Not a single member of the Ontario-Montclair school board has disclosed their main source of income in a decade, although at least two board members have held jobs in the district’s footprint and were apparently required by law to the state identify their employers, according to a review of financial disclosures.
Trustees only receive approximately $ 5,000 per year in salary and receive medical benefits.
One of the board members, Sonia Alvarado, works as a real estate agent and has sold properties in Ontario every year since 2017, including a townhouse that the school district has paid for its highly paid superintendent.
The board member has consistently supported increases in Salary of Superintendent James Hammond since taking office, including an amendment in 2020 that shifted the number of sick days he could take each year. Hammond got paid $ 719,970 total compensation in 2020, according to new figures released by the State Comptroller’s Office.
Alvarado didn’t join the board until the year after serving as the Superintendent’s real estate agent, but state law requires officials to disclose their employer annually “if the source is found, is doing business, doing business or has done business in the previous two years in the jurisdiction of your agency. Civil servants are also responsible for reporting the income of their spouses if they meet the same criteria, unless it is a government salary.
Alvarado has not listed any source of income since joining the board in 2018.
In an email, she acknowledged the error on her Declarations of Economic Interests, also known as Form 700, and pledged to file changes to correct the errors.
“I understood that I did not need to declare certain sources of income,” she said. “After I got your email, I went through the Form 700 instructions, and it looks like even though my sources of income are unrelated to the district, I have to list them. “
Alvarado’s real estate work involved, at least indirectly, the school district. In late 2017, she helped Hammond sell a townhouse located on Placer Privado. Ontario-Montclair gave Hammond $ 331,000, over the course of a decade, for his purchase of the house and had a lien on the property due to a loan he later forgave. Although Hammond initially bought the property for $ 235,000, the district ended up paying him more for the property due to a line of nearly $ 100,000 credit that Hammond took against the property about a year before persuading the board to pay the remaining principal.
Hammond sold the house for $ 389,000 with help from Alvarado and was not required to repay the money given to him by the district. He then bought a new house, in which he currently lives, near Vista Grande Elementary School for $ 850,000, with Alvarado again being his real estate agent.
In his email, Alvarado said Hammond approached his broker about his house and worked through his broker to help him.
Alvarado had volunteered in the district as a parent for more than 10 years before deciding to run for the board in 2018, she said. Although she occasionally saw Hammond at committee meetings, awards ceremonies and other school functions, she said the superintendent had not suggested that she run for the board, and that he also hadn’t supported, encouraged, discouraged or weighed “in what was a very competitive race for my fiduciary space.
The other members of the board
Likewise, board chair Elvia Rivas has not disclosed her Ontario-based employer in any of the economic interest forms filed since 2011. When she ran for office in 2016, Rivas identified his employer under the name of DAL Global Services, a company operating out of the Ontario International Airport. Her biography on the district’s website also indicates that she works at the airport.
She declined to answer a question asking who her current employer was, but said she believed she had complied with state law in her previous statements, according to an emailed response.
“At the time of my filing, I believe the Form 700 was done correctly,” she said. “However, I will take the time to review the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) requirements in more detail. If a modification is justified, I will not hesitate to modify my forms accordingly.
Two other board members, Flora Martinez and Sarah Galvez, said they had no income to report. Galvez is a graduate student and does not have a job, while Martinez said she worked for the county government. Board member Kristin Brake did not respond to a request for comment.
Company of the Superintendent
Hammond, the superintendent, also did not disclose the company he started in 2020, JM&M Development Corp., which currently owns the deed of his house. Hammond said he had no income from the business in 2020 and was serving as a holding company for the house he bought in Ontario in 2017.
“Because it doesn’t do business with OMSD, I didn’t feel it needed to be listed on my Form 700,” he said. “To date, the only business JM&M has done is to be a vehicle for owning and improving property.”
The FPPC does not require public officials to indicate their primary residence on financial information and has already determined that a trust, if it only exists to hold a primary residence, does not need to be listed. What is less clear is what the law requires when it comes to a legal person. A spokesperson for the FPPC said officials must declare ownership of business entities, but are not required to declare their personal residences as an interest, unless the house generates income, for example through location.
The FPPC’s legal division has not provided advice in the past on personal residences owned by a company, spokesman Jay Wierenga said. A question-and-answer session released by the FPPC in 2020 said that the sole owner of such a business, known as an S corporation, would have to disclose a range of value for the business even if it did not own any assets.
Past issues with FPPC
Ontario-Montclair and its board of directors have clashed with the FPPC in the past. In 2016, the FPPC investigated a complaint against the district for creating 2,500 newsletters featuring each council member. In California, state law prohibits a public body from sending mass direct mail that would benefit elected officials. The newsletter included a quote from Rivas stating, “The board will continue to work hard to support our schools and innovative programs that provide world-class education to all of our students. “
The OMSD narrowly avoided breaking the law simply because it did not send out enough ballots, according to a determination by the FPPC. WHO mailed 44 of them and placed 2,456 copies on school websites for the public to pick up. If the district had sent 200 or more, or sent that many students home, it would have been a violation, the FPPC warned in a letter to Hammond.
Rivas was fined $ 600 in 2014 on three counts of failing to file timely campaign statements in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Brake was warned, but not fined, for failing to file campaign statements in a timely manner in 2018. She corrected the case after being made aware of the FPPC investigation and received a warning official instead.