Right after ending a five-year tenure as chair of the Santa Clara County GOP, Bob Nuñez landed a new gig as acting superintendent of Evergreen School District. Nuñez, who also serves on the Milpitas City Council, accepted the offer a week before Christmas.

“I told them I’d be happy to help,” Nuñez says. One of his top priorities over the four to five months he plans to spend as interim will be finding a long-term successor to Superintendent Kathy Gomez, who announced her retirement after the election.

Nuñez boasts 40 years in public education. A coalition builder liked by labor, he gets along with veteran trustee Jim Zito, a fellow county Republican Central Committee member who clashed with Gomez.

But Nuñez has some black marks.

The career K-12 official left a SoCal school district amid allegations of misspending—charges he denied. Years later, he left the East Side Union High School District shrouded by similar claims about his spending habits.

While a 2009 audit found nothing illegal, it did show sloppy record-keeping and arguably excessive spending habits. According to the 2,100-page report, Nuñez would routinely charge the cash-strapped district anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 a month on meals, travel and lodging. In 2007, he awarded an out-of-work Cindy Chavez a $79,000 contract that looked suspiciously like a payoff to not challenge then-East Side trustee George Shirakawa in a run for county supervisor.

But Nuñez says none of those issues came up during the closed-session interview last month. “It’s not that they didn’t know about them,” he tells Fly, “but my sense is that those things have been vetted and they realized that there’s nothing there.”

Evergreen Teachers Association President Brian Wheatley, who was recently elected trustee in San Jose Unified, seemed ambivalent about Nuñez’s hire. “As interim, it makes sense,” he says, adding that the board “really just needed somebody with experience to get them through the end of the school year.”

Published by The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

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