Open letter to the TUSD Whistleblowers

Three Sonorans note: While I do not know any Whistleblowers personally, I do know they read this website, so here’s the only way I know to get this message to them. Either way, this letter is informative for all and worthy of a read.


 

Dear Whistleblowers,

The below text is a draft copy of an email I sent to an Arizona Daily Star reporter in March 2014. I was not surprised that I have seen nothing that indicates there was any followup. That is not a condemnation of that reporter, anyone who assumes the role of an investigative journalist risks their livelihood. You, Whistleblowers, seem to relish that role, so I am forwarding this text to you. Do with it as you see fit.

Disclaimer: I am a former and future resident of Tucson, but currently live out-of-state. I do however, pay property taxes on a second home within the TUSD tax district, and have three relatives currently attending TUSD elementary, middle, and high schools.

Thank you for your diligent reporting on TUSD activities. The subterfuge and dissembling you report indicate that you may be on to something significant.

I have recently taken an interest in TUSD due to your reporting of statements made by the new TUSD superintendent, H.T. Sanchez, on desegregation and magnet schools. I do not know nor have I anything against Mr. Sanchez, but when I see what appears to be specious reasoning I tend to examine the issues more closely. I have noticed a few things that might prove fruitful under closer examination.

1. There is a discrepancy between two TUSD procurement policy documents, and a discrepancy between both of those documents and the presumed “controlling legal authority” the “Uniform System of Financial Records for Arizona School Districts” published jointly by the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Auditor General. The USFR requires the obtaining of at least three quotations. TUSD policy documents recognize this authority, but do not require the obtaining of at least three quotes, only the lesser standard of soliciting at least three quotations. There is a big difference between “solicit” and “obtain.”

In your 9 March report you wrote “In his email response to the Star on Friday, Sanchez wrote that written scopes of work are used for higher-level bids and that state rules do not require it for purchases under $15,000.” Arizona Revised Statutes authorize, the USFR asserts, and TUSD policy documents acknowledge, that the USFR is the controlling legal authority for school district expenditures. Nowhere in the USFR does the figure $15,000 appear. The key thresholds in the USFR are $10,000, $50,000, and $100,000. The $15,000 figure does appear in TUSD document DJ-R.pdf, but those sections are silent on scopes of work. One has to wonder where the TUSD lawyers came up with that $15,000 figure.

2. The USFR states on page 177 that “procurement files, including quotations received and the district’s basis for contract award,” are public records to be made available for public inspection after the contract is awarded. On 20 February, you reported that Superintendent Sanchez has offered to make available to the Board on a quarterly basis a list of contracts awarded, “including information on…”. This appears to be an offer not of the files themselves, but of summary information. If that is the case, this would be a lesser standard than required by the USFR.

3. Some TUSD board members are using private email domain accounts for official business. Two board members use tusd1.org domains, and three are using gmail.com. As you may be aware, high-level officials in the Federal Government are being criticized by members of congressional oversight committees for allegedly using private email accounts to conduct official business with the intent to avoid Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Even if those suspicions are unfounded, their use gives the perception of unethical, if not illegal, behavior. The TUSD board should consider making it official policy to use only officially provided accounts for official business. This would be in the best interests of all. Should a FOIA request be forthcoming, who would comb through the private email accounts and determine what is a public document and what is not? I would guess that certain board members would be empowered to make that decision themselves, while others would find that TUSD administrators appointed to do the job…. You may find it ironic that according to recent reporting in the Arizona Daily Star, (12 January 2016, UA sexual harassment spotlighted in Congress) a FOIA-obtained document from the University of Arizona about disciplinary matters related to sexual harassment allegations was put into the Congressional Record. That document was supposed to have been confidential. The wife of one of the parties claimed the release was “on purpose.” The toxic atmosphere in TUSD guarantees this type of “accident” and furor will occur. My reading of TUSD policy documents does not reveal how or even if the Office of Public Records or any other entity would or could respond to a public records request directed at board members. The only way to to discover if there is a mechanism in place for this is to try to exercise it. It might turn out that a court-ordered subpoena is the only way to get the desired information.

As an aside, it might be an interesting experiment to use the Public Records Request process to query all board members, H.T. Sanchez, his executive assistant, Karen Bynum, and Awwad, about Center for Reform of School Systems, CRSS, Mincberg, and strategic planning. Link analysis might then be able to uncover back channel communications if anyone is using poor tradecraft.

4. In light of the recent procurements of legal services, it might be useful to revisit the delegation of procurement authority addressed at the December board meeting and ask if it meets all the requirements of the USFR as laid out on page 175 in the following paragraph:

 “1. The governing board may, in a public meeting, delegate procurement authority to a designated district employee or employees. Such delegation must specify the title of each employee; the activity or function authorized; any limits or restrictions on exercise of the delegated task, including the maximum total cost of any procurement; whether the task may be delegated further; duration; and conditions and procedures for modifying and revoking the delegation. The delegation may include the authority to approve a contract award up to an amount predetermined by the governing board.”

5. Update. This item was not in the original email. It concerns potential violations of the state Open Meeting Law (OML). It seems that Sanchez is undertaking actions based on private conversations with individual board members. That would be a violation of the OML.  Additionally in a letter to Mr. Hicks from the Rusing law firm to Mr. Hicks, a distinguished lawyer and former judge prospectively announces an OML violation. So much for legal experience. To see how seriously the Attorney General takes this issue please see how this was handled in Benson.  Mayor and council go through OML training The crime? A councilman stepping down from his seat to speak during the call to the public and mentioning issues that were not on the published agenda.

Another aside. DeConcini is a dirtbag parasite. His law firm should have been dumped years ago.

References and quotes from references. 

http://www.azauditor.gov/ASD/PDF/usfr2.pdf
“Uniform System of Financial Records for Arizona School Districts” published jointly by the Arizona Department of
Education and the Arizona Auditor General.

page 175

“PROCUREMENT

“Guidelines for Written and Oral Price Quotations

“For purchases below the $100,000 threshold, districts must follow these guidelines for written and oral price
quotations. The guidelines are the minimum requirements that districts must follow. Any variations from these
guidelines, such as lower dollar limits or higher levels of required competition, must be reasonable and must be
documented in the district’s governing board minutes as a policy.

“2. The district should obtain written price quotations from at least three vendors for purchases costing at least

$50,000, but not more than $100,000.

vice,

http://www.tusd.k12.az.us/contents/govboard/SectD/DJ.pdf
which was apparently revised on 10 Dec 2013 (DJ – Procurement Policy 12-10-13)

Page 1, third paragraph under subhead “Procurement Threshold Levels” states:


(Article continued below)

“For purchase transactions with an aggregated fiscal year value of at least $50,000, but less than $100,000, 
minimum of three vendors shall be solicited for written price quotations. Documentation must be provided which
shall specify all vendors contacted, their respective contact information and quoted prices and terms, or an
indication of their election to not quote.”

and,

http://www.tusd.k12.az.us/contents/govboard/SectD/DJ-R.pdf
Purchasing Procedures, apparently revised on 30 Jun 2010 (DJ-R-PurchasingProceduresRegulations 6-30-10).

C. Cumulative District purchases from one source costing at least $15,000, but not more than $50,000.

1. Solicit 3 or more written quotations on vendor letterhead. Quotes may be documented on either a Written Quote
Summary (Form A-24), or by vendor letterhead with an attached recommendation as to the selected quote.

In the above paragraph, the first sentence, “Solicit 3 or more written quotations on vendor letterhead.” is ambiguous and poorly written. It could have as many as three meanings, depending on how one parses it.

1. Obtain blank vendor letterheads and use them to solicit 3 or more written quotations.
2. Solicit 3 or more written quotations to be tendered on vendor letterheads.
3. Solicit, and obtain, 3 or more written quotations tendered on vendor letterheads.

The first interpretation is absurd on its face; the second is not consistent with the USFR; and the third, which does great violence to the meaning of the word “solicit” is the only one in compliance with the “Uniform System of Financial Records for Arizona School Districts.”

If the intent of this sentence was the second interpretation, then it is in violation of both the USFR and this section of the DJ – Procurement Policy 12-10-13, on page one:

“Competitive Solicitation Threshold Requirements, Procurement Approval Levels,
After-the Fact Transactions, and Various Procurement Policies

“The Tucson Unified School District No. 1 shall seek competitive bids, proposals or
quotations for all purchases in accordance with the requirements of the appropriate
sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the Arizona State Board of Education
Administrative Rules, and the Uniform System of Financial Records.

“Administrative regulations prescribing purchasing procedures for Tucson Unified School
District No. 1 shall be consistent with this Governing Board Policy and with the
appropriate sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the Arizona State Board of
Education Administrative Code, and the Uniform System of Financial Records. District
Regulation DJ-R, Procurement Procedures, is hereby incorporated into this Board
Policy.”

Page 177

“Procurement files, including quotations received and the district’s basis for contract award, are public records
and must be made available for public inspection after the contract is awarded or procurement is canceled.”

The following are from the Arizona Administrative Code in Title 7 Education, Chapter 2 State Board of Education,

Articles 10 and 11, School District Procurement referenced in usfr2.pdf page 175 paragraph one.
http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_07/7-02.htm

“ARTICLE 10. SCHOOL DISTRICT PROCUREMENT
“IN GENERAL

“R7-2-1001. Definitions
“In this Article, unless the context otherwise requires:

“80. “Solicitation” means an invitation for bids, a request for technical offers, a request for proposals, a
request for quotations or any other invitation or request by which the school district invites a person to
participate in a procurement.”

R7-2-1002. Applicability

“A. This Article applies to every expenditure of public monies, including federal assistance monies, by a school
district as specified in A.R.S. § 15-213(A) for the procurement of all construction, materials and services when
the total procurement cost exceeds the maximum amount specified in A.R.S. § 15-213(A)(1), as adjusted by the State
Board of Education by April 1 of each year, in accordance with A.R.S. § 15-213(F)…”, “…(A.R.S. § 15-271(C)(3)
requires the Auditor General in the Uniform System of Financial Records to prescribe guidelines applicable to
procurement practices for use by school districts for amounts less than those prescribed in A.R.S. § 15-213(A) and
(F), as described in this subsection.)”

http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/15/00213.htm

A.R.S. § 15-213. Procurement practices of school districts and charter schools; definitions

“A. The state board of education shall adopt rules prescribing procurement practices for all school districts in
this state as follows:…” “…The rules shall specify the total cost of a procurement that is subject to
invitations for bids, requests for proposals and requests for clarification, using the aggregate dollar amount
limits for procurements prescribed in section 41-2535.”

[section 41-2535 sets the $100,000 ceiling for application of the “Guidelines for Written and Oral Price Quotations” detailed in the Uniform System of Financial Records.]

“B. After the bids submitted in response to an invitation for bids are opened and the award is made or after the
proposals or qualifications are submitted in response to a request for proposals or a request for qualifications
and the award is made, the governing board shall make available for public inspection all information, all bids,
proposals and qualifications submitted and all findings and other information considered in determining whose bid
conforms to the invitation for bids and will be the most advantageous with respect to price, conformity to the
specifications and other factors or whose proposal or qualifications are to be selected for the award.”

G. The attorney general or county attorney has jurisdiction to enforce this section. The attorney general or
county attorney may seek relief for any violation of this section through an appropriate civil or criminal action
in superior court, including an action to enjoin a threatened or pending violation of this section and including
an action to enforce compliance with any request for documents made by the auditor general pursuant to this
section.



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2 comments on “Open letter to the TUSD Whistleblowers
  1. Our responses to a very important matter, a side-note on some nit-picking and Secrist, again:

    Important Matter:
    We are very humbled by the open letter that was addressed to us, which acknowledges our efforts as TUSD whistleblowers, while also providing detailed evidence about TUSDs’ corrupt procurement violations and open meeting law. We thank the writer for her/his very thoughtful and well researched information. We appreciate the fact that the individual had attempted to expose the issues through the media.

    Of course, we will do as much as we can to inform the proper authorities of these and other violations. We hope that many who have read the open letter to us also follow-up by contacting the Arizona Attorney General by filing a complaint directly with his office.

    Tucson Office
    400 West Congress
    South Building, Suite 315
    Tucson, AZ 85701-1367
    (520) 628-6504
    Fax (520) 628-6530

    Phoenix Office
    1275 West Washington Street
    Phoenix, AZ 85007-2926
    (602) 542-5025
    Fax (602) 542-4085

    Complaint form and process:
    https://www.azag.gov/contact-us

    Open Meeting Law complaint form and process”
    https://www.azag.gov/sites/default/files/sites/all/docs/complaints/new/open_meeting_law_complaint_form-2015.pdf

    As an aside to the nit-picking about our comments on Secrist:
    We have direct and credible information that Marcia Volpe remains mostly in her office. She does seem to have made her way to the cafeteria and we acknowledge this as a mutation to her otherwise hibernated style of management. Her reputation as an administrator at other schools indicates that she is a manager who manages from her office chair, which is not what Secrist needs. We also stand corrected on Mr. Beck’s spelling. Our last letter had several literal “typos” and we apologize. We do want to ask our readers to make some effort in grasping the overall content and not getting lost in minor errors.

    Secrist- back to important matters:
    Secrist is symbolic of what is occurring with middle schools throughout the District. There has been little direction, sloppy to totally absent leadership/oversight, no tangible support and a lot of scape-goating. Mr. Beck has been an asset to Secrist but he is obviously on his own. The Superintendent’s interventions across the District always are contingent on his like, dislike or absent sentiments about the site administrator. A case in point is the horrible mess at Safford (going on 2 years). The problems at Safford are as bad, if not worse than Secrist. Yet, because of Sanchez’ need to make Safford look better than it is because it is a magnet school and because he and the principal obviously entered into some agreement to intentionally lie to staff and parents, the principal is “hands-off.” (Shame on the Safford Principal for selling his losing his integrity to please Sanchez.) The removal of the Secrist Principal only came about because the problems were exposed by the media who got ahold of the report that was written by the group who evaluated the dire situation. Safford should have been scrutinized in the same way. Sanchez’ MO is all about his personal linkages to people and not related to the facts.

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