Fontana School Board Member Leticia Garcia.

Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Created: 10/16/2011 08:53:22 PM PDT

FONTANA – The vice chairwoman of the Fontana Unified School District board has admitted she has been married to a convicted murderer since 2002, but on her application to run for the school board last year, she said she was divorced.

Leticia Garcia said that when her husband, Jason Garcia, was released from California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo on Sept. 30 – after 27 years in prison – it was time to tell the truth.

“In retrospect, I could have handled things differently,” Garcia said in an interview Sunday.

The revelation has caused a stir among some Fontana residents.

Councilman Michael Tahan said that he is concerned about the message young people will take from Garcia’s behavior.

“What kind of role model is this school board giving our youth, our students?” he asked.

“What is the school board doing about it?” he said, adding that the city has worked hard for transparency as it conducts its business.

“This has put all of Fontana under a cloud,” he said.

“She is the vice chair of one of the largest school districts in Southern California. When you are elected, you have to be truthful. Now she is crying out for acceptance of a lie,” Mayor Acquanetta Warren said.

Warren and Garcia have been at odds over several issues between the city and the school district.

Compounding the revelation of her concealed marriage is the appearance that Garcia was romantically involved with San Bernardino attorney Tim Prince while her husband was behind bars.

Prince and Garcia have frequently been seen together at social and political events in Fontana.

Contacted on Sunday evening, Prince said he had been romantically involved with Garcia starting in July 2010 and continuing until recently.

Prince, who has run for several public offices and has held leadership positions in the county’s Democratic party, was active in her campaign for the school board.

Prince said Sunday that for most of their involvement, he thought Garcia was divorced and did not know about her marriage to Jason Garcia.

He declined further comment.

Leticia Garcia would say only that she and Prince were “very close friends” and that their friendship began to fall apart in May.

“I really considered him one of my best friends,” she said.

She said that during her campaign she and Jason Garcia grew apart. She stopped visiting him on weekends and for a time all communication ceased.

“He thought he might be a liability … he was trying to be selfless,” she said.

BarBara Chavez, the chairwoman of the Fontana Unified School District board, said she is taking a wait- and-see attitude about possible action that might result from Garcia’s concealed marriage.

Other board members could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Frank Scialdone, a former Fontana police chief and mayor, said Garcia frequently talks about transparency at meetings “but is secretly married to a guy in prison while she is out gallivanting with a man in Fontana.”

“Where is the transparency? Where is the leadership?” he asked.

Garcia, who was elected to the board in November, said she plans to complete her four-year term.

“I have been and will continue to be a champion for education. … It’s all about the kids,” she said.

Garcia said she met her husband in 2001 while she was researching how the California prison system attempts to rehabilitate young men who receive life sentences but might be released.

After meeting Jason Garcia, Leticia Garcia said she stopped working on the project for a criminology class because she knew she was in love with him.

After their wedding in 2002, she changed her name from Chavez to Garcia.

A big part of her decision to conceal the marriage was because without Jason there, Garcia said she would “would have to spend a lot of time defending myself and people would not understand.”

She chose to keep that part of her life secret from all but her family and a few close friends.

Jason Garcia said he was a member of a Los Angeles gang and he and several gang members went to a party in Santa Ana.

There they had a confrontation with several members of a local gang. Jason Garcia, who was 16 at the time, said he was convicted of fatally shooting one of the Santa Ana gang members. Another Santa Ana gang member was also fatally shot.

While in prison, Garcia completed his GED, earned an associate degree and later a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from San Jose State.

By his choice, he does not live with Garcia full time, instead opting for a live-in program in Los Angeles to help him transition into mainstream society.

Garcia said that after completing that program, in three to six months, he hopes to find work – either paid or unpaid – helping young people leave gang life.