Jose Nuñez, the latest district official ensnared in a criminal investigation into the San Mateo Community College District, pleaded not guilty last week to more than a dozen felony charges alleging that he misused public funds and illegally spent district money to support a political candidate.
Nuñez, a 21-year veteran in the district, currently serves as vice chancellor of facilities planning, maintenance and operations. He has since been put on administrative leave during the pending legal matter.
The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office filed 15 felony charges against Nuñez, including embezzlement and perjury charges, accusing him of illegally awarding a contract for a solar project at Cañada College in 2014. He also allegedly failed to report "numerous" gifts he received from vendors spanning more than a decade.
Nuñez also faces felony charges that he had used district resources to support a candidate for the district's board of directors and to support a $2 billion bond measure for capital improvements, both a violation of state education code.
Nuñez appeared in court on Dec. 22 for an arraignment, and pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to the district attorney's office. He remains free on his own recognizance, and will return for another court hearing next week on Jan. 5.
The District Attorney's office has spent more than two years investigating the corruption scandal at the community college district, looking into possible illegal activity by former Chancellor Ron Galatolo, who was fired earlier this year. The district's board of directors has accused Galatolo of misusing public funds for retirement incentives; failing to disclose personal relationships with district vendors; and failing to disclose gifts from contractors ranging from high-end travel to concert tickets.
Prior to Galatolo's dismissal, the district had spent in excess of $200,000 in legal fees directly related to Galatolo's employment. Formal charges have not been filed against Galatolo, making Nuñez the first of the district's top officials to face criminal proceedings in the investigation.
Charges against other staff could come as soon as next month, according to the District Attorney's office.