Los Banos D.A. investigating two Merced County school board members for corruption

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After a 10-month investigation into the Los Banos School District, two Merced County School Board members are accused of giving bribes.

From spraying graffiti in a high school to the arrest of a board member for drug possession, it's been a tumultuous year for Los Banos Unified School District and on Monday the district attorney's office delivered more bad news.

"In the 20-plus years, I can't remember a case of this nature," Merced County district attorney Larry Mose II said.

Investigators said Greg Opinski and Tommy Jones tried bribing a Los Banos School Board member. The purpose was to secure a contract to expand Mercey Springs Elementary School.

Jones is currently on the school board while Opinski is a contractor and member of the Merced Union High School district.

"Holding any elected office is a sacred trust," Mose said. "To use that position to line one's pockets is an affront to Democratic government."

There have been accusations of corruption for months at board meetings but some families said they never thought people would take advantage of their kids, especially ones who was a former mayor."

"I've always known him to a man of good character, so is this surprising," resident Dr. Nikko Da Paz said. "Yes, it's surprising."

Investigators said Dominic Falasco, a school board member, worked with them to get evidence. He helped record conversations secretly and was ultimately offered money to vote "Yes" for the contract.

"It's a black mark for everybody who holds public office when something like this happens," Mose said.

The Los Banos School District would not comment on the arrests Monday but families said it's unfortunate the accusations may hold back what's truly important for their kids.

"We are getting more children," Da Paz said. "I'm not as much concerned about where the money is coming from, who is doing the building, as long as it's a safe structure."

Merced Union High School District superintendent Alan Peterson issued a statement regarding the incident.

"I am sorry that this issue is taking the focus from the start of a new school year, a hardworking staff, and our educational program. The matter is in the hands of the proper officials and our District is not directly involved.
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