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Jesus Gandara, Ehell’s Father of The Year

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.

Gandara, along with three Sweetwater Union High School District board members who attended the March 5 event, said they saw nothing wrong with inviting district contractors to such an occasion.

When asked about the solicitation of gifts or cash for his daughter, who lives in Texas, Gandara said he was sharing a personal moment with the community he represents.

“Many of them may not know my daughter personally, but they have come to support my family’s happiness,” Gandara said.

To read the rest of the news article, click here.

A reader sent me the link to this news article because it’s such a good example of Etiquette In the News and the public faux pas of the famous.    The quoted experts in business ethics explain the dilemma quite well from a political viewpoint, i.e. wow, this was really dumb because of the perceptions vendors and those in the community can come to.   It has that taint of political graft by only inviting those who stand to gain some favor in exchange for their “gifts”.

From an etiquette perspective, it is beyond gauche to put “Money Tree Available” on the shower invitation but hey, once the line was crossed with Dad hosting his own daughter’s bridal shower,  Dad’s conscience was seared so badly that justifying his  begging for money was the next step down the road to Ehell perdition.

Gandara should be mortified that he advertised his inability to financially undertake his daughter’s wedding by hosting a shower for her.   Instead he deceives himself into thinking “this is for the community” so they can “share” in his family’s happiness.   It appears this “community” consisted of vendors who do business with the district of Sweetwater and was not open to any old taxpaying resident.   And of course we here at Ehell aren’t fooled one iota by that dissembling claim that guests will be all atwitter with the anticipation of  plugging into some “shared joy” by means of coughing up some cash and material goods for someone they have never met.

Oh, there was some joy happening at that “shower” but it wasn’t what one would expect from the usual bridal shower.   One construction company owner was quite transparent as to why he accepted the invitation….he wanted to network with “other important people there”  and as an afterthought said, “… and I went for the daughter.”   Uh huh…sure you did.

The comments section of this news article is filled with statements from people, obviously not members of the community that were invited to attend this lovely shower, who aren’t buying the justifications and actions of their elected officials.    As well they should.   The next election cycle could very well see a few politicians displaced solely for being tacky beyond belief.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michelle April 4, 2011, 9:07 am

    WOW. What an amazingly greedy family. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if everyone had declined and they had to pay for the wedding/reception/honeymoon all by theirselves? I hope admin has the fires under the barbecue spit stoked and ready.

  • Just Laura April 4, 2011, 9:17 am

    Am I the only person who absolutely deplores money trees?
    In addition, I must completely agree with Admin on this one – I can’t imagine worse circumstances for a bridal shower (or any sort of shower). A big “Thank you” to which ever reader supplied this.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson April 4, 2011, 9:21 am

    “The next election cycle could very well see a few politicians displaced solely for being tacky beyond belief.”

    One can only hope. It would certainly be a clean sweep…

  • Jay April 4, 2011, 9:59 am

    Sounds like simple corruption.. I’m not sure etiquitte covers the proper way to solicit bribes.

  • Phoebe161 April 4, 2011, 10:03 am

    Tacky & greedy does not adequately describe this “shower.” I am inclined to add the description of borderline illegal & unethical.

  • Louise April 4, 2011, 10:16 am

    I would have been really ticked off had I been that bride. Don’t turn my wedding into a business opportunity. I wonder if any of these contractors received wedding invitations? What a mess.

  • The Elf April 4, 2011, 10:57 am

    Faux pas aside, that’s probably illegal. In many US governments, there are rules about how much a government employee can accept as a gift from a contractor. Such rules typically extend to non-cash gifts as well. It’s considered a form of corruption.

  • The Elf April 4, 2011, 11:29 am

    I can’t help but think of that wedding scene in The Godfather, when everyone is paying court to Don Corleone and not the couple actually getting married. “Jesus Gandara, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to the wedding shower for your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child.”

  • RMMuir April 4, 2011, 11:36 am

    What exactly is a money tree?

  • Jared Bascomb April 4, 2011, 11:50 am

    Just an FYI, the official in question is a local school district superintendant, and in San Diego County, they’re all appointed officials. I have the feeling we won’t have to wait long until the school board (whose members *are* elected) terminate his contract.

  • AS April 4, 2011, 11:52 am

    I agree with some of the posters – it sounds like etiquette faux pas had crossed to line to being illegal.

    BTW, I wonder what the daughter is feeling.

  • Teapot April 4, 2011, 12:02 pm

    @ Louise-
    I wouldn’t waste any tears on the bride. If she felt that strongly about it, she could have stopped it by simply refusing to appear.

    This story made my blood boil.

  • David April 4, 2011, 12:32 pm

    Incredibly tacky and advertises a spectacular lack of good judgment on the part of the Sweetwater Superintendent and board. If I lived in the area I would be questioning whether these people represent the best interests of the community.

  • Bethany April 4, 2011, 12:38 pm

    The whole episode is disgusting. I’ve kind of had it up to here lately with family members hosting gimmee events for other family members. But unfortunately, it’s not considered a faux pas where I live. In fact, I have been invited to four separate events (housewarming, baby shower, bridal shower, and now – baby shower for baby #2) for the same person by the same family members within the last 18 months. I am so disgusted that I have almost quit socializing with anyone other than immediate family unless absolutely necessary.

  • badkitty April 4, 2011, 1:06 pm

    I am no longer surprised by stories of corrupt officials or tacky behavior on the part of said officials. What will always get me wound up is this idea that by issuing someone an invitation (especially to an event at which they will present you with a gift) you are somehow doing them a favor. Huh? “opportunity” to “share the joy”, what a crock! There’s a reason that formal invitations include phrases like “the pleasure of your company” and “the favor of a reply” – I get that this shining example of humanity wasn’t actually thinking that (except in that he was giving guests a chance to compete for his good opinion, and there’s a word for letting people buy your time and affection) but the fact that he used the line and thought it would get him out of the hot water in which he’s currently poaching is a sad commentary on the general opinion. Ugh. When did an invitation to an ordinary event become a status symbol? And when did we decide that bestowing this precious bit of parchment was equivalent to a nod from the Queen?

  • PermieWriter April 4, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Just Laura, I completely agree with you. I was dumbfounded when, as a teen, I learned about money trees. My relative explained that they were a custom in certain cultures and that we wouldn’t see them catch on because people would understand that they were tacky. *sigh*

  • AMC April 4, 2011, 1:21 pm

    When I got married last year, my father, who is an elected official, wanted to invite the mayor. They work closely together and have a friendly relationship, but I had never even met the man. We had planned a small wedding to keep costs down (DH and I paid for most of it), and consequently chose to invite only those we felt closest too. I had blood relatives I didn’t invite because I barely ever saw them except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. And here my dad wanted me to invite someone I’d never even met before? I told him absolutely not, and he backed down. A wedding is supposed to be about the bride and groom celebrating their love with the people who are most important to them, not about parents rubbing elbows with their colleagues. And certainly shouldn’t be about money-grubbing or networking either! Shame on Gandara!

  • Wink-n-Smile April 4, 2011, 1:47 pm

    Dude, if it’s just about sharing your family with the community, sharing joy, and networking, don’t throw a shower. Just throw a party. Invite whomever you wish, and don’t expect presents.

    Bridal showers are supposed to be for the BRIDE (unlike the wedding, which is about the bride AND groom, and uniting them and their families and friends, hence the wedding party). A bridal shower is NOT about the bride’s parents and their political or business connections. It’s supposed to be a time where she can get nervous and silly and have fun with those (usually women) who are closest to her.

    My advice to the bride would be: save yourself from being used by your father for his business and political gain – he’s surely planning to turn your wedding into his own spectacle. Please just elope, and have small celebrations with your own friends later. There is no limit to the number in intimate dinners you can host at your and your husband’s new home, to celebrate with friends and beloved relatives and show off your wedding pictures from The Wee Kirk On the Strip. And no way, then, can your father use you to network for himself.

  • Vicky April 4, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I have to echo The Elf’s comment: in our school district, we have “Conflict of Interest” regulations that deal with just this type of thing. Anyone in public office, both town office and school administration, cannot engage in behavior that involves the accepting of money or gifts from vendors or potential vendors, parents (yes that means teacher gifts in excess of $50 is not acceptable and must be returned) and others. As past president of the elementary PTO, I even had to abide by these rules and take an online test demonstrating my knowledge of these rules and turn the certificate in to town hall.

    If this superintendent even tried this in our district, he would be fired/forced to resign.

  • Kat April 4, 2011, 2:17 pm

    This reminds me of the Godfather.

  • Enna April 4, 2011, 3:09 pm

    I find the name “Jesus” rather ironic here. This party is done in bad taste.

  • Just Laura April 4, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I remember I went to a wedding once that had a money tree. This was in addition to the bridal shower invites having registry info (not to mention an address where we could send gifts if we were unable to attend), the wedding invites including more registry info, and a money dance on top of it all. So in case I wasn’t already broke on bridesmaid dresses, flights/hotel/rental car, cash to dance with the groom, and the two gifts I’d already brought for the wedding, I was invited to cough up that last $20 I’d been selfishly hording away for myself.

    By the time my wedding came around (3 wks ago), someone asked if I was going to have a money tree, and I responded that I’m not a selfish pig who is too poor to pay for her own wedding. I’m sure that was a rude response, but I was frankly sick of the whole “gimme” mentality associated with marriage these days.

  • MeganAmy April 4, 2011, 4:08 pm

    And then the crowning jewel of all the tackiness is at the end of the article: “He said he does not plan to report the gifts for his daughter on required state economic disclosure forms for public officials.”

    I SEEEE. So these are gifts for his daughter. He doesn’t have to declare them. And then he also doesn’t have to spend as much money on her wedding. He doesn’t care if he keeps his job. The wedding will already be paid for.

    @Just Laura, congrats on your marriage.

  • Allie April 4, 2011, 4:48 pm

    Yes, Enna… no mention of any money tree (or other tacky goings on) at the wedding at Cana, although the host really shouldn’t run out of wine. Then again, perhaps a lot of people showed up who had not RSVP’d.

  • Wink-n-Smile April 4, 2011, 5:04 pm

    My first experience with a money tree was at a work bridal shower. It was the tradition in our office to have a shower if one of our co-workers got married, and we had an offical team to plan it. We would create a card and hand it around for everyone to sign and anyone who wanted to could contribute to the two funds – one for party expenses and one for a shared gift. Individuals were, of course, were allowed to give presents, if they wished, but plenty did not, as they had contributed (even just $1) to the shared group gift and so were not coming “empty-handed.” Even if they only signed the card, and didn’t contribute any money at all, the envelope-passing collection was completely anonymous, and no one ever knew, so no one ever judged. We were all in it together, and that was enough.

    Once the card was finished, we would put together the party based on what money we had raised, and we would buy a shared gift with the gift-fund money. Usually we’d go off a registry, as there was almost always a registry. One time, the co-worker bride didn’t have a registry, so someone on the party team brought in a “money tree” and we folded up the shared-gift money and stuck it on the tree. It was the centerpiece for the table, at the party, and then the bride took it home with her.

    Because the money was being donated, anyway, I didn’t think it was tacky, at the time. I mean, it was going to be that or towels, right?

    However, having a money tree to be filled AT the shower, in addition to presents, just strikes me as really tacky. People see you putting money on the tree, right there, and how much (and it doesn’t look nearly as pretty as our origami dollars). People see you bringing a gift (or not), and basically, it’s a recipe for a whole lot of judginess.

    Although, I think a money DANCE is even worse. Just dance with your guests! Don’t make them pay for it!

  • ashley April 4, 2011, 5:35 pm

    Thats terrible 🙁 How can anyone use their child’s big day (or babyshower) like that for their own gain?

  • David April 4, 2011, 5:49 pm

    @ Teapot;

    Was the bride even in attendance? I didn’t see any mention of that in the article.

  • Jillybean April 4, 2011, 6:37 pm

    80 people attended!? Right there that’s tacky. This would definitely be considered a violation of state ethic’s laws for public officials where I live, with possible result of fines up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison.

    Meanwhile – money trees – sooo tacky. I would have been horrified if anyone had hosted a shower for me with a money tree.

  • Alison April 4, 2011, 8:06 pm

    Yeah, if that wasn’t a solicitation for illegal bribes, it certainly sounded like one.

    Etiquette doesn’t even cover it, that’s criminal.

  • phoenix April 5, 2011, 8:18 am

    The fact that this man thought this was perfectly legit makes me wonder what other shenanigans he gets up to without a second thought…

  • Cat April 5, 2011, 9:31 am

    Typical of our times. What used to be a cause for shame and was hidden and, if discovered, was denied with one hand on the Bible and the other on Mom’s grave, is now broadcast with a broad smile and a toast. Invite your cronies to the bridal shower and pick their pockets! Dad molested his daughters, let’s find a talk show and “discuss”it publically? Let’s go on Jerry Springer and try to discover which of two dozen men is my child’s father. None of those? Well, bring on the next dozen!

    I can understand why people wanted to go into the desert and become hermits. Civilization is too uncivilized for me.

  • Xtina April 5, 2011, 9:36 am

    I can’t believe that somewhere in that county/state, that there isn’t some trouble coming down the pipe for this man. Certainly this violates some kind of ethics code; it is not merely tacky (although it is also that, beyond belief). This seems like it is walking the line of extortion.

    I wonder what the daughter’s take on this is–if she is/was mortified, or she gladly went along with her father’s idea on this and thought only about how “good” the gifts would be. I presume the latter since the party did go forward, which means that she should be pitched right into e-hell with her dad.

  • Teapot April 5, 2011, 10:01 am

    @ David–I noticed that the bride wasn’t mentioned in the article and really wished the writer had put something in it about her. Then again, maybe the proud papa didn’t bother to invite her since it was really all about him anyway!

  • Just Laura April 5, 2011, 10:39 am

    Thank you, MeganAmy.

    Phoenix may be on to something…

  • Michelle P April 6, 2011, 8:06 am

    @Cat, you hit the nail right on the head. It’s like everyone’s business is out for the world to see; no shame anymore!

    Put that elected official out of office!

  • Maryann April 8, 2011, 1:36 am

    I had not heard about this, but it happened here in San Diego county. I was horrified when I read Sweetwater and saw it was our local newspaper’s website. Delightful!

    San Diego is sadly used to some very corrupt politics, especially when it comes to contractors. We’ve had some epic scandals. (Google “sunroad scandal” if you’d like to read something both colorful and scary.)

    Thank you for publishing this and bringing more attention to it.

  • FATHERKNOSEBEST April 8, 2011, 12:55 pm

    My parents were humble hispanic people from Texas. I met this man years ago and knew right away he was not My Texan or My Mexican! Arrogance. Just plain untouchable arrogance! By the way, he was re-appointed by his board members. Who were the ones who attended?
    Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa.

  • SDShelly April 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

    He gets around the corruption rules because he doesn’t have to report gifts given to his adult daughter. Technically, not illegal. According to San Diego news sources he’s paid $250,000 per year plus a $750 per month car allowance plus $800 a month for business related expenses. If he can’t pay for a wedding no-one can. I’m disgusted, and more shady dealings keep coming to light. I hope Sweetwater gets rid of him and fast!

  • Lillie82 April 13, 2011, 4:58 pm

    Of course, a lot here that goes beyond etiquette, but even from an etiquette perspective…we have a lot of stories on this site about brides who take “it’s my day” to a crazy level, but I think this is once instance where the bride can legitimately say that what should be “her event” is being hijacked to be all about her father. And I think that could hold true if he held a party, ostensibly in her honor, but with mostly his political cronies as guests, even if it wasn’t a gift-giving event.

    I was invited to the high school graduation of one of my supervisors’ sons. She invited everybody from her work “team.” I always wondered how her son really felt about that, since we weren’t HIS friends/colleagues. I didn’t know him; don’t know if some of the others did.

  • cciv204 June 21, 2011, 7:26 pm

    i am an employee with the sweetwater union high school, of which mr. gandarra is the superintendant. in the article which was in the san diego union tribune, his defence was that it’s a cultural thing, and that latinos do this all the time. no we do not. my family, who was from a central american nation, would never have asked or expected ANYONE to provide anything to any of our social gatherings, other than their presense. and, believe it or not, this was by far one of the least egregious of his inappropriate/borderline illegal acts commited by mr. gandarra. which is why he was terminated as our superintendant early this morning, at a closed door session that lasted nearly twelve hours. justice was not swift, but it did happen.

  • Jay July 1, 2011, 11:51 am
  • juliet June 2, 2016, 1:59 am

    I looked up Jesus Gandara, 5 years now since the incident posted in EHell, and thought I’d have to fight a lot of other similarly named people and incidents. No, he comes right up!! Jesus Gandra, Superintendent took me right to THIS article!

    Gandara gets out of jail, loses pension
    Former Sweetwater superintendent pleaded guilty to felony in paytoplay
    By Jeff McDonald and Ashly McGlone
    Sept. 4, 2014

    Disgraced former Sweetwater schools Superintendent Jesus Gandara has been forced to forfeit more than $65,000 in retirement benefits accrued during the years he oversaw a widespread pay to play
    culture that landed him behind bars this past June.

    Gandara, who was released from San Diego County jail last week but remains under county jurisdiction until January, became ineligible for state retirement benefits April 4, the day he pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony conspiracy.

    Gandara, 57, admitted to taking $4,500 in gifts from contractor Rene Flores in 2008 — more than 10 times the $420 amount allowed under state law. Contractor purchases for Gandara included drinks at the Hotel del Coronado, “Jersey Boys” show tickets, a $1,700 meal at Morton’s steakhouse and a Dumbledore Halloween costume rental.

    Gandara failed to report the gifts on required state disclosure forms.

    According to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, Gandara contributed $86,000 of his own money after he entered the system on Jan. 1, 2007. Under California law, that money is due to be returned to him.

    But new state legislation forbids pensioners convicted of job related crimes from accruing retirement benefits after the criminal misconduct occurred.

    In Gandara’s case, that means his pension will not vest, and he will be denied $66,298 in benefits that he built up between 2007 and 2014.

    “After offsetting benefits from contributions, he will be entitled to receive a gross amount of $20,430.93,” spokesman Ricardo Duran said in an email Thursday. “He can get it as a cash payment with taxes withheld or he can get it as a rollover without tax deduction, if he has a California nongovernmental
    benefit plan to receive this. The offer to elect how the payment is made is up to him.”

    Not only has Gandara forfeited his Sweetwater pension, he will be ineligible to reenter the California State Teachers Retirement System as an employee of any district in the state.

    Gandara was sentenced to seven months in county jail on June 27 for his ringleader role in the food and travel gifting scandal reported by UT Watchdog as far back as 2010.

    He also received three years’ probation, a $7,994 fine and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service. In total, the criminal investigation sparked by the Watchdog reports ensnared more than a dozen administrators and contractors and four of the five Sweetwater school board trustees.

    Only one other official, former trustee Gregory Sandoval, was sent to jail? most of the other defendants received fines and probation for their misconduct.

    Gandara was released from jail Aug. 26 but technically remains in the custody of San Diego County.
    According to the Sheriff’s Department, Gandara is living under home detention at an undisclosed South Bay residence. He is required to wear an electronic monitor at all times and call his caseworker twice a week.

    “He cannot leave his home unless approved,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said. “For instance, if he needs groceries he will call his case worker and ask permission and give a time of return when he will check in.”

    Sandoval was released from physical custody July 11 and also remains under the same house arrest
    conditions until December, Caldwell said.

    Gandara is scheduled for formal release in late January, when his seven month term expires. At that time, he will be eligible to return to his native Texas, where he relocated after he was fired in June 2011.