Let’s Kill the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program

Shane McCord now is the newly appointed superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools. The previous Reign of Shane cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees for lawsuits and investigations leading to settlements with litigants and agencies of the federal government. Now that the Loose Zipper Brigade is ready to repopulate the White Castle, maybe GPS would be better off making sex addiction treatment available on request. It would be cheaper than repeating the sordid past. The legacy of the old Loose Zipper Brigade is the kids whose futures were forever harmed as villainous public officers *allegedly* indulged in debauchery on the public dime. Sigh, everything old is new again.

GPS could easily overcome its reputation as the district of last resort by adopting William Shakespeare’s suggestion, Let’s kill all the lawyers.*  Those blood-sucking vampire lawyers created an environment dedicated to the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program that consumes hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars while helping the GPS administration and governing board evade inconvenient laws.

The idea for this drastic proposal was the GPS response to an email Westie sent to the governing board about violations of the Arizona Open Meeting Law that occurred on July 25, 2017.  Instead of answering directly, the board got their pet lawyers involved. The result was laughable, in addition to being wholly unsatisfactory and needlessly expensive.  Keep in mind, the smart response [which Westie was naive enough to believe would be forthcoming] would have been a simple email saying, “Oops, we thought we were doing right, but we understand how it might appear we violated OML. We’ll try harder in the future. Thanks for the heads up; we appreciate that you didn’t file a formal complaint.” How hard would that have been?

First, Westie’s comment about an OML violation, a question about how the board will fix the situation and evidence that the GPS board knows how to do things the right way:

While watching the board meeting last night, I saw what I believe is yet another egregious OML violation with item 7.01: the board voted to suspend district policies in order to approve documents required to effect a settlement agreement with the US Dept of Ed Office for Civil Rights, Case No. 08-16-1322. The action to suspend a policy was not noticed at all on the agenda for the meeting, although discussion included that the suspension had to be a separate vote in order to reach approval for the non-discrimination documents required for the settlement agreement. The OCR settlement agreement may not be legitimate as a result of an OML violation. What will you do to remedy the situation?

It appears the board knows how to comply with OML when compliance is desired. At the June 27, 2017 business meeting, there was an agenda item to suspend district policy, followed by a vote on the suspension, but no vote as to approving a new calendar, which was not on the agenda: “8.07 – Discussion and possible action to temporarily suspend Governing Board Policy IC’s requirement that the school calendars be approved by July annually.” This demonstrated awareness of correct procedure makes the July 25th OML violation all the more disturbing.

You can’t make up things as stupid as what the lawyer tried to sell from a position as twisted as a pretzel. Following a long diatribe and references to a board policy BGB, that wasn’t mentioned in the agenda but was obviously was pulled from some lawyerly nether regions, the lawyer pretending to be Sheila Rogers claimed there was an emergency, which was never mentioned in the meeting agenda. The lawyer conspicuously avoided comment about the board’s knowledge of correct procedure at the previous month’s meeting:

The Administration respectfully disagree with your assertion that the Governing Board violated the open meeting law. First, while Board Member Carr asked for explicit Board action to approve the suspension of Policy BGB as it pertained to two readings, the Board did not  need such a motion at all, because the Policy itself permits the Board to amend Policies in a single meeting in a Board-declared emergency (which this was).

Westie pointed out a second possible OML violation during the same meeting:

Also on July 25th, item 7.02 was noticed as “presentation, discussion and consideration,” there was a motion and a vote to take action. The subject was relatively inconsequential, but the process of voting on an agenda item that was not noticed for action appears to have been another violation of OML.

The lawyer’s response was to throw some spaghetti against the wall to see if any would stick and get the board out of this self-created mess:

However, item 7.02 is listed under the portion of the Agenda entitled, “Action Items (Items for Consideration, Discussion, Direction and Possible Approval)”. We respectfully disagree that the public would not have notice that the Board might choose to act of item 7.02.

One of the reasons Westie brought this meeting to the attention of the board president was because it was an embarrassment. The attorney ignored this part of Westie’s email. Really, what  could you say in response? Of course, what the board president could do is cut off Silly Jilly Humpherys’ microphone immediately after her usual prologue, “I appreciate all the hard work…”

Continuing on July 25th, the discussion about item 7.03, start times and format for board meetings, came across as chaotic and unprofessional. You need a clear motion and a second of that motion, which was sorely lacking in the meandering discussion and confusion about how the board will function. Jill and Charlie have had extensive OML training, which included this subject matter, as part of a different settlement agreement. That was with the AZ Attorney General, and the training was accompanied by six months of monitoring. The irony of Jill Humpherys commenting favorably on how efficient other boards function (without Jill’s trademarked stream-of-consciousness commentary on just about everything) was on full display.

The day after the board meeting, OML violations continued to contribute to the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program, in spite of recent extensive training and monitoring by the AZ Attorney General:

OML violations continued today: photos on various Facebook pages show a quorum of board members attended new teacher training. I haven’t found anywhere that a public notice was posted online. The requirement to post notice online was another part of the OML training Charlie and Jill attended. How many flagrant OML violations will this board accumulate? It gets expensive in the long run as an essential tactic for the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Strategy.

The lawyer claimed the meeting “was not, in the District’s view, a “meeting” of the Governing Board.” Did you notice that Westie never claimed it was a meeting? More spaghetti.

That said, we understand that having a quorum of the Board present at gatherings, even if they are not “meetings” within the definition of Arizona’s open meeting laws, could create a perception of a violation of the OML.

No $#!t, Sherlock, that was Westie’s point. The lawyer went on to explain how GPS will do “Courtesy” postings, which is what the OML training had stressed was the correct procedure. Sheeeeesh. Westie had one more point to make:

Finally, it was open and obvious that the additional compensation for Suzanne Zentner was buried in the consent agenda without a price tag or terms associated with this largess. You all can do better on transparency. Your hold on the public trust is tenuous, and that doesn’t bode well for the success of a new superintendent you will select, or for reversing the plummeting student enrollment trend that has cost, and continues to cost, the district millions of dollars.

The lawyer decided to throw the boiling water out of the spaghetti pot at Westie and say the board didn’t violate OML on that issue. However, Westie didn’t say this action violated OML, but criticized the board with, “You all can do better on transparency.” The lawyer letter cost the district thousands of dollars, and THIS was the best they could come up with. Sheeeesh.

The lawyer added something Westie had never noticed:

In addition, if any member of the public had a question regarding the details pertaining to this Agenda item, he/she could have requested additional information. As is expressly stated at the end of the Agenda, “Additional information regarding this agenda can be obtained from the Governing Board Coordinator’s office 24 hours in advance of the board meeting.”

What GPS did when Westie took that advice is the subject of the next post. You know you can hardly wait.

Big Fat Asterisk: 
Don’t take it literally. The quote is from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2.  Westie knows and loves a few wonderful lawyers, but has no use for those miscreants who have made it their life’s work to gorge themselves on public funds from school districts under the guise of *legal advice* that’s neither wanted nor warranted. GPS spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on such schemes.

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