Lopez, Jr., a current member of the San Ysidro School District board. Lopez is less than halfway through serving his second term on the board of the smallest school district in the county.

Rudy Lopez, Jr.
Rudy Lopez, Jr.

 

If Lopez were appointed to fill Segura’s high school board seat he could run as an incumbent in the November election, giving him a clear advantage over any other candidates who may run against him.

Lopez being appointed to the Sweetwater district board would in turn create a vacancy on the San Ysidro School Board where Lopez was re-elected in November 2022.

The remaining San Ysidro School Board members would be able to appoint someone to fill in for Lopez until the November election where that person could run as the incumbent. 

Although vacancies on city councils and school boards are not uncommon, a complex series of appointments and vacancies connected to the same office is unusual. 

Segura and Lopez share the same political campaign treasurer and consultant, Gareth Maden. Lopez also paid Jesus Cardenas for fundraising services during his 2018 campaign for the San Ysidro School Board.

Any resignation submitted by a school board member of any district in San Diego County must first be filed with the San Diego County Superintendent of Public Schools, Paul Gothold, before the process to fill the seat can be initiated. 

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The other applicants for the City Council vacancy are: Christine Brady, Sharmane Estolano, Megan Moore, Rachel Morineau, Guadalupe Ruiz, John Volland, Daniel Zavala-Soto, 

The City Council will consider finalists for the appointment at its March 26th meeting and then hold another meeting for interviews. 

The Council has a total of 45 days to make an appointment or the seat will remain vacant until December when the winner of the November election is seated. 

Former Councilman Rudy Ramirez and Chula Vista Elementary School District boardmember Cesar Fernandez were the top two of six candidates in the March 5th Primary Election for District 4, including Cardenas who ended up in 5th place. 

Fernandez has come under fire since La Prensa San Diego uncovered that he had lied about a previous felony drug conviction which he falsely maintained was only a misdemeanor.

He was later convicted of a misdemeanor DUI charge where he was driving the wrong way on a street while intoxicated with a BAC of .18 or more than twice the legal limit. 

Chula Vista already has an appointed Councilmember serving on the City Council. 

Alonso Gonzalez was appointed in March 2023 after Councilman Steve Padilla resigned when he won his election to the California State Senate.

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Gonzalez, like anyone appointed to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term, was barred from running for the seat in the upcoming election and will leave the Council in December when the winner of the November election takes office. 

Cardenas was the first Chula Vista City Councilmember to ever resign after being indicted on criminal charges. 

Her resignation came three months after she and her brother, Jesus Cardenas, were indicted by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephen on 12 felony counts of theft and fraud in connection with a fraudulent COVID-era federal government loan they received in 2021. 

At the time they applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan using the names of employees from a cannabis company client, Andrea was on the City Council and Jesus was serving as Chief of Staff to San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn. 

In February, Stephen’s office added another felony count to each sibling for unlawfully claiming unemployment benefits when they were both earning money working on campaigns and consulting for development clients. 

Last month, the siblings agreed to a plea deal with Stephen’s office where they pleaded guilty to two felony counts of grand theft of funds from the PPP fund and the California Unemployment Insurance Fund in exchange for prosecutors agreeing not to seek more than a year in custody. 

Judge Rachel Cano, a former prosecutor herself, will determine their punishment, restitution, and terms of probation during their individual sentencing hearings. 

Jesus Cardenas will be sentenced on March 27th while Andrea Cardenas will be sentenced in late August. 

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