Scam School

by John Washington on December 12, 2017

If there was a school to teach the art of scamming, it might look at lot like the present-day Scottsdale Unified School District.

Before I delve into the more delicious details… SUSD is a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, and the tenth largest school district in the state. SUSD has massive taxing authority. If you are a property owner within SUSD (the boundaries of which aren’t exactly contiguous with the boundaries of the City of Scottsdale), look at your property tax bill.

SUSD has an elected governing board of five members who are supposed to represent you, the taxpayers and beneficiaries of having educated children grow up to be educated members of the community. You, the taxpayers, just voted to tax yourselves another quarter-BILLION dollars to improve outdated SUSD facilities and make a better educational environment for our community’s kids.

Leading our board is president Barbara Perleberg. Within the experience listed on her bio, Barbara claims to have been,

a compliance officer and corporate secretary for a small investment management firm and mutual fund

The professional recruitment firm, Robert Walters, describes “compliance officer” like this:

The role of a compliance officer, sometimes called a compliance manager, is to make sure that a company is conducting its business in full compliance with all national and international laws and regulations that pertain to its particular industry, as well as professional standards, accepted business practices, and internal standards.

There is both an ethical component and a pragmatic component to compliance – a role that is crucial in helping organizations manage risk, maintain a positive reputation, and avoid lawsuits.

Board vice-president is Pam Kirby, former council member in the Town of Paradise Valley. Presumably, Pam participated in the state-required annual ethics training for that post. In addition, however, Pam lists on her campaign website, experience which includes:

Business Systems Consulting Manager, Arthur Andersen 1985 – 1995

Primary Client List:  Dallas Independent School District

Services: Change Management, Efficiency Studies, Process Improvement, Government Contract Consulting

So the leaders of your SUSD governing board have professional experience directly pertinent to the types of financial irregularities that are currently alleged to have occurred within SUSD. In addition, Pam is an supporter of Arizona governor Doug Ducey and his anti-public education agenda.

I won’t get into the other members of the board for the moment. But the motivations of these two Birdwell Boosters are clearly in question. They can’t claim to not understand what’s been going on.

I will, however, tell you that there have been alarming and documented allegations of nepotism, conflicts of interest, history of financial irregularities, and character issues attributed to Pam Kirby’s recruit, Denise Birdwell, to fill the SUSD superintendent’s position vacated by disgraced former sup, David Peterson.

(Birdwell also drew gushingly enthusiastic support of Doug Ducey sycophant and Scottsdale mayor Jim Lane)

The board has had knowledge of these issues beginning in about June or July of this past summer.

I don’t have time or the energy to list out all these allegations against Birdwell. But having just attended an SUSD board meeting Tuesday night in which Birdwell–and her friends and family with which she has populated SUSD admin–got utterly blasted by SUSD parents, taxpayers, teachers, and students.

You should take a moment to watch the public comment portion of the meeting for yourself. Skip ahead about 25 minutes past the preliminaries to the beginning of public comment, before which Perleberg issued a warning that public speakers may be sued for defamation!

I also want to point out that board prez Perleberg took a quick vote before public comment to table the two minor scams on the consent agenda which I identified to the board by email last night (Monday) as violating open meeting law by not including supporting documentation for the board or the public to review before the vote. They didn’t even have dollar values attached! I doubt they’ll be coming back anytime soon, if ever.

These were pretty small potatoes in light of the more salacious allegations you can hear in public comment. But open meeting law violations are a big deal, and typically do not involve a lot of gray area.

And I believe these two items are representative of dozens more outright scams that have occurred during the last two years under Birdwell and Cronies.

Lastly, I’ll point out that I just noticed there’s an executive session noticed for this coming Thursday night, 14 December 2017. On the agenda:

A. Discussion and consultation for legal advice with the attorney or attorneys for the public body pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(3) concerning 1) Arizona School Procurement Code and state law requirements and District policies and practices in connection with retention of architects and other construction related vendors; 2) cooperative purchasing under the Arizona School Procurement Code and state law;and 3) procedures for release of non-confidential information pertaining to a report being prepared concerning District procurement practices.

B. Discussion or consultation with the attorneys of the Board pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(4) in order to consider its position and instruct its attorneys regarding the public body’s position regarding contracts that are the subject of negotiations, or in contemplated litigation regarding architect professional services and construction.

C. Discussion and consideration of the Superintendent’s evaluation pursuant to Governing Board Policy CBI–Evaluation of Superintendent, and A.R.S.§38-431.03(A)(1). (The employee has been notified in writing in accordance with the statutory provision).

D. Discussion or consultation for legal advice regarding Item III. C., above with the attorney or attorneys of the public body, pursuant to A.R.S. §38-431.03(A)(3).

Item C tells me that the board has the opportunity to double-down and reaffirm Birdwell, or they’ll protect their collective posteriors and send her packing. But if the latter, the board will undoubtedly do that with a substantial parting gift in exchange for her not ratting them out.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ton Giller December 13, 2017 at 7:12 am

Hats off to John Washington for articulating the pervasive corruption on the SUSD Governing Board and current Administration. The Koch Bros have been actively populating school boards across the country since 2009. SUSD appears to be a poster child for this effort since the AZ Legislature is dominated by ALEC loving corrupt legislators like Debbie Lesko, sponsor of SB1431, which raids public school funds for use in private and even religious schools. Save Our Schools valiantly collected more than 110,000 signatures of AZ voters to put that disgraceful bill on the ballot (Vote NO on PROP 305)!
There are two SUSD governing board seats up for grabs in November 2018. I would like the entire board to be summarily dismissed and replaced by people who see the importance of great public schools. Please let me know if you’d like to run!

Reply

Mark Pabst December 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

Hi Tom,
Just curious, why are you so against giving us low-income parents so many choices in how to educate our kids?
-Mark

Reply

John Washington December 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Pablum ad populum

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Mike Norton December 13, 2017 at 8:10 am

While Perleberg and Hartmann gushed praise of Laura Smith, Pam Kirby was notably silent. Unlike her – unless – she has finally realized how outrageously preposterous it is for her to think that she can run for any future office if she continues to support the clown show that dominates SUSD today.

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Loyd Eskildson December 13, 2017 at 8:12 am

John Washington is to be commended for his clarity, objectivity, and forcefulness. SUSD is fortunate to be populated by individuals like John.

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Laura Peterson December 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

I tried to play the video, but it says it is “unavailable.” Did they take it down?

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John Washington December 14, 2017 at 8:17 am

I fixed it, Laura, thanks for pointing it out. I was writing as the meeting was still ongoing, and I had linked to the live stream; which expired sometime after the meeting concluded.

Reply

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