Convicted PSJA superintendent speaks out
Wed, 26 Jan 2011 05:15:30 GMT —
He's a man who grew up in San Juan, led the city as mayor and then the school district as superintendent but now stands convicted in a federal bribery case.
Arturo Guajardo is serving three years probation for crimes committed while sitting at the head of the PSJA Indenpendent School District Board.
Guajardo broke years of silence to speak exclusively with Action 4 News with the intent of warning others in his position about how greed can ruin many lives.
After six years of an FBI investigation and federal court proceedings, Guajardo invited Action 4 News to his home in San Juan where he told Action 4 News that he takes full responsibility for his actions.
It's the same home that was raided by the FBI a few years ago during their investigation about bribes being taken to award construction contracts.
Action 4 News cut straight to the chase in asking Guajardo why he did it.
I don't know," he said. "Possibly, I would have assumed I needed to be with my board members who were my bosses and I shouldn't have. I guess it's a little bit of greed, but I should have not done that."
U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Hinojosa handed down a sentence of three years probation and a $5,000 fine to a man who was making more than $180,000 a year as superintendent when he and several school board members started wheeling and dealing for their own benefit.
Guajardo said Judge Hinojosa didn't hold back in scolding the once well-respected administrator saying he should have been the whistleblower instead of going along with the scheme.
"I recall his words were," Guajardo said. "You could have put a stop to this, you have been a leader for so many years and for you to allow this to happen, you could have stood up to your board members and said this is wrong. And I agree with him. I should've done that."
So what's next for the convicted former superintendent?
Guajardo said he wants to get back into the same school district where his career started and ended in controversy.
"Maybe I can get back into the schools and talk to children," Guajardo said. "I love that. My first job as a principal was as an elementary school principal. I just love children. Hopefully now that the judge has granted me probation, I can get back to the community and get back to the children.
Although this scandal will surely follow Guajardo wherever he goes, he hopes his community can find forgiveness for a man who acknowledges his faults and says he would take it all back if he could.
"If I were given the opportunity, I would do my job the way I did, which I thought I did a very good job as superintendent, but I would certainly not accept any gifts or anything of value from anyone. That's what I would change," said Guajardo.
Without placing blame elsewhere, Guajardo wants people to know how easy it can be to get wrapped up in a bribe, since they don't always come in the form of cash, but they can always come back to haunt you.
According to the indictments, Guajardo and certain school board members accepted cash payments, trips to Las Vegas and tickets to entertainment and sporting events from contractors interested in doing business with the school district.
"They give you things like turkeys for Thanksgiving, wine for Christmas," Guajardo said. "(They) take you to lunch and then it gets to a trip to Vegas and all I want to tell them is say no. This is not part of what a superintendent should be doing or a school board member."