Gilbert Public Schools: Destroying Evidence and Obstructing Justice

We made a request for public records to GPS, which included “review in electronic format all emails to and from Superintendent Dave Allison from February 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013.” The response was, “Dr. Allison’s email no longer exists in either paper or electronic format.”

It appears that someone in Gilbert Public Schools has purposely destroyed evidence in four pending lawsuits against Gilbert Public Schools institutionally and against Dave Allison and other GPS employees personally. Good Old Dave’s emails were essential evidence in all four cases. The district was required to preserve those electronic files and paper copies, and turn them over to the plaintiffs in each of the lawsuits.   They had to know that, because GPS has a general counsel on staff and a LOT of lawyers being paid handsomely by The Trust, but someone destroyed evidence anyway. Right about the time Good Old Dave retired, it seems.

Like many of our birdies, we heard rumors that Good Old Dave had been busily shredding and deleting his files right up until he finally left GPS. It would seem that the more extensive the cover-up, the more people will be caught in the snare. Given the technical talent he showed in using the email system, it’s not very likely that Good Old Dave was competent enough to delete his own computer files and emails. He probably had help with destroying the paper copies, as well. What did he do, carry out garbage bags of shredded paper in the middle of the night?

The bigger and more important question will be: what was in Dave Allison’s emails and paper files that were destroyed? It must have been some really juicy stuff to rationalize facing charges of destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice. Those judges won’t be GOBs. They’re federal and state judges, and they’ll be looking at some very sophisticated defendants who had expensive legal advice when somebody decided to have a shredding and deleting party. Which is a crime when what’s being destroyed is evidence in a lawsuit. Of course, public records laws might come into play, as well, not that those laws seem to have any teeth. Fortunately, there are criminal laws that have a lot of bite.

Here’s how we learned that evidence has been destroyed. We filed some requests for public records through proper channels; some of our requests were for evidence that GPS simply refused to produce in response to our official “discovery” in lawsuits. Before Dr. Keegan arrived, Gilbert Public Schools simply ignored most of our requests for public records. The lawsuit for public records came into being when we got stiff-armed; read the complaint here. Anyway, we requested additional public records on March 19, 2013, including the following:

We would like to review in electronic format all email messages to governing board members from December 1, 2011 through the present, including any and all attachments to those email messages. This request includes any and all email messages from the Superintendent to board members.

GPS got around to acknowledging our request for public records on July 31, 2013, right after Dave Allison retired. See a pattern here? GPS was NOT going to let us review public records, the board’s emails that are routinely offered to just about anyone else who asks! They were just not going to let us see public records, and certainly not while Dave Allison was superintendent! Now we know why. On August 26, 2013, we received an email from GPS that Dave Allison’s email no longer exists in either paper or electronic format.

One of the sovereign powers of the United States is to administer justice in its courts between private citizens. Obstructing such administration is an offense against the United States, in that it prevents or tends to prevent the execution of one of the powers of the government. The most significant harms associated with obstruction-of-justice-type offenses, however, are those caused to our system of justice and to society generally. Federal law makes it a crime to “corruptly” obstruct the “due administration of justice.” Intentional destruction of evidence for a pending judicial proceeding is considered “obstruction of justice” and is punishable by up to five years in prison.

18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1505 and 1512 have long provided criminal sanctions against those who “corruptly” obstruct the administration of justice during the course of a proceeding. These statutes reach cases in which a judicial, administrative, grand jury enforcement or proceeding was pending at the time of misconduct, and the conduct was intended to influence the proceeding.

The proposition that destroying documents may have criminal consequences is not new.

1. Remember Arthur Andersen? That was a mega-firm that audited Enron back at the turn of the 21st century. Amidst the Enron implosion, Arthur Andersen partners launched a wholesale destruction of documents at Andersen’s offices. The Arthur Andersen company was indicted for destroying tons of paper relating to the Enron audit and thereby obstructing justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2). Arthur Anderson is no more.

2. Frank Quattrone, an investment banker, was indicted for obstruction of justice and witness tampering, violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1505, and 1512. Quattrone asked his subordinates to destroy documents in compliance with the firm’s document retention policy, even though he was aware at the time that a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating him and his company.

3. Scooter Libby was the top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney when he was indicted for a charge of obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1503 and two counts of false statements under 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Libby was charged with a violation of the obstruction of justice statutes for allegedly making false statements to federal officers, perjury, and misleading a grand jury as to his role in leaking information to the U.S. media concerning Valerie Plame Wilson’s employment by the CIA; notably, Mr. Libby was not indicted for actually divulging classified information.

4. Martha Stewart was originally investigated for her role in an insider trading scandal involving her sale of stock just a day before the company’s stock plummeted on the news that the FDA had denied approval of a new cancer drug. Ms. Stewart was convicted, but not of insider trading or a violation of securities laws; rather, she was found to have obstructed justice by altering company records to conceal her role in the affair. Her convictions for obstructing justice, lying to federal prosecutors and conspiracy landed her in prison, but she was not convicted of insider trading, the original reason she was being investigated.

You know we have more. We’ll be sharing plenty. Chirp, chirp!

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