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Two school board members charged with bribery in Merced County

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Arrest warrants were issued on Monday for two Merced County School Board Members accused of bribery.

Its a case the D.A.'s office says it’s been investigating for 10 months

It was a contract to expand a Los Banos elementary school, an expansion the school district says it desperately needs. The contract was awarded to a contractor named, Greg Opinski. Now, the D.A.'s office says they have proof that at least one Los Banos School Board Member was bribed to vote for Opinski to get the contract.

Larry Morse II, Merced County District Attorney says, "In the 10 years that I've been a district attorney, this is the first case of public corruption that I've ever seen and in the 20 years I've been in the district attorney's office, I cannot remember a case of this nature."

Morse says back in October, Los Banos school board member Dominic Falasco came to him saying he'd been asked to take a bribe to vote in favor of contractor Greg Opinski winning a more than $541,000 construction project to build more classrooms at Mercey Springs Elementary School in Los Banos.

Morse said, "We are grateful to Mr. Falasco for doing what an ethical public official should do in such a situation. He could've simply rejected the offer but he was righteously offended that anyone would use their position on a school board to engage in graft."

For 10 months Falasco has been working with the D.A. in recording meetings and conversations between Los Banos School Board Member Tommy Jones and Merced Unified School Board Member and contractor Greg Opinski.

Morse said, "Cash payments were ultimately made to Mr. Falasco. In furtherance of the investigation and with instruction of the district attorney's office. On July 26, 2016 a 4-3 vote with the Los Banos school board, Falasco did cast the deciding vote which awarded the construction contract to Opinski."

On Monday morning arrest warrants were issued for Jones and Opinski on several charges including bribery.

Morse said, "Holding any elected office especially one that is responsible for our children's education is a sacred trust. to use that position to line one’s pockets is an affront to democratic government and violates our most basic obligation to those we serve."

If convicted, Opinski could face up to seven years in prison. Jones could face five years.

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