Christina Kishimoto Denies Her Staff Admitted GPS Is Being Investigated

GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and CFO Tom WohlleberChristina Kishimoto wants the Governing Board of Gilbert Public Schools to believe that her flunkie, Chief Financial Officer Tom Wohlleber, actually did not say what he said at the October 2016 GPS board meeting. Christina Kishimoto is trying to deny that there is ANOTHER investigation into GPS shenanigans at the White Castle. The reality seems to be that federal funds are involved, so the district’s go-to lawyers might not be able to use their friendships with the Arizona Attorney General staff to sweep things under the carpet. Wooo hooo! Let the finger-pointing begin! 

[from Christina Kishimoto]

E-Rate, WAN and RFP Process

On Tuesday October 25, at your monthly Board business meeting, when we were presenting on the quarterly financial report, Mrs. Smith asked Mr. Wohlleber about a complaint against the district and the subsequent investigation indicating that she understood that there was an issue with the bidding process of our recent new telecommunications contract {Cox Communications} and that the district most likely would lose e-Rate funds. Mrs. Smith wanted to know if this was true. She additionally asked when I as Superintendent was intending to notify the Board of this complaint. Neither I, nor Tom Wohlleber, nor Jon Castelhano, could answer this question since we were not aware of any filings or claims.

On Wednesday and Thursday I met with my team and reviewed our records, and I have verified that there is no such claim filed against the district challenging our award to Cox Communications nor a challenge to our E-Rate funds.

The only request that we have received is a request for information from Century Link – who did not receive the award. Such requests after a bidding process are standard practice.

Century Link has requested procurement records related to the WAN RFP for the purpose of, and I quote from Century Link, “In no way will this information be used to protest the award; CenturyLink is only interested in understanding how it can become more competitive in the future.”

Now watch the video of CFO Tom Wohlleber answering Julie Smith’s question by saying, “It’s just an inquiry at this point.” We call that hairsplitting, quibbling and evasion to avoid saying the word “investigation,” but nevertheless, it is an admission that someone or some agency has been *inquiring* about GPS E-Rate matters. Unsurprisingly, Wohlleber’s admission was followed by superintendent Christina Kishimoto scolding a GPS board member for having this conversation in public.  Egads, the public might find out GPS is in trouble again! <sarcasm>

Brief transcript:

Julie Smith: I have a question about the cash control fund, E-Rate. … Given the complaint against the district and the subsequent investigation, finding that there is an issue with the bidding process of our recent telecommunications person that we’re switching over to, that the district will most likely lose this fund for possibly up to the next five years. Is that true?
00:30  Tom Wohlleber: I’m not aware that, that, that the bidding process. It may have some impact at some point if it’s decided that the procurement process needs to be redone as part of that. As far as I’m aware it’s an inquiry at this point, an inquiry as to the bidding process and we will provide them that information through this process…
2:55  Julie Smith (turns to Christina Kishimoto) Please try to keep the board abreast instead of a member of the community, through a public records, you know, alerting, I would appreciate, because I was very concerned and had questions about this presentation and how it may impact the budget.
3:18  Christina Kishimoto:
I do provide everything the Friday before or the Thursday before to the board, so we can actually have this conversation before it is published to the public.

How in the world could Christina Kishimoto VERIFY that there is no claim filed? Answer: she can’t. If you read carefully, she merely said “no such claim filed against the district challenging our award to Cox Communications nor a challenge to our E-Rate funds.” Maybe Kishimoto means that there hasn’t been a Notice of Claim filed against GPS. That’s not saying much, but board president Lily Tram has stated in the past that the board won’t take any action on a complaint unless the complainant files a Notice of Claim. Both Kishimoto and Tram seem to be very fond of the expression, “So sue me.” Maybe they just don’t understand that citizens have resources other than filing a civil lawsuit when their frustrations boil over because GPS refuses to follow the law.

Fortunately for the public, and for taxpayers in Gilbert, Arizona, there are people in the community who know a lot about the ways in which the GPS administration flouts laws and commits such things as mismanagement of funds, conflict of interest, self-dealing and abuse of public office. Persons who know about the federal E-Rate program have dropped hints that there may be different complaint(s) than the bid rigging complaint that GPS CFO Tom Wohlleber mentioned. How all five board members could “have this conversation” with the superintendent without violating AZ Open Meeting Laws is another concern. But this is GPS, and Christina Kishimoto could give a flying flip about such things as following OML when she wants to talk about laws that GPS may or may not have broken. Sheeeeeeeesh.

Does it appear to you, a reasonable person, that nothing is going on with respect to GPS and E-Rate and inquiries or investigations? There’s an inconvenient procedural history of federal investigations under the False Claims Act: according to federal officials, “The complaint is sealed during the investigation so the government can build its case and consider civil penalties or criminal charges.” If investigators have been making *inquiries* that GPS top level administrators like Tom Wohlleber admit, what are the chances those investigators might be talking to people who know what actually goes on in the White Castle? Any bets as to whether investigators may have discovered *interesting* documents regarding the former GPS employee with whom Christina Kishimoto was engaged in an *alleged* inappropriate relationship? Kishimoto’s rationalization just begs so many questions!

That other E-Rate complaint, apparently, might be something more along the lines of what went down in the Tucson Unified School District a few years ago. 

In March 2004, two TUSD Technology and Telecommunication Services (TTS) employees independently called the federal whistle-blower hotline, concerned with how district officials planned to use the federal funds they were seeking … a federal statute called the False Claims Act lets anyone who discovers fraud involving federal funds file a civil complaint. The complaint is sealed during the investigation so the government can build its case and consider civil penalties or criminal charges.

2005 audit of TUSD, by Heinfeld, Meech & Co., TUSD’s auditors, found that the 2004 E-Rate application was handled by TTS, not TUSD’s purchasing department, and, therefore, wasn’t subject to proper oversight. The report also stated that TTS had few records of its 2004 E-Rate application. The audit said the problems didn’t merit notifying federal officials, but it recommended a significant policy change. It could be months, if not years, before the federal and state investigations conclude.

It is essential that board members, elected officials charged with actually EDUCATING STUDENTS, actually KNOW what top level administrators are doing. Apparently, board member Julie Smith asked the question in public because the superintendent wouldn’t answer it in private. Newly elected GPS board members could be in for nasty surprises after drinking a superintendent’s Kool-Aid, just as the TUSD board member was surprised about the E-Rate investigation:

Until contacted for this story, TUSD Governing Board member Judy Burns said she’d only heard rumors of a federal investigation. “The district is going to suffer and the students in class will suffer for not doing this in a legitimate, businesslike way,” she said.

That TUSD E-Rate investigation did indeed drag on for years. In 2006, TUSD officials requested that the Attorney General investigate the district’s procurement of technology and E-Rate consulting services.  In 2008, that investigation expanded to include an examination of TUSD’s procurement of interactive white boards. Old timers (like Westie, but not the current top level inhabitants of the White Castle) remember that GPS was involved with the same white board vendor, and allegedly participated in the same conduct that the AZ Attorney General cited in a lawsuit against TUSD. Finally, on January 29, 2009, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard announced a settlement with TUSD. The public deserves to have confidence that our public officials and employees are careful stewards of the public funds entrusted to them,” Goddard said.  “School districts and vendors who circumvent procurement requirements harm competition and violate the trust of our citizens.”  Note this was a CIVIL suit, not criminal charges, which might have been pursued separately. Also, the agency administering E-Rate contacted at least 190 applicants in at least 27 states who applied for funding on services provided by the vendors involved in the TUSD investigation.

As posted on social media, citizens of Gilbert have very definite opinions about the ridiculous antics within the GPS top levels of administration and they most definitely believe the public trust has been violated. The following post was prompted by ousted board president Tram’s claims that she balanced the GPS budget:

The current board balanced the budget by breaking the law. They will soon be served yet another subpoena for Mismanagement of Federal Funds. That was the one they were expecting at the last meeting. They were instead served a subpoena for a Civil Rights Violation. There is also the bid rigging charge in a case with Century Link & Cox. She shouldn’t be proud of balancing the budget by breaking multiple laws.

Actually, GPS was served with yet another civil rights LAWSUIT at the October board meeting. Just before that board meeting, Christina Kishimoto informed the board of two active complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, both related to Special Education services. Apparently, Christina Kishimoto negotiated a settlement with OCR in one of the cases for “an approved plan for targeted teacher training around particular special education support mandates.” Kishimoto further informed the board, “OCR is also going to review our GPS policies and make recommendations for language clarification; this is a process that we have worked on with them in the past. In summary, this is a good outcome for our high school complaint. The complaint at the Junior High level is still at the investigation level and we will work hand in hand with OCR.”

You can’t help but wonder, how long was all this going on before Christina Kishimoto decided to inform the board? Recall that former superintendent Dave Allison once signed a consent agreement with OCR without the board’s knowledge … that dastardly deed came to light via public records, of course. Sheeeeesh.

Don’t you think these shenanigans put a new perspective on Julie Smith’s suggestion that Christina Kishimoto inform the board of investigations before constituents start delving into public records? Apparently, there were investigations other than the E-Rate *inquiry* that the board didn’t know about as they occurred. New board members should get used to hearing educrat double-speak rather than responsive answers to their questions. In other words, superintendent Christina Kishimoto is desperate: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Westie explains this for Silly Jilly Humpherys’ benefit:

** You could use that phrase to mean the jig is up. You figured out that the magic is just smoke and mirrors? Well, maybe I’ll tell you to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, even though I know I can’t really hide the truth from you any longer.
** People use others as puppets, manipulating and such. And others try to make themselves look bigger and better than they really are.
** Frank Baum understood that people are often motivated by fear and the perceived authority of others. Through simple manipulation of minds, and the twisting of moral right and wrong, the wizard convinced three weary travelers to commit murder, and the subsequent theft of the property of the “Wicked Witch” to win favor.

It’s too bad that that GPS destroyed the Livestream video of the September board meeting in a thinly veiled attempt to provide Lily Tram some deniability for her comments that GPS teachers already make enough money. It would now be a whole lot better for Christina Kishimoto if GPS could now destroy the videos of the October board meeting … except that The Westies just happened to record the October board meeting in case more video archives went missing.*

So superintendent Christina Kishimoto is stuck, and newly elected board members must decide who they are going to believe: Christina Kishimoto or their own lying eyes and ears and video archive of the October board meeting? Newly elected board members should also get used to the time-honored GPS Mushroom Treatment, as cogently explained by a former GPS board member:

What the heck is the “Mushroom Effect?”  First introduced to the term by a teacher who himself had heard the term from another teacher as far back as the 1980’s (so it’s been going on for some time now).  It goes like this … speaking of how district administration handles school board members … “They are ‘kept in the dark and fed a bunch of crap.’”  And so it is!

I can tell you with undeniable certainty that at certain times, top district officials “circle the wagons to get their story straight” and deliberately seek to mislead board members either by leaving out important facts, or burying them in mountains of info on other matters.  Everything runs so much smoother if you don’t give board members enough information to begin asking questions.  Cultivate board members who are willing to smile for the camera and represent the district in the best light… even support board members who currently work in education, whose resume benefits from being a board member in one of the most prestigious districts in the state … give those members The Mushroom Treatment and the effect pays off.

GPS is in a bigger mess than Christina Kishimoto will admit. That’s probably because she is acutely aware that her *national reputation* is at stake. We’d prefer a superintendent who does the job of actually managing the school district, but what do we know?

We can hardly wait to hear more at the November board meeting!  #SaveOurNeighborhoodSchools

Big Fat Asterisk: October 2016 was the first board meeting the Westies have attended since June 2012. Nevertheless, Christina Kishimoto perjured herself in court by insinuating, in January 2015, that the Westies were responsible for unruly board meeting behaviors since she became superintendent. Kishimoto made a lot of other allegations that easily were provable as false, which are preserved on the audio recording of her court hearing. Luckily, the judge denied the request for a temporary restraining order. Otherwise, the Westies would have had a full-fledged court hearing to prove Christina Kishimoto’s lies … in public.  In retrospect, that would have been a much better outcome for the taxpayers of Gilbert, Arizona who are now paying the price for Kishimoto’s profligate spending and continuing lawlessness. Pay attention, newly elected board members!

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