HT Sanchez’s Chilling Effect: Hires Phoenix lawfirm to investigate TUSD Whistleblowers

Delivered in Person

November 25, 2015

The Honorable David C. Bury
United States District Court
Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse
405 West Congress Street, Suite
6170 Tucson, Arizona 85701-5065

Honorable Judge Bury:

I understand and respect that communication to the Court from me should not become standard practice and I apologize for burdening the Court with another communication, in the same capacity as my former letter. My letter to the Court of November 2, 2015 was one in which I offered a minority opinion. I explained that given the current environment, I had no other recourse. The letter presented my viewpoints on recent issues related to magnet schools and a campaign to apparently confuse and agitate parents. I stated that I was hesitant to share information that had been provided to me by individuals who greatly fear retaliation and that I would not reveal any sources.

This weekend I learned, other than from TUSD, that the District had filed Document 1871 on November 20, 2015- informing the Court of an investigation pertaining to my letter to the Court. On November 10, 2015 (attached- A) I was first informed by Mr. Bill Brammer, through a letter to me from him, that his firm would be recommending that my letter be investigated. He did not say under what authority but did say that the matter would be dealt with during the November 10, 2015 board meeting, however, no related action item was on the agenda either to study or as an action item. On November 11, 2015 I responded to Mr. Brammer (attached- B) and reminded him that my communication to the Court was expressing a minority opinion about a civil rights/desegregation case and that I believed that any investigation involving my correspondence was unwarranted and that I viewed it as reprisal for expressing a minority opinion through my letter to the US Federal Court. In response, Mr. Brammer informed me that his law firm would not be engaged in the matter any further, based on the fact that I had informed him that the legal counsel to whom I referred in my letter as attending magnet school meetings was not him or anyone from his firm but rather TUSD Chief Legal Counsel, Julie Tolleson.

On November 12, 2015 I received email correspondence from Ms. Tolleson which included notice that Gordon Lewis of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli out of Phoenix would be handling the investigation regarding my letter. She said that he would obviously define his own parameters but that she thought it was safe to say that the investigation would include evaluating what representations were made by district personnel and whether those were improper and whether district personnel have taken any improper steps to interfere with the plaintiff representatives relationship with their counsel, or undermine the special master, “or however we might want to define it”. She further stated that given that she attended some of the referenced meetings, Mr. Lewis would likely coordinate any interview scheduling needs through the Board office or perhaps directly through relevant departments. The scope of the investigation seems pretty far-reaching.

Your Honor, I submitted my minority report/opinion to the Court and made it clear that what I reported was my viewpoint. I also stated that based on fear of retaliation, I would not reveal any sources. (I gave my word to individuals to maintain confidentiality and I intend to keep my word.)

Mr. Brammer and Ms. Tolleson both chided me in their correspondence for not having “reported” my concerns to the Board or to them. They are ignoring the state of affairs as it is now is within TUSD. They are also ignoring that I will not reveal any sources, as I have stated. I am more emphatic about this today! If I have attracted such “heat,” imagine what parents, staff, students and community members might fear from speaking up. Neither Mr. Brammer nor Ms. Tolleson has indicated to me under what authority they have pursued an investigation or under whose direction they have done so.

I believe that the announced “investigation” sends a chilling message to the entire TUSD community. I also believe that the decision to conduct the investigation is highly suspect and may be in violation of open meeting law. (The decision to move in the direction of investigating my correspondence seems to have been made quickly but it is not clear by whom, when or where, much less how much the investigation will cost.) Additionally, there is no stated or implied authority to conduct the investigation. This situation is yet another pointed example of the climate under which the desegregation case is being managed.

This letter is to inform the Court of what has transpired since my last communication and to assert the fact that I will not take part in any imposed investigation. By informing the Court of the situation, my actions, I hope, will not be interpreted as lack of cooperation but, instead, as my resolve to freely express a minority opinion, without being subjected to intimidating bullying tactics and more than questionable actions around who, when and where the decision was made to investigate my correspondence to the Court.

I once again thank the Court for taking the time to read my correspondence

Sincerely,
Michael Hicks


Attachment A

Via First Class Mail and E-mail

Michael Hicks
Tucson Unified School District
1010 East Tenth Street
Tucson, Arizona 85719
Michael.hicks@tusdl.org


(Article continued below)

Re: Your November 2, 2015 Correspondence to Judge Bury

Dear Mr. Hicks:

We have had an opportunity to review your November 2, 2015 letter to the District Court, which we located online. Did you previously raise these substantial issues with the Governing Board or Dr. Sanchez? Did you provide copies of the letter to counsel for the parties or the Special Master in the desegregation action? I, as counsel for the District in that matter, did not receive a copy. Your letter raises very serious allegations regarding the compliance of other Governing Board members and members of the District’s administration with their USP obligations.

I know in the past anyone who has wanted to bring information to the Court’s attention has sent letters to the District Judge in the desegregation action involving the USP. In this instance I don’t know how the Court may view your letter, as you, by virtue of being a Board member, are a party to the action, represented in that matter by counsel. The Court obviously will determine for itself what to do with the information you have provided.

As a TUSD Board member, perhaps a more productive forum in which to raise many of the issues about the Board’s functioning and the activities of its administrators would be with the Board in a public board meeting where your concerns can be addressed, and Board action taken to rectify any USP compliance issues that may exist. That also would be the forum to discuss and address your concerns about the way in which the Board functions and whether its administrators are implementing Board policies.

We understand the subject matter of your letter will be on the agenda for tonight’s Board meeting, although it does not appear you previously provided your fellow Board members with these assertions to permit the Board to address and, if needed, correct the conduct you describe. To that end, we recommend that your assertions be thoroughly reviewed and that the Board forward them to be investigated thoroughly by an independent third party. As such, we suggest the TUSD Board refer your letter and any investigation of its assertions to the Arizona Attorney General’s office or a similar investigative entity.

We note that your letter suggested “TUSD legal counsel attended the school meetings at which the” actions you described occurred. You also “question the appropriateness of TUSD legal counsel standing by while the administration provides disparaging and untrue comments to” members of the public including “parents (mostly Hispanic class members).” You did not name the TUSD counsel — perhaps you are referring to Julie Tolleson, the District’s General Counsel? Were you present to hear or observe these purportedly false and disparaging statements?

As you are aware, Rusing Lopez & Lizardi is counsel to TUSD in the federal desegregation case, representing the District’s — and your, as a Governing Board member —interests in that case. No lawyer from this firm attended any meeting as you described in your November 2, 2015 letter to Judge Bury, nor “stood by” while anyone representing the District provided anything about the to members of the public. If your information suggests otherwise, I would appreciate it if you would please provide me specific information about which lawyer from this firm was present, where she or he was present and on what date and time so I can follow up. This is a serious, and I believe wholly inaccurate, allegation concerning the reputation of this firm which neither I nor any member of the firm take lightly.

Sincerely,
J. William Brammer, Jr.


Attachment B

Mr. Bill Brammer
Russing, Lopez and Lizardi, P.L.L.C.
Tucson, Arizona 85718

Subject: Your November 10, 2015 Letter to Me Dear Mr. Brammer:

My November 2, 2015 letter to Judge Bury was a communication expressing a minority opinion or minority report about a civil rights/desegregation case. Your role as counsel for the Board has been to take the direction of the superintendent and majority opinion and other opinions have not been reflected. I believe that any investigation involving my correspondence is unwarranted and I view it as reprisal for expressing a minority opinion through my letter to the US Federal Court.

Clearly you are not aware of the dynamics at the Board level during which it has become difficult, if not impossible, to express any opinion that is contrary to the majority and, although I cannot speak for Dr. Mark Stegeman, I have been witness to similar treatment shown to him. Several times I have attempted to express my opinions without success. At this point, frankly, I have no obligation to go through the protocols you mention in your letter. Since you and the Board Majority and the Superintendent have apparently already decided that there is a need to investigate my minority report, I am requesting that I be provided with District legal representation- which I should be able to freely select- to deal with this unnecessary process. You and other counsel would have a conflict in representing me.

Finally, when I addressed the fact that legal counsel was present at the school meetings I described, I was referring to internal counsel- not your firm. As I see it the District has your firm as well as the internal counsel working on the desegregation case expressing the opinion the Superintendent or the Board majority.

Sincerely,
Michael Hicks



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2 comments on “HT Sanchez’s Chilling Effect: Hires Phoenix lawfirm to investigate TUSD Whistleblowers
  1. The move to investigate Mike Hicks and the letter he sent to the Court is totally preposterous! HT Sanchez and his three pocketed Board Members do not even stop their shady retaliation tactics with a Board Member. It validates everything people have been saying about the reprisal that is shown towards anyone who disagrees or challenges the Sanchez regime! It is obvious retaliation towards Mr. Hicks and everyone who has provided any information to him on the matters he covered in his letter. This is an obvious witch hunt led by none other than the Sanchez clan. One thing that Sanchez can do is spin the facts around with cover-ups and lies. But do not be fooled smart people! Mike Hicks sent a letter to the Court, as his minority opinion and made that very clear in his letter. It seems to me that he had nowhere else to go. Could he go to the Board Majority? No! Could he go to the HT directed legal counsel? No! Hicks was brave to do what he has done and despite any differences I may have had with him before- we are here now- and he is standing up to those culprits who are running our TUSD down to the ground.

What do you think?

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