GPS Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program and Fake Public Records

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board received legal advice in an executive session on August 8, 2017 about appealing the million dollar repayment the State of Arizona demanded after the district miscounted student enrollment. In addition, GPS recently settled two legal actions in which the district did not prevail: one to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation against an employee and another to settle a Special Education case with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. GPS has been down both paths of employee and SpEd student discrimination in the past, and you would think the district would figure out how to stop violating the Law of the Land, but no, this is part of the GPS program for perpetual employment [and enrichment] of their lawyers.

Gilbert Public Schools thinks high-priced GPS lawyer Jennifer N. MacLennan can force Arizona Department of Education (ADE) into retroactively applying a law that isn’t on the books yet. GPS owes ADE nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS for falsifying miscalculating data over three years, a fact which GPS does not dispute. But GPS doesn’t want to pay the money back to ADE. Other Arizona school districts played by the ADE rules.

As Reed Carr explained on social media, GPS is hoping to churn up some sympathy:

What is most frustrating is that this audit came as a direct result of a GPS inquiry asking ADE to define how they were applying the instructional hour requirement. After an internal review that identified a potential risk, GPS asked ADE for its help to ensure compliance. ADE refused to meet with the district and instead initiated this audit.

Question: did anyone tell the GPS Governing Board that former Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told a Hawaii reporter that SHE VOLUNTEERED for the audit that the district now wants to appeal? This could change everything. [Click here if you don’t see the video below]

Westie already covered the background of the ADM Audit, meaning the official report to the Arizona Department of Education as to the number of students enrolled in GPS each year. It hasn’t helped the district at all that Christina Kishimoto regularly blasted the governor and state legislators and ADE because they wouldn’t give her all the money she wanted. Long-term governing board member Jill Humpherys says far worse about the governor and state legislators. But sure, go ahead and pay the lawyer who already acknowledged the law that GPS wants to apply wasn’t in effect when the ADM swindle occurred. Sheeeeesh.

It’s instructive to look at how the Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment racket has operated in just the past few years in ways that lined those legal pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars. It starts with pre-paid legal services in which selected lawyers tell district officials what to do in any number of situations because those district officials can’t manage their way out of a paper bag. Actually, this is a situation where public records show that GPS manufactures evidence to support whatever it is that the superintendent or board wants to support at any given time.

For example, this February 2015 memo about the subject matter of the legal advice during the first semester of 2015 contradicts information that would be given to the board three months later. The report shows pre-paid legal fees pretty much doubled each year between 2011 and 2014. GPS spent a lot of money trying to evade their responsibilities for Special Education and for producing public records. GPS also spent a lot of money asking what the legally permissible minimum was in various situations. We know from GPS history that the lawyers came up with some really *crafty* suggestions. We also know that GPS manufactures public records* when the whim strikes.

Pre-Paid Legal
7/1/11-6/30/12 $63,792.12
7/1/12-6/30/13 $115,401.73
7/1/13-6/30/14 $217,724.99

Look at the same legal costs presented by former superintendent Christina Kishimoto three months later, at the May 26, 2015 board meeting. Hint: the numbers are not anything like those reported above.

Pre-Paid Legal Premium History (premium amount based on prior usage)
2011-12 $74,240.00
2012-13 $71,000.00
2013-14 $89,235.00
2014-15 $127,532.00*
2015-16 $129,441.00

*2014-15 Pre-Paid Legal Coverage was not renewed.  GPS paid hourly rates for legal services 7/1/14-4/30/15 (three quarters) in the amount of $99,476.88.

From the Jun 28, 2016 board meeting:

The District has received the property, liability & casualty insurance premium and pre-paid legal services quote from the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, Inc. for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  The premium for 2016-17 will be $1,700,732 which includes $147,513 for pre-paid legal services.  This is an increase of $70,908 or 4.35%.

A legal fees memo dated February 10, 2017 gives still different numbers for services of GPS lawyers. Frankly, the numbers below don’t make sense and don’t match the amounts reported above, but this is GPS: give the Rubber Stamp Board any kind of BS and they approved whatever was desired.

2012-2013 Usage $209,129.32 Premium $89,235
2013-2014 Usage  $55,654.30  Premium $31,883**
2014-2015 Usage $146,422.27  Premium $147,513.00
2015-2016 Usage $178,905.16  Premium $129,441.00

** Pre-paid legal was only in effect 4/1-7/1/15.

Fast forward one year to Jun 27, 2017, when GPS experienced a huge rate increase because of how much district officials consulted attorneys the previous year. 

The overall premium increase for 2017-2018 for coverage remaining with The Trust (without pre-paid legal) is 6.96%.  The premium for pre-paid legal increased from $147,513 to $196,734 or 33.37%.  The pre-paid legal premium increase is attributed to plan usage during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.  Aggregate annual limit is $300,000.00.

Back to the Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program: you would think that GPS might have learned not to bite the hand that feeds them. However, GPS has a history of making enemies at the ADE and among other school districts by suing over a good deal for enhancing teacher pay that was known as Career Ladder:

The Arizona Career Ladder Program is a performance-based compensation plan that provides incentives to teachers in districts around the state who choose to make career advancements without leaving the classroom or the profession. Twenty-eight of the state’s 200-plus districts participate in the Career Ladder Program. Approximately 31% of the state’s 865,000 students attend schools in Career Ladder districts; approximately 40% of the state’s 43,000 teachers are employed in Career Ladder districts; approximately 70% of eligible teachers participate in the Career Ladder Program.

GPS failed to jump on the bandwagon as the state-wide program began. With the record of success of Career Ladder, GPS said they wanted in on the good deal. ADE told GPS to take a hike. GPS sued, and the whole career ladder program crashed and burned. Other Arizona school districts fumed at the loss of revenue for their teachers that was a direct result of GPS duplicity and stupidity.

A legal victory has ignited a backlash against Gilbert Public Schools … John Wright, president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, said the lawsuit and now the ruling “have disastrous implications” for teachers in Career Ladder districts, including Gilbert’s neighbors, Mesa Public Schools and Chandler Unified School District.

“You have thousands of teachers in these 28 districts including at Mesa Public Schools who are earning performance-based pay, just as the private sector has been calling for,” said Wright, of the Arizona Education Association. “They’ve been earning this for 20 years. It looks as if that pay is no longer going to be available to them.”

With this background, it’s apparent GPS has about a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing on the sympathies of ADE and the other school districts that played by the rules. But citizens won’t know what the high-priced lawyer actually told the board to do. Or how much it will cost. But you know it will hit taxpayers in the wallet.

This is the GPS Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program. Candidates for GPS superintendent would be smart to look into these things about GPS history. It’s the tip of the district’s iceberg of corruption, fraud, waste and abuse of public funds. Sure, it’s all for the kids. [sarcasm]

Big Fat Asterisk: We’ve been pointing out how GPS makes sh*t up just for the fun of it, like the legal costs memo above and the widely disparate costs in the memo and board minutes (which are very important public records). Here’s a recent example of how GPS continues to make sh*t up: an obviously fake *employment contract* for Christina Kishimoto that was included in a GPS public records production in July 2017. Why, GPS???  (The real contracts are here  and here.)

Five-Figure Bonuses for Incompetent GPS District Staffers

Hey, teachers, are you feeling all that awesomeness from the convocation that was supposed to inspire you to achieve greatness for Gilbert Public Schools? Welcome to the real world of GPS where the Office of Talent Management takes care of their own first. The incompetent folks in the GPS Business Office, those who haven’t been able to pay GPS employees properly for the past year and a half since the *new* payroll system was implemented, have been doing very well for themselves, financially speaking. 

It’s going to be a long, dry spell before all GPS employees start seeing their paychecks this year since the GPS payroll geniuses already *forgot* one payroll run. Those same payroll geniuses haven’t been able to figure out pay, tax withholding or any of the tasks associated with running payroll for thousands of employees, but my, oh my, how they have been rewarded with bonuses and stipends and other disgusting schemes to enrich a few White Castle employees favored by GPS Tops Dogs!

The two GPS Top Dogs in the Business Office who screwed things up so spectacularly were Lynne Easton, Business Services Coordinator (who is long gone now), and Lindie Evans, Payroll Supervisor (who is still incompetent). Let’s take a look at public records showing how these two GPS staffers were richly rewarded for their incompetence at a time when teachers and support staffers were being told they could have tiny little percentages of raises because that’s all that GPS could afford. Silly Jilly Humpherys was especially smarmy and smug about how the district was broke when it came to matters of paying teachers and support staff on the front lines of education … at GPS schools.

Here’s how this disgusting *enrichment* scheme proliferated in the bowels of the GPS White Castle. According to her salary documents, Lynne Easton was hired on April 21, 2015, as a Coordinator of Business Services at a salary of $75,842.00. [Certified employees don’t make nearly that much as teachers, but neither do most of the certified folks in the academic divisions at the district office.] Unlike you teachers who are required to *volunteer* before your contract term begins, Lynne Easton was paid $320.01 per day to work five days before her contract began, for a benefit of $1,600.05.

Oh lookie here: Lynne Easton’s pals in the White Castle even paid her BEFORE she worked those days! As the documents show, even though one of the dates she was supposed to work was June 26, 2015, her special pay arrangement was “satisfactorily completed” on June 22, 2015. Support staff, remember this when GPS Top Dogs tell you your paycheck has to be delayed because you might accidentally be paid for a day you didn’t work … seriously, that’s their reason.  BTW, when Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner was hired, GPS also paid her $2,637.13 to work 5 days before her official start date.  Keep that in mind, teachers: some GPS employees are more equal than others, and GPS has never been that into you!

But the big middle finger to all you certified and classified GPS employees who rated bonuses in the 0-1.06% range is this: Lynne Easton got a $12,500.00 bonus for “Visions implementation” when she resigned from GPS after less than a year. She also received vacation days payout, approved by Christina Kishimoto, and you can bet it was for full pay. In their continuing determination to deny producing public records to Westie, the GPS Powers That Be *forgot* to include the email correspondence that was affixed to some of the pay documents … perhaps because those emails are powerful evidence of wrongdoing, such as Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner’s email chain that proved GPS Top Dogs got under the table raises while other employees got the wahmbulance tear-jerker explanation that the district was broke.

Lindie Evans, the person who can’t manage payroll for GPS employees, collected a cool $12,500.00 bonus for screwing up GPS payroll in such spectacular fashion that employees still don’t know if they were paid for all the hours they worked during the 2016-2017 school year. Not only did her incompetence lead to the GPS Great Wage Theft Caper, she managed to make mileage reimbursements for traveling teachers a part of their salary, complete with withholding taxes on those measly mileage checks! She also supervised a GPS payroll *system failure* that screwed up income taxes on top of the other many failures to pay employees properly. Lindie Evans is still on the job, and if you GPS employees ask for details about your pay, she’ll create an Excel spreadsheet and try to baffle you with bull$h*t, because even though the IRS REQUIRES an employer to furnish those details WITH EVERY PAYCHECK, Lindie Evans and GPS can’t do that. She’ll probably get a $20,000.00 bonus this year.

Teachers, how much out-of-pocket money did you spend getting your classroom ready for students? We know it’s a lot … hundreds of dollars or more each year. Wouldn’t you rather have some of that money for your classroom rather than having the district pay for *refreshments* at just about every meeting GPS Top Dogs attend each year? It’s ridiculous that the Food Service division, which is supposed to provide student meals, has been suborned into feeding GPS board members, the district superintendency and campus administrators when they get together for regular meetings. Actually, that in-house catering service might be better than having those meetings catered by various local restaurants, and even holding *official* meetings in those restaurants. But that was not the use voters intended for their tax dollars. It’s not an appropriate expenditure of ANY public funds, but it continues and has become an extravagant embarrassment.

Teachers, how many days did you *volunteer* to work for free in setting up that classroom? We know that if you don’t *volunteer,* you set yourself up to be deemed by GPS administrators as not enthusiastic enough for GPS. In fact, when Jason Martin, the current GPS Executive Director of Elementary Education, was a principal, he stated that two weeks was about right for his teachers to *volunteer* before their contracts began. Otherwise, he said, their colleagues wouldn’t trust them. What a *collaborative* environment! [gag]

In spite of the happy words coming out of the 2017 GPS convocation, GPS has difficulties getting enough teachers. BTW, when GPS hires long-term subs instead of filling teacher positions, the subs  don’t volunteer for weeks, especially not at their lousy rate of pay. Just showing up on a school day is *volunteering* enough for them!

As of July 24, Gilbert Public Schools had 43 vacancies for certified teacher positions and had 2,067 teacher positions total. GPS spokeswoman Irene Mahoney-Paige said 193 teachers left at the end of last school year for retirement or other reasons. Again, special education, math and science positions have been the most difficult to fill. Mahoney-Paige said the district will also utilize long-term substitutes to fill vacancies until a certified teacher becomes available.

Along the same lines of reasoning, Interim Superintendent Suzanne Zentner bragged about having about 50 National Board Certified Teachers in the district. She’s apparently unaware that there used to be more than double that number of NBCTs before GPS became a District of Last Resort. These Top Dogs are unmoored from reality, or at least, they pretend to be when they’re explaining why GPS has lost ten per cent of the student population in recent years. [Hint: it’s not their fault. They seem to really believe that. Sheeeesh.]

GPS employees: are you tired of all the winning yet? Are you slip-sliding away with all the awesome sauce ladled over you … to distract from the fact that you most likely will have great difficulties getting paid all that you are owed for even a portion of the work that you do?

Maybe Westie should run for GPS Superintendent again. 

We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay,
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away.

The Same GPS Top Dogs Collect Under the Table Bonuses, Year After Year

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year, GPS employees! While most of you were not under contract during summer months (we know better than to call it a vacation), there were some GPS Top Dogs making out like bandits. Parents will feel their wallets lightened considerably with increased school lunch costs and student fees while a few denizens of the GPS White Castle line their pockets with taxpayer money, sometimes with the Governing Board’s blessing. Following is a road map for how to profit from the public purse while crying that there’s just not enough money in a public school district. 

Our last post showed how two certain favored GPS Top Dogs were surreptitiously enriched  by being paid the same salary for significantly fewer days of work.  Lo and behold: in their 2015-2016 contracts, other GPS Top Dogs were given the same pay for ten fewer days of work! GPS not only produced various public records in the form of stipend approvals, they gave Westie incontrovertible evidence — public records — that this was done *behind closed doors, under the table, in a smoke-filled room.*

Good old money bag man Teddy Dumlao, who received this secret bonus himself, emailed Suzanne Zentner, then GPS Chief Talent Officer, to authenticate that Christina Kishimoto had authorized this unlawful gift of public money.  He asked, “Would you please confirm if the intent is to keep the contract salary amount for the year the same with less days or are the salary contract amounts supposed to be reduced along with the days?”

Complicit Chief Talent Officer Suzanne Zentner confirmed that Christina Kishimoto issued this edict in a cabinet meeting. Read the April 20, 2015 email chain for yourself: “As discussed in Cabinet, these contract lengths are to be modified in length, not salary.” Now Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner is the darling of the current GPS Governing Board … you have to wonder if the board members know about her evil enabling history.

Note that Teddy Dumlao himself received this secret bonus. So did Susan Cadena, Shawn McIntosh, Missy Udall, Derek Skutnik, Ward Heinemann, Irene Mahoney-Paige, Jon Castelhano, Debbie McCarron and Jason Martin. You can be sure that Marcie Taylor profited, too. Don’t forget that at the same time, Teddy Dumlao was receiving thousands more dollars as a *special* bonus for tuition to get the college degree he didn’t have before being hired at GPS a decade or more ago.

What else was significant about these under the table bonuses? Aha … the GPS governing board had granted all GPS employees a raise of 1.6% for 2015-2016. On top of that, Kishimoto saw to it that folks in her *line of sight management* received extra bonuses, some of which were slipped into consent agenda items. As Westie reported back in June 2015:

The reason for the pay raises, which apparently caught the board by surprise, as Superintendent Christina 7-0 Kishimoto explained, was because these employees were doing more work. So they needed to be paid more. “How dare you question me?” was unspoken, but given the ferocity of the brushback, it was not necessary to say those words out loud.

GPS was at it again in July 2015, with an item on the consent agenda to amend Top Dog employment contracts. Christina Kishimoto claimed it was an administrative error that her nearest and dearest assistant district overlords were denied an $800.00 payment for an annual physical … while other GPS employees couldn’t afford (or were not even eligible for) health care coverage. Yep, the Top Dogs basically got their deductibles covered each year and had GPS cover their annual payments for healthcare.

GPS gave under-the-table bonuses again in 2016: this time GPS Top Dogs were gifted “Travel Stipends” of $3,000.00. This replaced the ordeal of Top Dogs having to submit their mileage records for reimbursement, which is what the IRS requires for tax-free reimbursements of employee travel. The background was that GPS had been illegally giving unreported gifts of $350.00 checks at the end of the school year to 100 administrators. See Westie’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Report #9.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Christina Kishimoto awarded a whole group of district office sycophants the same $3,000.00 bonus that formerly had been restricted to the superintendent and *chief* officers. The newly enriched employees included Barbara Newman, Marcie Taylor, Jason Martin, Jon Castelhano, Missy Udall and Shawn McIntosh. Isn’t it interesting that the same method Christina Kishimoto used for gifting money to the dude with whom she had an *alleged* unprofessional relationship is being used to publicly reward GPS Top Dogs for being just so magnificently awesome?

The current GPS governing board stupidly forgot that *optics* matter when it comes to dispensing public funds to folks who have nefariously endeared themselves to you while most GPS employees are off contract. With GPS Executive Directors Missy Udall and Shawn MacIntosh already profiting from the *more pay for ten less days* shenanigan described above, the GPS board decided to pay them to give up their summer vacation time … at that grossly inflated daily rate of pay and full buy-back. Other GPS employees are limited to a small percentage of their daily rate of pay when and if they are allowed to sell back vacation days.

Current board member comments included how wonderful Missy Udall and Shawn McIntosh were to step up to the extra work that would be required because this same board let former superintendent Christina Kishimoto tootle off to Hawaii on a lark. Now, that new boss Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner would be stepping up to be the temporary superintendent and these magnificent Executive Directors would have to do extra work. Their payoff: more than $10,800.00. It wasn’t the first time Missy Udall profited from the largess of an interim superintendent. [There just isn’t a bucket deep enough to catch all the dripping sarcasm here.]

Keyboard: These folks might be really, really *special* … but they just look like crooks.
Westie: Some of the same *special* employees have been lining their pockets under at least five GPS superintendents and interim superintendents. It won’t stop until there are GPS board members who have the integrity to say, “No more!”  Sheeesh.

It gets worse: a short time later, the board voted to buy out some of Suzanne Zentner’s vacation days so she could be the pretend superintendent for a while. Seriously, governing board president Sheila Rogers said flat-out that this move was to give Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner some more money. Unsaid was that Arizona law prohibits gifts of public funds to anyone, let alone a public officer who is already highly paid.  But Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner will have to work on weekends for a while…. [Yes, we know this level of sarcasm is triggering your gag reflex. Sorry.]

Hey GPS teachers: the handsome reward for Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner, who is now your superintendent and boss, was bestowed at the same meeting where the same board members approved your totally inadequate 1.06% payment. This occurred on June 27, 2017, with unanimous votes for the following agenda items:

8.02 Discussion and potential approval of Dr. Suzanne Zentner as internal GPS District administrator to serve as Interim Superintendent.
8.03 Approval of unused vacation days for Dr. Suzanne Zentner
8.05 Approval of allocation of monies provided pursuant to Session Laws 2017, Chapter 305, Section 33 granting a 1.06% increase in pay for eligible teachers in accordance with the appropriation restrictions and the guidance issued by the Auditor General’s office.

Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner gets big bucks and *eligible* GPS teachers might see enough extra change in their paychecks to afford a cup of Starbucks coffee. Sorry, GPS support staff, you get nothing in this deal. That’s the way it has always been in GPS.

That wasn’t enough for the GPS Governing Board … they are so in love with their slimebucket, they approved another raise for Suzanne Zentner at the July 25, 2017 business meeting. But, as full of transparency as they proclaim themselves to be, they conveniently didn’t include the price tag for their largess in the agenda. And they buried this pay raise in the consent agenda so they wouldn’t have to vote on it in the open, where the public might catch on to their secret bonuses and pay raises for their favorite employees.

What do you suppose the chances are that this board will diminish Suzanne Zentner’s paycheck when a new superintendent takes over? Yeah, not much of a chance, is there?

Sweetheart Paydays for Christina Kishimoto’s Favored Employees

GPS taxpayers have been asking for almost two years about the big bonus that former superintendent Christina Kishimoto allegedly gave to her subordinate who *allegedly* engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her. Westie has been on the hunt, too, but GPS has been bound and determined to NOT give out any information about taxpayer money Christina Kishimoto may have given to Steve Smith, the former GPS former Director of Technology, under the table. The stock reply after GPS turned over evidence of paydays for other GPS employees while adamantly refusing to produce public records for Steve Smith’s sweet(heart) paydays: “All legally disclosable documents within the scope of your request have been provided to you.”* 

With birdies chirping about wedding bells for Christina Kishimoto and Steve Smith in advance of her move to Hawaii, Westie decided to look at how much taxpayer money may have been used to buy Christina Kishimoto a new husband after she kicked her disabled husband to the curb in 2015. We figured the so-called bonuses that were lavished on Steve Smith between the time of Christina Kishimoto’s divorce in July 2015 and Sleazy Steve’s hurried departure from GPS in January 2016 would fill the bill. As always, Westie loves to share.

From the public records that GPS produced in July 2017, Westie connected the dots to figure that Steve Smith’s *alleged* inappropriate relationship with Christina Kishimoto appears to have netted him something like $20,000.00. That’s just traceable income, which most likely was not reported to the IRS tax man. That’s not counting the lavish trips that Sleazy Steve took with  at the same time, same place as Christina Kishimoto, all at taxpayer expense.

Westie had previously connected the dots to a collusion of silence in GPS: Sleazy Steve Smith received a hefty bonus in the form of unapproved promotions and a reduction in the number of days he was required to work for his salary. In other words, the 10-day reduction in his contract days boosted the amount of money that GPS paid him per day. That daily rate of pay becomes important for GPS Top Dogs in various fraudulent schemes that increase the amount of money they take home each year. Elevating an employee’s title to *Executive* also could make that Chosen One eligible for many more days of paid vacation, which GPS Top Dogs regularly cash in for full daily rates, something that lowly teachers and even lowlier support staffers are not allowed to do. It’s all in their Top Dog contracts.

The case of Sleazy Steve Smith’s raises have been discussed in detail in previous Westie posts:

His quasi-board-approved contracts were for “Director of Technology,” but his title was elevated and so was his pay, apparently without board approval. Ditto for former Executive Director of Curriculum, Beth Nickel, who was similarly elevated, according to the same 2015-2016 GPS organizational chart. … Public records available online confirmed that Steve Smith was hired on June 10, 2014 as Director of Technology. The board approved a reorganization of Technology Services on January 27, 2015; Smith’s position remained Director of Technology. Smith’s online resume at LinkedIn, however, indicates he had been Executive Director of Technology since June 2014 when he was hired as a “cabinet member.” The Governing Board did not approve that cabinet position or that title for Smith, according to minutes of board meetings online.

Did you notice that cute difference between Sleazy Steve’s *official* title on his contracts and what he put in his LinkedIn resume? Recall that GPS denied that Jeremy Betts’ LinkedIn resume reflected what was in his personnel file … when it appeared that the hanky-panky about his sweet consulting deal for doing the same thing he did as a GPS employee would become an issue for Westie’s watchdog reports. Even though GPS refuses to produce Sleazy Steve’s pay records, Westie was able to acquire copies of his contracts a long time ago; that’s most likely because Westie wasn’t the only citizen filing FOIA requests for those documents.

By examining Beth Nickel’s pay records, we are able to connect the dots to see how Sleazy Steve Smith’s sweetheart raises and bonuses slid through a corrupt payroll machine. Nickel held the position of Director of Curriculum; she briefly acted as Chief Academic Officer when Kishimoto’s first pick for that slot was rejected by the board on May 27, 2014. Here’s a nugget of GPS history: when Sleazy Steve applied for a job with GPS in the summer of 2014, the position he sought was classroom teacher. His job before joining GPS: classroom teacher. Apparently he was elevated to the Director of Technology job as soon as Christina Kishimoto laid eyes on him  interviewed him, at a salary of $95,598.00.

Nickel received a *differential* raise to $75,144.00 in August 2014, limited to the 2014-2015 school year. But lookie what else happened: on January 26, 2015, she was awarded ANOTHER pay increase, this one retroactive to earlier in the month, approved by Christina Kishimoto. Beth was paid $18,262.66 MORE that school year, for some purpose. In August 2015, Nickel’s salary as *Director of Curriculum* became $92,820.00 for 237 days of work. The dots connect to show that Nickel’s promotions and raises, with the same ersatz title of *Executive Director* on the GPS organizational chart as Sleazy Steve Smith, line up with details about Sleazy Steve’s bonus arrangement described in the infamous *anonymous letter* that roiled the district when Kishimoto’s *alleged* inappropriate relationship became public knowledge.

Beth Nickel was the apparent *beard* hiding Christina Kishimoto’s gifts of public funds to Sleazy Steve Smith. Nickel’s brief financial windfall was cancelled shortly after the gig was up in January 2016 on the Kishimoto-Smith *alleged* inappropriate relationship. In February 2016, Nickel was demoted to a coordinator position and her salary was diminished by more than $14,000.00.

No wonder GPS won’t produce Sleazy Steve’s pay records! Unfortunately, the new board, which Westie hoped would bring a breath of fresh air into the district, has become complicit in the cover-up by refusing to produce requested public records as Arizona law requires. Sad.

You know there are more dots that are connected to these GPS abuses of public funds and public trust … stay tuned!

*Big Fat Asterisk: 

Any hope that the newest GPS board president, Sheila Rogers, would usher in an era of transparency have been dashed. She was fully aware that GPS refused to produce Steve Smith’s W-2 forms for 2015 and then again for 2016, thanks to Westie’s usual procedure of keeping the board president informed of public records requests by email. That procedure has been necessary because GPS has *lost* Westie’s requests and racked up quite a large score in refusing to produce public records for various and nefarious reasons. What’s a member of the public going to do, sue the district for those records? Alas, that didn’t do much to bring sunshine into GPS administration, because the interim superintendent decided to continue fighting a losing battle by throwing up roadblocks to public access of public records before he scurried away in ignominy much like Christina Kishimoto did from Hartford, CT and Gilbert, AZ.

GPS Fraud, Waste & Abuse Report #13: Student Enrollment Fraud

This FW&A Report connects the dots between the million dollar ADE repayment demands and rampant consultant fraud that proliferated in GPS during Christina Kishimoto’s tenure.  There’s been a major turnover in the GPS administration since Kishimoto scurried to Hawaii before this news hit, but in the vacancies left by Kishimoto’s miscreants, GPS continues to promote the same folks who participated in various schemes that reek of fraud. The new GPS governing board members who promised change for the better are perpetuating Einstein’s definition of insanity … doing the same thing, hiring  and promoting the same people who caused problems in the first place, and expecting different results. Keep shoveling and maybe you’ll find that pony!

The scandal currently enveloping the GPS administration is a result of inaccurate enrollment data reported to the state. ADE uses that data to distribute state tax dollars to Arizona school districts because AZ public funds follow the student. You would expect that GPS could properly report student enrollment, but then you also would expect that GPS could pay employees on time and in full. GPS has been unable to do much of anything correctly in the business offices.

Christina Kishimoto’s disdain for following the law was on full display in the fiasco that’s behind the ADE million dollar repayment demand. Her top dogs fell into line and helped with this 2014-2016 atrocity that’s just now coming to light. It’s no wonder the CFO is one of the top dog administrators who left the district at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

We already knew that Kishimoto hired *consultants* to do the jobs of regular employees.  It appears the guy whose official job was to report student attendance to ADE as a high-ranking employee in the GPS White Castle also was generously paid as a consultant to cook the books for GPS. Jeremy Betts, whose consulting company is SERS Consulting, apparently was collecting fees for his company’s services during fiscal year 2015-2016 that appear to be the same work that Betts did in return for his GPS salary. More fraud: GPS was at the same time violating crystal-clear Arizona laws and state procurement rules for school districts.

Recently, GPS actually answered Westie’s emailed question shown below (amazing, right?) with the following statement:

Westie: I requested information about all employees designated as coordinators. I note that Jeremy Betts, whose position description online is “SAIS Technology Coordinator,” was not included in the W-2s or in the contracts that were produced. Please produce the information for Jeremy Betts, whose online resume shows that he was employed by GPS through August 2016.

GPS response: Jeremy Betts’ online resume is incorrect, he does not have a 2015-2016 contract. All other legally disclosable documents within the scope of your request have been provided to you.

In February 2016, Jeremy Betts’ LinkedIn profile states he worked for GPS from 2011 until August 2016. The GPS website today shows Jeremy Betts is still the district’s SAIS Technology Coordinator Business Data Analyst:

GPS website, July 12, 2017

In fact, you can call Jeremy Betts’ phone number today and get his voicemail!


Betts’ LinkedIn profile states SERS Consulting provides “Consulting services for school districts covering enrollment reporting, state compliance standards, financial data analysis, and staff training.” Betts’ GPS job appears to be the same thing, according to the district website.

Here’s where the disgusting odor of fraud emanates.  It appears that immediately after Betts registered his company on May 20, 2015, Betts scored a lucrative consulting contract with GPS for the fiscal year July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, totaling $24,600.00 [it could be more $$$$, but this is the amount Westie documented]:

Acquiring *consulting services* from a full time GPS employee would put Kishimoto and her minions afoul of some strict state laws.  A.R.S. 38-503(C) prohibits public employees from providing their employers with any equipment, material, supplies, or services unless provided under an award or contract let after public competitive bidding. AZ Attorney General guidance states that districts must follow the School District Procurement Rules, regardless of the expenditure amount, when purchasing goods or services from employees: “Following the guidelines for oral or written quotations is not sufficient to comply with the requirements of A.R.S. 38-503(C).”  

It gets worse: the IRS has issued clear guidance about employing independent contractors, whether they’re called consultants or another name, but GPS regularly flouts such rules.

A big red flag for the IRS is when employers pay consultants on a regular basis, such as bi-weekly or monthly, instead of when a consulting project is completed. [Ahem. Take a look at the regular payments under a *blanket purchase order* to SERS Consulting in the vouchers image above.]

Another is paying departing employees as consultants shortly after they leave; those payments have the appearance of being improper parting gifts or rewards. GPS hits all those marks, and more, in what appears to be a pattern and practice of funneling public money to selected recipients.

Lookie who pops up as the recipient of possibly fraudulent GPS consultant payments: Jeff Gadd, the newly named CFO for GPS for the 2017-2018 school year! [Another example of Einstein’s definition of insanity: hiring the same people again and again. Sheeeesh.] Jeff Gadd transferred from being a vendor, or consultant, depending on which GPS report you use, to a lucrative six-figure executive job as the GPS Chief Financial Officer for a one year term on September 2, 2014. Since CFO Thomas Wohlleber’s term began on July 1, 2015, it appears that Betts’s company’s consulting contract was awarded during Gadd’s days at the CFO helm. Dots connected! More insanity, more fraud, more fleecing the taxpayers?

In addition to the fact that fraudulent schemes appear to proliferate in GPS, with some of the same people turning up time and again in running the schemes, there’s a matter of fiduciary responsibility now that the currently serving members of the GPS governing board know about these schemes. Provisions of A.R.S.§35-211 should be applicable in this situation, requiring public employees return any unauthorized payments plus legal interest:

A.R.S.§35-211 When any person who is obligated to approve, audit, allow or pay claims or demands upon the state, approves, audits, allows or pays, or consents to, or connives at, approving, auditing, allowing or paying a claim or demand against the state not authorized by law, such person, and the person in whose favor the claim or demand was made, shall be liable for any funds procured in such manner, plus twenty per cent of such amount and legal interest upon the amount paid from date of payment.

It sure looks like the public is being fleeced while the people entrusted to administer the operation of the school district profit. Elected officials have allowed these conditions to manifest, multiply and mutate into a flagrant scheme of self-enrichment for a favored few public officers and employees. That cannot be tolerated in a public organization whose responsibility is to educate students.

Running off to Hawaii won’t save Christina Kishimoto from the long arm of Arizona law. As for the cloud over Kishimoto’s new job in Hawaii, there’s no umbrella big enough to shield her from what comes next.

You know there’s more to this story. Westie’s next FW&A report will detail another GPS employee’s lucrative consulting contract, illegitimate travel reimbursements and a full year’s pay for a job that appears to have been non-existent. All these gifts of taxpayer money constituted a big, fat wet kiss from Kishimoto to one of her BFFs. Sheeeeeesh.

The Fine Print: Westie’s Fraud, Waste & Abuse Reports chronicle deliberate misuse of authority and public funds, abuse of authority, gifts of public funds and intentional violations of Arizona statutes and administrative rules by Gilbert Public Schools top-level administrators at the behest of superintendent Christina Kishimoto. These  reports come directly from public records, many of which GPS slow-walked and stonewalled in attempts to keep perfidies hidden. Everything in the FW&A Reports has already been reported to state and federal elected officials and enforcement agencies.

Christina Kishimoto’s *National Reputation* Beats Her to Hawaii

Christina Kishimoto FAKE Time CoverChristina Kishimoto, outgoing superintendent of the Gilbert, Arizona public school district, has been feted with attention by news media all over the country, acknowledging that she has indeed acquired the *national reputation* she coveted. The people of Hawaii, where Christina Kishimoto is due to take the helm of their school district, are not pleased by the news … because it’s apparent that Kishimoto knew about a devastating audit and million dollar repayment demand she dumped on her former employer. Question: what did the Hawaii Board of Education know about this explosive development, and when did they know it?

Kishimoto had to know this devastating audit report revealing her mismanagement (and worse) would be released soon after she accepted the job in HawaiiThe audit report, dated May 31, 2017, examined GPS data submitted on Kishimoto’s watch (2014-2016) to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). State funding for Arizona school districts is based on Average Daily Membership, which routine annual audits (by the GPS pet auditors) had been determined to be inaccurate for about the same number of years.

“Auditors determined that the District did not accurately report FTE status for some students, inaccurately reported some students’ enrollment data, and incorrectly reported AOI data for some students, which resulted in the District’s ADM being overstated by 182.23. As a result, the District was overfunded by $962,767.69, which the District must repay to ADE.”

Arizona press quickly picked up the story, which was grabbed by the Associated Press and blasted nationwide. Coverage was included in Hawaii newspapers,  on Hawaii television and even in U.S. News & World Report. The coverage was not flattering for Kishimoto, to say the least, but the news was indeed national!

The Arizona Department of Education is demanding that Gilbert Public Schools repay nearly $1 million after an audit found the district miscalculated its student enrollment and attendance figures for years. Auditors determined the district overcharged the state by $962,767 over a three-year period that ended in fiscal year 2016.

Critics say the audit is a black eye for Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. The report, dated May 31 but released online Monday, comes just weeks after the Hawaii Board of Education selected her to lead that state’s Department of Education as superintendent.

The intrepid journalists who broke this story contacted the Hawaii BOE to ask if the selection committee was aware of the impending audit release when Kishimoto was selected to be the next Hawaii superintendent. As anyone who has ever held a job knows, when your boss has to defend you, it’s not good. Kishimoto’s bosses in Hawaii are defending her six weeks before she even starts the job!

3TV/CBS 5 asked the Hawaii State Department of Education if its selection committee was aware of the audit before hiring Dr. Kishimoto. “Every candidate, including Ms. Kishimoto, was thoroughly vetted during the selection process,” spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz responded by email. “Any questions regarding the Gilbert Public Schools system should be directed to the district.”

In other words, the Hawaii BOE most likely did not know about this audit and the obvious conclusion that Kishimoto was fleeing from the noxious odor before the news of her massive mismanagement in Arizona became public.  Commentary in Hawaii media included:

BoE: We Knew All About Kishimoto, And Picked Her Anyway

Hawaii Island BOE member Pat Bergin, part of the superintendent search committee, said Thursday the board is “very much aware of all the concerns raised” about Kishimoto and “we’ve completely vetted her.” “We’ve researched every single complaint that came through,” Bergin said.

Bruce Voss did respond, saying he hadn’t heard about the audit and had no comment.

There’s much public wariness in Hawaii of high-priced mainland hires who bring baggage from earlier jobs. (Translation: Hawaii political insiders hire someone like her every time they want a short-termer.)

Exactly what our DOE needs! A superintendent who can’t count. All joking aside, the DOE superintendent search committee knew from the get go that Kishimoto had problems involving her leadership at previous jobs and overlooked them. Sad state of affairs involving a public school system that wants to continue with status quo.

In an apparent bid to help Christina Kishimoto save face (and stay gone), GPS claimed the audit was unfair and that the state Dept of Ed was mean to them. It appears the GPS governing board believed ridiculous excuses Kishimoto concocted to cover her ineptitude, with something along the lines of “ADE is mean, I went to them for help and they got mad and audited GPS.” The GPS governing board then went forth and blasted the ADE for being mean. What’s incredible is that the board added claims that since a law is changing soon, GPS should not be held to account for the law that was in effect during the three years covered by the audit:

Carr pointed out that a newly signed state law will soon change how students are counted for funding purposes. “If they applied the new language of this bill, we would not have this issue at all,” he said in an interview.

GPS board clerk Reed Carr’s Facebook *explanation* of why GPS shouldn’t be required to give back money that ADE gave the district after GPS submitted false student data for funding:

What is most frustrating is that this audit came as a direct result of a GPS inquiry asking ADE to define how they were applying the instructional hour requirement. After an internal review that identified a potential risk, GPS asked ADE for its help to ensure compliance. ADE refused to meet with the district and instead initiated this audit.

ADE fired back about the false statements emanating from GPS in those ridiculous excuses:

ADE spokesman Stefan Swiat said Gilbert Public Schools was one of 32 districts audited as part of the agency’s annual review process. He said the district was randomly selected, not targeted. “It’s not like Gilbert is a special case,” he said. GPS had the largest amount owed of any district in this year’s auditing group, but Swiat said a handful of districts have owed more in previous years.

GPS is the state’s fourth-largest district. This year, auditors found that Tucson Unified, the state’s second-largest district, owed the state $46,269 during the same period. An audit of Peoria Unified, the state’s fifth-largest district, determined the state owed the district $7,766.

The new GPS governing board members already have been cutting services for students because families were fleeing the district during Christina Kishimoto’s reign. So what is the GPS governing board going to do to right this floundering ship? Spend tens of thousands more taxpayer dollars for lawyers to formally make the same lame excuses that ADE already shot down in the media!

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted unanimously to appeal an Arizona Department of Education audit that directs it to repay nearly $1 million for erroneous reporting of student enrollment numbers … SB 1156, which goes into effect Aug. 9, “will change the way that the full-time equivalent students’ minutes and hours of instructional time are calculated at the high school level,” said GPS attorney Jennifer N. MacLennan during a special meeting Tuesday. “That new calculation was not in effect at the time this audit has been published.”

ADE already called bullsh!t on this stupid excuse:

We performed an audit over the past three years; the law, the last three years, did not include SB 1156. Even if the SB 1156 was real, and existed at this time, we would have to perform another student calculation.”

No sh!t, Sherlock, the new law wasn’t in effect for 2014-2016. The GPS lawyer’s comments make absolutely no sense. It’s just another example of the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Swindle, a subject for a new Westie post in the next few weeks (even though it’s a long, hot summer in Arizona).

Hawaii BOE, you’re getting a real piece of work in your new superintendent.

Citizens of Gilbert, Arizona: you know there’s much, much more to this story. Westie will publish another Fraud, Waste and Abuse post about Christina Kishimoto’s shenanigans that resulted in false student enrollment reports that were sent to ADE.  We know you can hardly wait!

Christina Kishimoto’s *Artful* Letters of Recommendation for Her New Job

Christina KishimotoAs promised, this post will examine the letters of recommendation Christina Kishimoto submitted to Ray and Associates, and then to the St. Paul school district, with her application to be a school district superintendent. Many Gilbert citizens disbelieved Kishimoto’s claim that she was *invited* to apply for the position of Hawaii superintendent, but it most likely was Ray and Associates who *invited* her to apply … they already had the big bucks contract to find someone for Hawaii, and they had made plenty of money the last time Christina Kishimoto got herself booted out of a district she almost destroyed in the name of reform. Not for the first time, Kishimoto trashed her former employer on her way out for treating her with *disrespect.*  

I think there just needs to be a line drawn in the sand that says that the one thing we’re not going to tolerate as we move forward is disrespect,” Kishimoto added. “They’ve been instances of deep disrespect that even I have experienced, that doesn’t [sic] belong in a public school system.”

It’s tempting to respond to Kishimoto that in order to be respected, you must act like someone who is worthy of respect.  That wasn’t what Kishimoto demonstrated as GPS superintendent; the most glaring of her unprofessional acts was her *alleged* inappropriate relationship with her subordinate … but that’s off topic for today.

Take a look at the letter written by Alex Nardone, Kishimoto’s Chief of Staff, which is dated February 2017.   His admiration for his boss, the gal who rescued him from Hartford when she was run out of town, seemingly knows no bounds. Maybe Nardone’s nose was so brown from his subordinate position in Hartford, he was run out of town, too. Nardone brought a sordid history with egregious conflicts of interests when he followed Kishimoto from Hartford. One example: he lined up for a bonus even though bonuses for senior staff had been prohibited because of a wage freeze for bus drivers. Nonetheless, Kishimoto’s chief of staff had no compunction about lining his pockets until the sh!t hit the fan after the school board got wind of the self-serving scheme:

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has rescinded $38,976 in performance pay to six of her top deputies after the school board raised concerns that such payments would breach a 2011 board order to suspend central office bonuses. The payments, described as “variable pay” bonuses for the 2011-12 year, were scheduled to be issued Oct. 12. They ranged from $6,300 for Chief Advancement Officer Kelvin Roldan to $6,720 for Chief of Staff Alexander Nardone.

It’s interesting that before she became superintendent, Kishimoto received some mighty big bonuses, along with a LOT of other people at the Hartford district offices. $2.7 MILLION DOLLARS, in fact!

Over 97 of the payments were made to paper pushers and individuals working out of the Board’s Central Office at 960 Main Street. Some of those payments should definitely raise eyebrows as to why they deserved to get bonuses for just doing their jobs that they are being paid very well to do:
Alexander Nardone……Chief Operating Officer……….$11,306
Christina Kishimoto……Asst.Superintendent…………..$11,904

What a conflict of interest for someone pretending to give a genuine job reference! At any rate, Kishimoto promised that Nardone’s position in Gilbert Public Schools would be for one year only, and here it is three years later, and he’s finally on his way out. But he took the taxpayers of Gilbert for hundreds of thousands of dollars for brown-nosing Christina Kishimoto once again. This sleaziness makes you wonder if Nardone is taking hula lessons.

Former GPS board member Lily Tram’s letter is less effusive, but no less laden with hypocrisy. Again, look at the date of the letter: February 10, 2017. Kishimoto was plotting her escape from GPS about six months after her three year contract was extended to 2019. It’s really tempting to pull out a red pen and edit Tram’s letter, but we already knew Lily Tram was not especially literate. Tram was, however, famous for giving parents the cold shoulder in her few written communications. Mostly, Tram ignored the proletariat, which contributed greatly to getting tossed off the GPS board in the 2016 election. Lily Tram’s history on the GPS governing board finally led citizens to take control of various scams engineered by Lily Tram:

The GPS community is really, really dissatisfied with this situation: it exposed Kishimoto as operating solo, making decisions and usurping the powers that Arizona law reserves to elected officials, the members of the GPS governing board. The effects on GPS students, parents and taxpayers will be long lasting and expensive … probably long after Kishimoto and her carpetbagger administration high-tail it out of Gilbert, Arizona.

Kathy Tilque’s undated letter of recommendation paints GPS as a failing district before Christina Kishimoto rode in on a white horse to save it.  That’s not quite true: GPS was an *A* rated district and several schools were rated *A+* but you would never know it from Tilque’s rant. The clearest image from Tilque is of a so-called business leader whose ego makes her a legend in her own mind … like her buddy Kishimoto. BTW, be sure to notice that Tilque takes credit for the initiative “to bring business and education together to address workplace readiness issues.” Kishimoto’s various proclamations assert that nothing like that possibly could have happened before she arrived in Gilbert, Arizona. Sheeeeeesh.

Here’s a truer description from outside Gilbert about the situation Tilque deceptively described: 

Highly respected educator Diane Ravitch sums up what’s happening in Gilbert Public Schools: “Education is in crisis because of the calculated effort to turn it into a business with a bottom line. Schools are closed and opened as though they were chain stores, not community institutions.  How did Diane Ravitch know that Christina Kishimoto was nominated by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce as *Business Woman of the Year*? [rhetorical question] It’s not like Christina Kishimoto wasn’t fully and personally participating in that business process – look at what Kishimoto had to do to be named an *honoree* after being nominated by her peers (not that Christina Kishimoto thinks anyone is her equal, but we digress):

To be considered for these awards, men and women are nominated by their peers. Once nominated, they must submit a written questionnaire and participate in a personal interview.

… Of course, a fiasco like Kishimoto’s Great Payday Melee would get most business leaders fired, but hey, it’s for the kids, right? Anything goes in GPS while Christina Kishimoto is superintendent, like thousand dollar lunches for board members and favored staff … at just about every meeting, it appears. After all, corporations can buy lunches for employees and give the CEO an unlimited expense account – why can’t GPS do the same? Oooops, there’s this concept called *public funds* that is at stake in GPS, and the rules are different for public entities. That must distress Christina Kishimoto to no end … not that she pays attention to things like *public policy* or cares that her position is endowed with *public trust.*

Recommendation letter number four, dated February 13, 2017, was written by Julian Trevino,  who unabashedly states he “had the opportunity to collaborate” with Kishimoto in both Hartford and in Gilbert. Of course, Julian Trevino is just another dude whose financial star is hitched to Kishimoto. Go ahead and read the minutes of the February 6, 2017 board retreat; do you think the governing board got their money’s worth ($6,000.00++) of training from this dude Julian Trevino? Trevino had cashed in at Kishimoto’s invitation before:

[Kishimoto] set up a *Board Retreat* to brainwash the three new board members about her reformy ideas. This 2017 meeting featured the same guy [Julian Trevino] who taught the same stuff to the board in 2015 for a total cost of about $18,000.00. Don’t worry, taxpayers, apparently the guy charged only $6,000.00 this year to spend a couple of hours going over reformy stuff; we figure his travel costs will be extra and will appear on the vouchers much later. That way, fewer people will connect the dots, you know.

The Hawaii BOE got themselves an A-number one carpetbagger when they hired Christina Kishimoto. Of course, the Hawaii BOE won’t have a problem unless citizens [again] expose Kishimoto as a fraudster, as happened in Connecticut and Arizona. We’re sure Hawaii public school watchdogs will rise to the task.

Lies Christina Kishimoto Told While Looking for a New Job

Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto, Ed.D.While Westie was on vacation, the Intertubes on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific buzzed about Superintendent Christina Kishimoto going out and getting herself a new job … apparently without telling her then-current employer, the GPS Governing Board. Never fear, citizens of Hawaii! Westie does the due diligence about Christina Kishimoto that your Board of Education may have spurned when they hired this charlatan. The Hawaii BOE won’t have a problem unless citizens [again] expose Kishimoto as a fraudster who cuts and runs before the full extent of the damage she wrought becomes public, as happened in Connecticut and Arizona. We’re sure Hawaii public school watchdogs will rise to the task. 

Backstory: the GPS Governing Board apparently found out about Kishimoto’s treachery when Hawaii media proclaimed that she was a finalist for the job of Hawaii superintendent. When someone who has two more years to go on her employment contract considers herself free to jump ship with no warning, you just know there was mischief afoot. Especially considering that Kishimoto was the author of the infamous hostage clause in GPS employee contracts to reverse the rampage of employee defections (“See, I fixed it!” she exclaimed gleefully).  Citizens in Gilbert, Arizona condemn Kishimoto’s hypocrisy … while they dance in the streets singing “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-ey Goodbye.”

Those of us who have endured Christina Kishimoto’s superintendency knew that evidence would surface about her typically dishonest behavior in her haste to get out of Gilbert before accountability came knocking at the door. Westie’s beloved birdies crowd-sourced public records and hit the jackpot, which we’re happy to share with you folks in Hawaii.

As Christina Kishimoto said to Hawaii media, “her record ‘speaks for itself.’”  It sure does! Here’s a hint for you Hawaii Watchdogs: the “shared vision” Kishimoto touted in her Hawaii interview is the same thing she claimed  when she was hired in Gilbert, Arizona. Apparently, those words have no real meaning to Kishimoto, which is what folks learned … the most important aspect of her superintendency was building her personal *national reputation* and the Hawaii BOE fell for it. Sad.

Kishimoto’s claim that she “reconfigured the financial structure of the district, including transitioning to Infinite Vision — our new finance and staffing system”  deserves scrutiny.  Notice she did not say she did so “successfully,” as she made in other claims on her resume. That system implementation, after more than a year, still isn’t working. Kishimoto blamed others, but the fact of the matter is that even now GPS employees still are not being paid on time for all hours they worked. What started as a Great Payday Melee morphed into a Great Wage Theft Caper under Kishimoto’s *leadership.* Hope you folks who work for the Hawaii BOE are good at tightening your belts when your payday doesn’t arrive! Plenty of GPS employees can share their tips on which bills to pay first when your paycheck is short or missing entirely.

Other matters that don’t appear on Kishimoto’s resume include that GPS lost 10% of total student enrollment during Kishimoto’s tenure, but she continued her extravagant spending and diverted countless thousands of dollars from the classroom. That was the genesis of Westie’s Fraud, Waste & Abuse series.

Let’s examine Christina Kishimoto’s job application and other documents she used to get herself hired through her old pals at Ray and Associates, the folks who garnered yet another major six-figure fee for getting a new job for disgraced candidate Kishimoto. We’re sure Ray and Associates hope to land the contract for finding a new superintendent for Gilbert Public Schools, too. <gag>

First, Christina Kishimoto’s Job Application, which appeared online in conjunction with her application for the superintendent job in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This was just two weeks before Kishimoto wrote to the Hawaii BOE: “Please hire me before they fire me!”

Kishimoto’s lies to the St. Paul folks were ridiculous. Maybe that’s why they rejected Kishimoto as a candidate. First, Kishimoto claimed to be “Founding Board Member, Gilbert Parks and Rec.” Why? Anyone with elementary online search skills could find that list of board members, and it doesn’t include Christina Kishimoto, as the image on the right shows.

Then, Kishimoto answered “No” to the question, “Have you ever been involved, or are you currently involved, or do you anticipate involvement in litigation either as the plaintiff/complainant or defendant/respondent?” Anyone who has read Westie posts knows this is not true, but we’ll work through the details for the benefit of the Hawaii Board of Education. We’ll start with the baggage Kishimoto brought with her to Gilbert, Arizona:

Who would have thought that when Gilbert Public Schools hired Christina Kishimoto as superintendent two years ago, her legal problems from her time as superintendent in Hartford, Connecticut would escalate after she fled to Arizona? Reasonable people would believe that those legal problems most likely distract Kishimoto’s attention from educating students here and now.

We know that due diligence on such an important matter as defending lawsuits requires in-depth searching, so we did some of that for the Hawaii BOE.  At the time that Christina Kishimoto was named Hawaii superintendent, there were three lawsuits pending in Connecticut in which she was a named defendant. There’s no way Christina Kishimoto was not aware of this; in one case, Kishimoto failed to make an appearance until after the plaintiff moved for a default judgment against her. By the way, Hawaii BOE, that case is set for jury selection and trial on January 5, 2018. We’re sure Christina Kishimoto won’t be distracted from her new job during all these legal proceedings. <sarcasm>

Claiming that she has never been a plaintiff is so ridiculous, Westie can hardly stop laughing: the evidence has been online since February 2015! 

** Superintendent Kishimoto Gets Mad, Calls the Police and Goes to Court
More About Superintendent Kishimoto’s Romp through Gilbert Municipal Court
Christina Kishimoto’s Very Bad Day in a Secret Court Hearing

For your convenience, Hawaii BOE, Kishimoto’s court case file is here and her filed petition is here (she was the plaintiff, as it clearly states on the court record and her petition).  To be clear, Christina Kishimoto’s petition was denied, but that does not mean she didn’t file a lawsuit against one or more defendants.

There’s no question that Kishimoto knows that lying on a job application is good and just cause for firing. She attested, “The information in the Application for Employment is true, correct, and complete to the best of my knowledge. I certify that I have answered all questions to the best of my ability and I have not withheld any information that would unfavorably affect my application for employment. I acknowledge that any misrepresentation or omission of any fact in my application, resume, or any other materials, or during any interviews, may be the cause for my rejection from employment or may result in my subsequent dismissal if I am hired.”

To deal with this mess dumped in their laps by feckless Christina Kishimoto, the GPS Governing Board met behind closed doors. That’s because there’s a clause in Kishimoto’s Gilbert employment contract that all of her evaluations and the board’s discussions will be held in executive session … a reaction to the public dressings-down Kishimoto received at the end of her contract in Hartford. After several closed-door sessions, the GPS Governing Board voted 4-0 to accept Kishimoto’s resignation. Rubber stamper Charlie Santa Cruz abstained. One more illustration of her tone-deafness: Christina Kishimoto listed her home for sale before the GPS board accepted her resignation. Sheeeesh.

The bottom line is that Kishimoto can take personal credit for driving a few thousand students and their families out of the district due to policies she pushed through her rubber stamp governing board and stupid stunts that gave the entire district a black eye. For example, Kishimoto delivered a frizzled, frazzled and frenzied diatribe to the Gilbert Town Council that made her, and Gilbert Public Schools, look like total idiot losers who can’t compete for students fair and square.

She worked herself up into a lather and told the Town Council it was costing GPS millions of dollars in lost revenue to lose thousands of students to those nefarious charter schools. Kishimoto looked all the more stupid because the land in question isn’t within GPS boundaries. [Here’s the link if you don’t see it:]

New charters are popping up all around GPS boundaries because it is so easy to poach GPS students. Fact: since Kishimoto made that speech, the 2016-2017 GPS hundred day student enrollment declined again … more than 700 student losses this year alone. Of course it’s not HER fault; Kishimoto is hell bent on destroying the pride of GPS, the neighborhood schools that attracted tens of thousands of students in past years. <snark> It’s also not Kishimoto’s fault that her ill considered foray into *school design* in the form of having Gilbert Classical Academy take over a neighborhood junior high school has already caused significant student losses, with more losses to come, as parents have promised. <sarcasm>

Hawaii Board of Education, you got yourselves a pig in a poke when you hired Christina Kishimoto; St. Paul, you dodged a bulletBTW, Westie’s next post will examine the letters of recommendation Christina Kishimoto submitted to Ray and Associates in support of her application. The good people of Gilbert, Arizona will learn some surprising new facts about certain people they thought they knew.

GPS Fraud, Waste & Abuse Report #12: Prohibited GEF Electioneering

As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Gilbert Education Foundation has some specific laws to obey. Consequences of failure to fulfill statutory requirements to be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes include revoking GEF’s tax-exempt status. That will be a gigantic mess for Gilbert businesses and civic-minded citizens who believed they were supporting an organization dedicated to “the kids.” Worse, PERSONAL liability for taxes and penalties accrue to GEF directors as a result of those violations should GEF lose its tax-exempt status. What a mess!

There are five basic components to qualifying and maintaining tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3):

(1) an organization must be organized exclusively for charitable purposes,
(2) it must be operated exclusively for charitable purposes,
(3) no part of its net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual,
(4) it may not conduct more than an insubstantial amount of lobbying activities, and
(5) it may not intervene in a political campaign.

GEF photos posted on social media show that the 2014 GEF Gala appears to have been nothing more than an exclusive social event where selected GPS employees and “community leaders” could mingle. An additional bonus for preferred candidates for the November 2014 election for two seats on the GPS governing board: two candidates, seated board member Jill Humpherys and candidate Charles Santa Cruz, were feted by gala attendees. Other candidates that were not favored by GEF and/or the GPS administration did not attend.

Red flag of election fraud: 2014 GEF Gala political activist involvement. The first-ever GEF Gala on October 25, 2014 was timed for the run-up to the November 4, 2014 elections and appears to have been used to advance two candidates. According to his Political Action Committee Report through October 23, 2014, Dr. Charles Santa Cruz used campaign funds in the amount of $228.00 to pay for his tickets to the Gala.

A serious concern is the cozy relationship between GEF and the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and their prohibited involvement in local elections. The Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization whose activities also merit close scrutiny. It was well known throughout the community that GPS and GEF supporters had their favorite candidates in 2014; it was just as well known that those supporters strongly opposed two candidates: Ron Bellus and Dawn Brimhall.  The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce allowed four of the five GPS governing board candidates to use the Chamber’s website to advance their campaigns, but Dawn Brimhall, one of the candidates, was denied that opportunity. In fact, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce *endorsed* their two favorites, Jill Humpherys and Charles Santa Cruz.

GEF Engages in Express Advocacy for Political Candidates.  The Chamber designated three candidates as **Endorsed by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce** on the Chamber website in 2016. There was no daylight between GPS, GEF and the Chamber when it came to favoring certain candidates in local elections. The problem for GEF and perhaps the Chamber: Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC provides federal tax exemption to a charitable organization so long as it “does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” The prohibition on supporting or opposing candidates for public office is strict: even a de minimus (minimal) amount of campaign intervention violates IRC Section 501(c)(3).

GEF and the Gilbert Chamber became even more brazen during the 2016 election for three open seats on the GPS governing board. Sitting board member Jill Humpherys spilled the beans on her Facebook page: “I am supporting those candidates endorsed by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, Gilbert Education Foundation and Unite for Education—Lily, Sheila and Reed.” The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce echoed the endorsements.

Anything flowing from an organization’s activities other than public, charitable benefits may be serving private interests and therefore a nonexempt purpose. Examples include excessive compensation paid to employees, certain payments to outsiders for goods or services, or steering business to a for-profit company. Oh snap, more trouble for GEF and GPS!

Successful political intervention in 2014 reaped rewards: GPS contract for vehicles was convoluted, but ended with an award to the major 2014 GEF Gala sponsor. At the January 13, 2015 board organizational meeting, Humpherys was reelected to the board and became clerk; Santa Cruz was elected; Tram became board president. An override and a new bond were approved by voters. Flush with the prospects of more money in the coming year, there was great urgency to awarding some new GPS contracts. That process took some unusual twists and turns: San Tan Ford, the featured sponsor of the 2014 Gala, won a contract with GPS in what appears to be a circumvention of Arizona Procurement Code in order to benefit private interests. The GPS Business Services staff prepared a Board Agenda Submission Form for the January 27, 2015 board meeting for the purchase of eight Ford 10-passenger vans using a state contract. Kishimoto and Tram set the agenda for the January 27, 2015 meeting, but the van contract proposal never made it on the agenda. If it had, the state contract would have been awarded to Sanderson Ford. Instead, GPS went out for a bid. Apparently they needed five responsive bids to put a fig leaf on an ersatz procurement process that appears to have had one predetermined outcome: award the contract to a GEF featured sponsor, San Tan Ford, instead of Sanderson Ford, through the state contract. This required knowing, intentional action on the part of Kishimoto and Tram to veto the Business Services recommendation. And veto they did, setting in place a procurement process that would benefit San Tan Ford. Top 2014 GEF Gala sponsor San Tan Ford won the GPS vehicle contract with the lowest bid: $219,744.00, underbidding the next lowest bid by $719.04, or $89.88 per van procured.

Red flag of gambling law violations: raffle tickets restricted to purchasers of Gala tickets. It appears that only people who bought or were given tickets to the Gala were allowed to participate in the GEF raffle. It also appears that raffle tickets were exclusively sold at the GEF Gala, meaning the raffle was never open to the public. Lay people call that sweet situation “Pay to Play.” This is a violation independent of prohibited gambling operations described in our previous FW&A report about illegal gambling at the 2014 GEF Gala. BTW, since Christina Kishimoto became superintendent, GPS appears to have looked the other way when organizations other than GEF used gambling as fundraisers, such as poker tournaments for Mesquite High School athletic teams. You can bet that Westie has the flyers for these events.

Other indications that this illegitimate relationship between GPS and GEF was set up to flout state and federal laws intentionally: GEF did not report the income from gaming on their 2014 IRS Form 990. GEF did not list any gross income from fundraising events, and did not file Schedule G listing income from fundraising and gaming activities.

More tax fraud indicators: GEF intentionally failed to report the value of public support received from GPS on annual IRS Forms 990. Christina Kishimoto and her top administrative staff used the GPS resources to benefit GEF and preparations for the Gala. Both Kishimoto and Executive Director of Secondary Education Brian Jaeger sent emails to remind employees of the Gala and urge them to attend. GPS *vendor* Carole Bartholomeaux submitted a public relations consulting invoice for August 19, 2014 that included “researching information for GEF Gala event.” GPS paid that invoice. Until the 2016 MOU was signed, GEF held many events in GPS buildings, apparently without maintaining the minimum insurance liability required to use district facilities. The MOU was intended to illegally “bring GEF under the umbrella” of insurance procured by GPS with taxpayer funds.

We’ll close with a comment about that $90,000.00 that the 2015 GEF Gala raised. The 2015 IRS Form 990  shows that expenses exceeded income for that year (see page 14 of the linked IRS Form 990). Does the community feel bamboozled? You bet!

GEF could lose its tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization as a result of organizational wrongdoing. 

The Fine Print: Westie’s Fraud, Waste & Abuse Reports chronicle deliberate misuse of authority and public funds, abuse of authority, gifts of public funds and intentional violations of Arizona statutes and administrative rules by Gilbert Public Schools top-level administrators at the behest of superintendent Christina Kishimoto. Participating in those schemes could result in serious consequences for those who put themselves and their organizations at risk of losing their tax exempt status. Everything in the FW&A Reports has already been reported to state and federal elected officials and enforcement agencies.

GPS Fraud, Waste & Abuse Report #11: Gilbert Education Foundation Schemes

The relationships and concerted operations of public officers of Gilbert Public Schools (GPS) and the Gilbert Education Foundation (GEF), a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, are rife with intentional lawbreaking that likely invalidates GEF’s tax-exempt status. It appears GEF does not meet the statutory requirements of being both organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes. Instead, GEF appears to be another way to funnel taxpayer money as well as charitable donations to selected recipients within GPS and “friends” of the district without oversight.

For example, a Memorandum of Understanding with GPS shows that GEF operates under GPS control and uses GPS resources.  Through that MOU and intentional misdeeds that violate the public trust, top GPS leaders scorn best practices recommended in a September 2014 presentation by a team of  staff attorneys from the Arizona Attorney General and Auditor General, plus attorneys from Udall Shumway, a law firm that has represented the district for many years. In 2013, the Attorney General’s Office advised more than one Arizona school district that they had acted without statutory authority when creating and operating an education foundation, thereby misusing district supplies, equipment, and personnel to administer the foundation’s finances and assist with foundation fund raisers.

For example, GEF intentionally encouraged, planned, and sponsored an illegal fundraising event involving gambling, thus violating public policy and Arizona law. Only persons over the age of 21 may participate in the few categories of legal gambling in this state. The October 25, 2014 Gala, a first-ever event for the organization, was promoted and supported with taxpayer funds and resources by GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and the GPS Governing Board. GEF posted photos online showing that GPS students actually ran the raffle and collected money. Since GPS is a K-12 school district, there is no way those students representing Campo Verde High School’s extracurricular club “PAWS for a Cause” were over 21.

The GEF photos also show that Gilbert High School students under the direction of art teacher Shalei Webb created table centerpieces and other decorations that were raffled. After the Gala was over and the money was counted, Shalei Webb was the lucky recipient of a pottery wheel as an award from GEF, which appears to be a quid pro quo for those student-created raffle prizes. The Campo Verde High School students from PAWS for a Cause appear to have gained a GEF award for their teacher, as well. Photographs also showed students performing at the Gala while alcohol was served, students with ticket money from the raffles and a GPS teacher winning a bicycle as a raffle prize.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, GPS Governing Board members and many GPS top administrators were present at the Gala. Each of them, individually and severally, knew or should have known that GPS was violating district policy and state law by allowing minor students to remain on the premises during the Gala, according to GPS Policy GBEC-E: Drug Free Workplace:

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that it is a violation of Policy GBEC for any employee to violate the law or District policy… or use, on or in the workplace, of alcohol…

Workplace includes any place where work is performed, including…off school property during any school-sponsored or school approved activity, event, or function… where students are under the jurisdiction of the District.

It is clear that Christina Kishimoto and GEF violated GPS policies and fundraising guidelines, in addition to violating public policy and Arizona laws. GPS Fund Raising Guidelines specify exactly how a raffle should and should not be conducted, including that no STUDENTS or EMPLOYEES [capitalized in the original] are to sell any tickets, that the organization issue a donation check to the district to be deposited in the district donation account, and that the event may not be advertised on the district’s webpage.

A former GPS board member who later voted against the Memorandum of Understanding between GPS and GEF made a statement about the GEF gala she attended, where there were “minors handling alcohol and raffle tickets.” Board member Julie Smith singled out a fundraiser she attended, questioning if GPS was going to cover legal issues: “Like minors handling alcohol, the raffle tickets, stuff like that.” Christina Kishimoto responded that a 2016 event hosted by an organization other than GEF did not have student performances because alcohol was served. It was a masterful attempt at deflection, but Christina Kishimoto was trying to close the barn door after the horses had left.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and her Chief Financial Officer Tom Wohlleber explained to the Governing Board that one of the driving reasons behind this MOU was bringing GEF under the GPS insurance umbrella, as GPS does for parent support organizations such as PTSOs and booster clubs. Ooopsie, that violates the Arizona Gift Clause. See Slide #20 in the Best Practices Presentation: “The District cannot purchase liability insurance for the school support organization or extend its own insurance to such organizations (this would violate the Gift Clause).” The attorneys’ presentation warns school districts not to co-mingle private monies with public monies in district accounts (Slide #25). GPS processes expenditures for GEF using the GPS financial system. In the consolidated 2015 voucher report, GPS showed expenditures of more than $23,000.00 for GEF, itemizing expenses for I-Pads and Chromebooks, attendance at several conferences (including airfare and lodging in South Seas Resort), field trip transportation, books and much more.

New board members, you really should review the entire Best Practices presentation … you’ll be shocked at how many violations GPS racks up on a daily basis.

During the presentation at the work study session, Kishimoto told the board that “their” attorney had reviewed the MOU. New board members, this is why you MUST get legal advice on your own, not filtered through the superintendent who doesn’t tell the truth. Get that legal advice in writing so you can avoid the situation you have here: on information and belief, the legal advice Christina Kishimoto conveyed was that the cited MOU review was to determine whether or not the memorandum was a legally binding document. It’s very convenient for the attorney, Kishimoto and board president Tram, who devised the MOU, that the video archive for the September 27, 2016 board meeting at which the MOU was discussed and approved by a 3-2 vote was “corrupted” and not posted online. The written minutes of the meeting don’t describe any of the discussions; those minutes simply record the motion and the vote.

Hey, Gilbert Education Foundation Folks: don’t think that you’re in the clear because GPS policies don’t apply to you and your companies. Our next FW&A report will outline the ways GEF follows the GPS lead: “Laws are for little people, not local celebrities like us.” Au contraire! A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization has some special laws to obey.

When an organization intentionally encourages, induces, plans, and sponsors an event that is contrary to public policy as the 2014 GEF Gala was, it is not a charitable organization for purposes of 501(c)(3). Directors of charities are required by law to carry out their responsibilities as directors “in good faith, in a manner such director believes to be in the best interests of the corporation and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.”

Bottom line: Christina Kishimoto and the two GPS board members who served as liaisons to GEF during 2014 and 2015 (Tram and Humpherys), as well as other GEF Directors,  could be held personally and professionally accountable for violating state gambling laws and restrictions on activities of this tax-exempt organization, including personal liability for taxes and penalties that accrue to GEF as a result of those violations of laws. GEF could lose its tax-exempt status as a result of organizational wrongdoing. Nothing less would restore community trust.

The Fine Print: Westie’s Fraud, Waste & Abuse Reports chronicle deliberate misuse of authority and public funds, abuse of authority, gifts of public funds and intentional violations of Arizona statutes and administrative rules by Gilbert Public Schools top-level administrators at the behest of superintendent Christina Kishimoto. Participating in those schemes could result in serious consequences for those who put themselves and their organizations at risk of losing their tax exempt status. Everything in the FW&A Reports has already been reported to state and federal elected officials and enforcement agencies.

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