Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee Cortez Quinn walked into Sacramento Superior Court on Wednesday morning with his lawyer and a minister.
Quinn, 46, was arraigned on felony charges after he allegedly falsified his paternity test and accepted illegal gifts from a district employee. Quinn did not enter a plea, and attorney Vincent Maher asked the judge to continue the hearing until Jan. 7 so he could go through “voluminous discovery” in the case.
Co-defendant Andre Pearson, 36, stood shoulder to shoulder with Quinn while Judge Gary Ransom read the charges against them. Pearson, a Comprehensive Medical Inc. employee who was responsible for collecting a DNA swab from Quinn, stands accused of conspiring to falsify the trustee’s paternity test.
Quinn used the test result in court to deny paternity, prosecutors said, and claimed under penalty of perjury that there weren’t any irregularities in the paternity testing.
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The county’s case against the men is based on DNA collected from a crumpled paper towel fished out of a wastebasket during a school board meeting in August. A criminal investigator followed Quinn into a public bathroom and waited for the trustee to wash his hands before collecting the evidence.
Television cameras and journalists filled the jury box as Quinn and Pearson solemnly stood to face the judge, hands crossed in front of them. Ransom read 18 charges – 13 felonies and five misdemeanors – against Quinn and three felony charges against Pearson. Neither man commented after the hearing.
Prosecutors also say that Quinn borrowed more than $50,000 and received $4,000 in gifts from Sherilene Chycoski, who has filed a paternity suit against him. It is illegal for school board members to borrow money from district employees.
Quinn was arrested Nov. 5 in the parking lot of Foothill High School after a board meeting. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment on the felony offenses and an additional six months in the county jail for each misdemeanor. He was released the next day on $25,000 bail.
Pearson was arrested Nov. 6 on suspicion of conspiring to falsify evidence. He was released on $15,000 bail. He did not bring an attorney Wednesday, but told the court he could afford to hire his own.
The day after his release from jail, Quinn showed up at a hastily called school board meeting and announced he would take a 90-day leave of absence from the board in “the best interest of the school district.” His fellow trustees voted that night to ask for Quinn’s resignation at the next school board meeting set for Nov. 19.
There isn’t much else they can do. A school board member cannot be removed by the board unless he is convicted of a crime, according to Sacramento County elections officials.
Del Paso Heights Community Association members Greg Jefferson and Debra Cummings, who regularly attend Twin Rivers school board meetings, watched the court proceedings Wednesday. Jefferson said they came to listen and bring back the facts to their association, which is in the school district’s boundaries.
Cummings said that parents in the school district plan to circulate a petition asking Quinn to resign from the board.
“We want to make sure he is stepping down, and not just for the 90 days,” she said on behalf of her neighborhood association.
Quinn has served on the Twin Rivers board since 2007 and was board president in 2012-13. He earns $750 a month as a trustee. He worked as a longtime aide to Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, in the Legislature and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. They parted ways in 2012 under a “mutual agreement” as Quinn was being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
In February, the FPPC fined Quinn $14,000 for illegally accepting the loans and for not reporting them on financial disclosure forms required in his job as district director for Dickinson and as an elected school board member.
Trustee Rebecca Sandoval in April called for a censure of Quinn and for his removal as school board president, but was unable to garner enough support from the rest of the board.