Antonio Perez, a member of the beleaguered Luther Burbank School District Board of Trustees, was arraigned on five felony and four misdemeanor charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court today.
The criminal complaint filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney alleges that in his capacity as a Burbank board member, Perez voted in favor of giving Blach Construction Company millions of dollars in contracts at the same time he was being paid as a subcontractor of Blach.
The charges came after an investigation triggered by the June 2009 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report that identified potential criminal conduct by Perez, who was then president of the board of trustees.
The report, which gave the 102-year-old one-school district an overall grade of F, said the board "has not fulfilled its legal, ethical and financial obligations to the District. The problems with the Board's governing practices are severe and systemic. Without immediate intervention and corrective action, the Grand Jury believes that the Board will continue to demoralize the Luther Burbank School District staff and weaken LBSD performance."
The report also recommended that Perez resign.
He did not and says he has no intention of resigning now, in spite of the criminal charges he is facing.
"Of course I'm going to stay on the board," Perez, 43, said shortly after his court appearance.
"For seven years I've been serving the best interests of my community and I believe I've fervently represented my community and I've done so successfully.
"A lot of the things I do haven't been popular so you make enemies. People are going to throw stones, but what can you do?"
Perez says he plans to fight the charges but in the meantime, "I'm leaving town and going on a little fishing trip with my son."
Perez suggested calling Claudia Leed, who he identified as his attorney. However, Leed said she would make no comments on the case and would not confirm or deny she is representing him.
Blach completed a 10,000-square-foot gym and a two-story classroom on the campus off of W. San Carlos Street in late 2009. The construction was funded by a $9.5 million bond measure passed by the school district voters in 2006.
The complaint alleges that while voting to give Blach the contracts, Perez was paid approximately $163,000 for work on three different Blach projects under the name Perez Woodworking.
The complaint alleges that Perez did not make the conflict of interest public and did not recuse himself from voting on the contracts.
If convicted, Perez faces up to five years and eight months in prison and/or fines of up to $45,000.
Blach faces no charges because "the obligation to disclose and avoid financial conflicts is with the elected officer holder," says Nick Muyo, public information officer for the DA.
Burbank School District has 573 students, serving grades K through 8 and a diverse student body that is approximately 84 percent Hispanic, with English as a second language to close to 70 percent of the pupils.
Perez will next be in court on July 13 at 2 p.m. in Dept. 23, 190 W. Hedding St., San Jose.
Contact Mary Gottschalk at email@example.com.