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.)

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