GPS Fraud, Waste & Abuse Report #1: Travel Violates State Law

Fraud, Waste & Abuse in Gilbert Public SchoolsWestie’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. Word of warning to those who might consider the business-as-usual tricks employed by GPS admins in the past: it won’t help to lose files, forge signatures or *create documentation* after the fact. Everything in these FW&A Reports has already been reported to state and federal elected officials and enforcement agencies. 

Intentional violations of state law result in unapproved travel, fraudulent reimbursements to GPS employees. Since she became Superintendent in July 2014, Christina Kishimoto and selected GPS employees have routinely traveled without complying with Arizona law. There is no question about what approval level Arizona law requires: authorizing travel by school district employees is discretionary power reserved to the Governing Board and can be approved only by an official vote, which must occur in a public meeting:

A.R.S 15-342 Discretionary Powers.
The governing board may:
5. Permit a superintendent or principal or representatives of the superintendent or principal to travel for a school purpose, as determined by a majority vote of the board. [emphasis added]

District Policy DKC and its implementing regulation, DKC-R, are woefully deficient in terms of providing for oversight of expenditures and reimbursements, especially for travel. The policy merely refers to A.R.S. 38-624 for limitations on reimbursement amounts. The GPS governing board’s failure to oversee GPS employee travel is particularly striking in light of the fact that at almost every board meeting the board routinely approves an agenda item for field trips by students, reviewing detailed explanations for each student field trip. That is the only employee travel that the GPS Governing Board votes to approve: when employees supervise a student field trip.

GPS vouchers with extensive travel expenditures are generally included in the Consent Agendas of board meetings. Those vouchers indicate extensive travel by GPS employees using both state and federal funds over the past many years. Even though it was pointless to oppose payment of vouchers that included suspicious spending for unapproved expenses, two board members, Daryl Colvin and Julie Smith, voted against voucher approval many times while Lily Tram was president of the GPS governing board.

Inconsistencies within vouchers invited attention to expenditures and indications of public corruption within GPS. With three reliable rubber stamp votes, a board president providing cover and a board clerk who apparently never questioned vouchers (as required by her position), there was basically no oversight of Christina Kishimoto’s extravagant spending or excessive travel by the superintendent and her sycophants.

New board members: you might consider impounding all travel files in GPS RIGHT NOW so they can be independently audited. We’ll point out more reasons below. Here’s a caveat about all the files disappearing; we have archived quite a lot of public records for comparison to what your audit will reveal. In addition, those public records already have been provided to enforcement agencies, so a GPS file shredding party, like the one Dave Allison threw, won’t erase the full history. More to the point: obstruction of justice is a separate charge; remember the mantra, “It’s always the cover up.” Al Capone’s conviction for tax evasion also is worthy of recall. 

Christina Kishimoto does not request approval for her own travel as required by Arizona law; on occasion, she merely informs the GPS Governing Board that she will be traveling. Her most recent vacation to a resort location at taxpayer expense was to New Orleans. From the January 2017 voucher report:

AMER ASSOC OF SCHOOL ADMINSTRATORS INC.  Conference Registration Fees for Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto to attend the AASA/ALAS Conference in New Orleans – March 1-4, 2017 The purpose of this conference is professional development and networking opportunities. $925.00.

How do we know that Christina Kishimoto actually attended the boondoggle  conference? She tweeted on her SuperDork account about her buddy John King, former US Secretary of Education, who won an award. Yep, THAT John King, a Bronx dude who almost destroyed public schools in the state of New York before he was peter-principled to the national stage. She also tweeted admiration for writer Monique Morris, citing her bold talk about women leader voice in cultural relevancy and competency in schools. Too bad Christina Kishimoto didn’t know that Monique Morris admires and retweeted this: “No parent should have to fight against their school district to meet the needs of their students.” Christina Kishimoto’s track record in both Hartford and GPS is one of parents constantly fighting for their kids and unceasingly pushing back against destroying neighborhood schools. But we digress.

Notice that the $925.00 registration fee that GPS paid did not include travel expenses for Christina Kishimoto’s taste of Mardi Gras Land. Those expenses generally were listed separately in the past; GPS has gone to great lengths to hide the total expenses for most trips financed by GPS taxpayers by spreading them across several months of vouchers in the GPS “needle in the haystack” financial system.

There’s a new wrinkle in the consolidated vouchers posted recently on the GPS website: an Open Purchase Order, presumably set up to evade scrutiny by a new MBA kind of guy who is now the board clerk. Most of the GPS financial wrinkles have been designed to prevent accountability, it seems. The newest voucher entry: “Employee Travel (Out of District) Costs-Dr. Kishimoto  expenses for travel to professional development conferences.  Per Dana M. an open PO for travel purchases is acceptable for the 2016-17 school year. Travel expenses include, hotel and airline and gr…” The amount shown is $913.18.

Interestingly, there was  a separate entry for Conference Registration Fees for Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto to attend the AASA/ALAS Conference in New Orleans – March 1-4, 2017 in the amount of $1,025.00 that GPS paid in addition to the $925.00 for the same conference. Add in close to a thousand dollars for travel costs, and pretty soon, you’re talking about real money, so to speak.

New board members: does this make you feel silly for questioning ~$750.00 annual transportation costs for Kishimoto’s newest school design, the junior high gifted academy? You might feel even sillier when you approve the $8,100.00 expense on the February vouchers for some of Christina Kishimoto’s favorite sycophants to attend the attend Race, Equity and Leadership in Schools held at Harvard Graduate School of Education March 20, 2017 – March 25, 2017. You already approved $4,066.35 for travel for that boondoggle in the January 2017 Voucher Report. Spending $12,000.00+ for top level administrators to party at Harvard makes your scrutiny of Christina Kishimoto’s *school designs* seem to be petty, or window dressing,or just trivial, as you seem to be easily distracted. Christina Kishimoto has proven herself to be a master of distraction, as you already should know. 

Christina Kishimoto attended an ALAS conference in Philadelphia a few months before her trip to New Orleans. “Emp Training  & Prof Dev Registration- Dr. Christina Kishimoto will attend the 2016 ALAS Summit in Philadelphia PA on October 12-15, 2016” for which the district paid $450.00 for registration only. This does not include travel expenses. ALAS is a national organization for Latino Superintendents, of which Christina Kishimoto was president last year. It is an affiliate of  the American Association of School Administrators. These groups and their so-called conferences are all boondoggles, set up for superintendents and their pet administrators to party across the country on the taxpayer’s dime. Maybe the $913.18 travel expense was for the Philadelphia conference, and the tab for Kishimoto’s New Orleans soiree hasn’t hit the vouchers yet. See? Who knows? That’s how the GPS financial system operates.

New board members: did you notice all the thousands upon thousands of dollars in the February 2017 voucher report for travel by other GPS employees? You’re going to approve them at the March 28, 2017 board meeting! Part of the pattern and practice of GPS administrators is to suck you guys into the corruption … once you have failed to diligently review expenditures, you’ve fallen into the muck of GPS mismanagement. BTW, there’s an entry for a *past due* payment for travel from the 2014-2015 school year in the amount of $975.00.

Bottom line: NONE OF THIS TRAVEL WAS APPROVED BY THE GPS GOVERNING BOARD AS REQUIRED BY A.R.S 15-342. The GPS business office did not have authority to pay for unapproved travel. We’ll look at how complicated this mess is in future FW&A posts.


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