TSON News | TUSD gets hit with another Open Meeting Law violation: Attempted Coup De Todd?

TUSD gets hit with another Open Meeting Law violation: Attempted Coup De Todd?

Today’s ADI has the following story regarding yet another Open Meeting Law violation by TUSD board members. For those who have been following the lack of action by our Attorney General, for Mark Brnovich to actually follow-up when the law is broken means that infraction must have been really obvious.

On March 22, Tucson Unified School District attorney, Todd Jaeger was notified by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office that the District had once again been hit with an Open Meeting Law violation. The complaint, filed by education activist Richard Hernandez, centered around the actions of Board members Kristel Foster, Adelita Grijalva, and Mark Stegeman.

The District has been the subject of multiple Open Meeting Law violation complaints, and just recently the Board was forced to undergo training on the subject as part of a settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s Office.

via Grijalva, Foster Ambush Subject Of TUSD AZ AG Open Meeting Law Complaint

Nearly two decades, just one week before the last century came to an end on December 22nd, 1999, Tucson’s much-missed journalist Chris Limberis wrote the following article in the Tucson Weekly entitled Coup De Todd.

Three Sonorans gets escorted out of TUSD board meeting as Todd Jaeger watches on.

It was a long article, so we include just an excerpt of it below, but in it you can see the same cast of characters, including

  • Todd Jaeger (rumor is that he is a finalist to be Amphi superintendent)
  • Open meetings violations
  • Lack of transparency
  • Silencing of the call to the audience

and more…

WHEN KEN SMITH ventured home to Arkansas last month to help his mother celebrate her 89th birthday, little did he know that his lawyer would be trying to sack him from the Amphitheater Public Schools Governing Board.

With Smith gone, Todd Jaeger — an associate superintendent and Amphi’s chief legal counsel — scurried to Anita Lohr, the soon-to-exit Pima County Schools Superintendent, with the dirt.

(Article continued below)

Smith, following the pioneering election in 1996 of Nancy Young Wright, is the second reformer on a most recalcitrant Board. His upset victory toppled Amphi strongman Mike Bernal. Together, Young Wright and Smith threaten, with erosion that may seem slight, the long-established power base now-outgoing Superintendent Robert “Bubba” Smith has enjoyed with his Board majority.

Despite their regular 3-2 losses, Smith and Young Wright have achieved a great deal. They have forced the district to open up meetings to allow a general call to the audience, an utterly foreign concept to Bernal and the remnants of his regime — Gary Woodard, Richard Scott and Virginia Houston. They have succeeded, with the help of district watchdogs, in forcing the Board and administration out of the closet on other secret dealings, including the money Superintendent Smith and others threw around on parties and gifts. And they have begun to change the course on the district’s horrendous real-estate deals.

“Nancy and I have opened things up too much,” Smith said of the root of the effort to bounce him. “The recall effort (targeting Woodard, Scott and Houston), at least according to the papers, has the numbers, the signatures, to force an election. They’d like to distract from that. And another factor is they have been reported for serious violations in purchasing and the Open Meetings Law. Nancy and I have been successful in opening things that were closed. They don’t like that.”

Last Monday, December 20, Ramona Johnston, spokeswoman for recall effort, said the group turned in more than 5,700 signatures demanding a recall election against all three targets. The minimum number required to force a recall is 5,042.

Jaeger is a former counsel to the TUSD Board and actually seems talented compared to his successor. Jaeger also has carried with him other bad habits from TUSD. Primarily, like other school attorneys, he doesn’t seem to know whom he represents. It is a problem confronting many school districts, whose lawyers think that it is proper to serve multiple masters — elected Board members, administrators and departments. It also is a conflict seen at other political bodies — the Board of Supervisors comes instantly to mind — where counsel tries to represent officials who are at odds or who have different interests.

Stunned that his lawyer would seek to end his short political career, Smith was forced to hire another lawyer. He got Bill Risner, the talented, understated and self-described former “Kentucky hillbilly” who has tangled with Amphi in the past.

Arguing before Judge Kenneth Lee of Pima County Superior Court last week, Risner won approval to compel Amphi to turn over documents that are likely to show that Barbara Smith was not considered an employee. Approval for discovery alone was a defeat for Amphi, which much like TUSD, simply believes it is above the law when it comes to public records.

Read the rest at: Coup De Todd.

Also published on Medium.

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