Lawsuit claims Sweetwater Union High School District used funds to hire private eye

SAN DIEGO - As its teachers prepare for a possible strike, a lawsuit accuses the Sweetwater Union High School District of using taxpayer money to spy on people who rub the superintendent the wrong way.

According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by 10News, more than $100,000 taxpayer dollars was used to pay for a private investigator.

The lawsuit alleges the district refused multiple requests for information about how taxpayer dollars were being spent.

Kevin O'Neill, who filed the lawsuit, said the money was requested by district Superintendent Ed Brand. O'Neill said he and others suspect the money was used at Brand's discretion to make people who challenge his policies uncomfortable.

"It is a form of intimidation, I think. I think it's an unnecessary expense, and I don't think it ought to be money that should be given to a school superintendent to use at his will," said O'Neill.

O'Neill said an investigator showed up at the door of a woman who has openly questioned some district policies.

"He sends this investigator out and it shakes her up. She gets worried, she gets concerned," said O'Neill.

Another woman contacted by 10News said she also suspects a person hired by the superintendent is following her.

O'Neill claims it's not just citizens that are being harassed.

He said, "I have heard that some others have been approached by the investigator. I have heard that at least one board member has been approached by the investigator."

10News contacted the district about the lawsuit, and district officials said they could not comment on pending litigation.

O'Neill said it is public money and the people who live in the Sweetwater District deserve to know how it is spent.

"You do it out in the open, and you don't have a problem with it. If you've got to do it in secret, then you've really got to wonder, is it moral or is it right?" said O'Neill.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit, Cory Briggs, is one of three attorneys who launched a campaign last year to remove Bob Filner as San Diego's mayor.

Briggs told 10News reporter Allison Ash that the Sweetwater Union High School District "is a mess."

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