Gilbert Public Schools Violates Laws … Again! On Purpose!

The new boss, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, is the same as the old boss – listening to the same old pet lawyer from The Trust, who is not an employment lawyer, which is part of their problem. Gilbert Public Schools will wind up in the same old legal mess, go to court again, and  probably find themselves with another litigation loss. It’s really tough when a public body and a public agency can’t figure out how to follow the law themselves and they have to get [cough] *legal advice* to royally screw things up.

Same Old Stuff: Superintendent Kishimoto must have been absolutely certain that she could bully an employee into resigning under duress by sending a letter with a list of baseless allegations, but without any supporting details. Once again, a brave employee is saying, “Prove it.” Once again, GPS won’t be able to do so. Once again, Christina Kishimoto is in “my way or the highway” mode, as if that’s scary to anyone. Once again, there’s a holiday: “Holidays Are Coming, So Gilbert Public Schools Will Be Firing Someone!” Once again, Christina Kishimoto doesn’t know Arizona statutes, and she’ll be bit in the butt.*

This time, Superintendent Kishimoto ran afoul of Open Meeting Laws dealing with employment matters. Ah, gee, her pet lawyer must not have explained about that pesky requirement of giving employees notice if they are going to have their employment discussed behind closed doors in an executive session. Plus there’s precedent about giving someone that kind of notice with specificity and with enough time to make an informed decision before an executive session occurs.

Of course, there’s plenty of evidence about the times when GPS has indeed done what the law requires. Sigh. It must be easier for Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and her bought-and-paid-for board members to play the dumb@$$ card this time and say they didn’t know what the law requires. That defense won’t fly this time, certainly not with students who staged a sit in for their coach. Go Team Rutt! We want to hear you ROAR!

Do you think this whole hot mess is related to Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s recommendation to the GPS Governing Board that they pay up and get back on The Trust’s pre-paid legal plan? Her 7-0 Majesty explained something about having legal issues in the pipeline. Bet this is one of them! By the time of the March 31, 2015 board meeting, our gal Christina Kishimoto found out she had stepped in a heaping pile of Community Spirit of the Football Persuasion. That’s a special kind of spirit, as most long-term residents of the south and southwest know from birth.

The conduct that violated the open meeting law:

Coach and teacher Tim Rutt was sent a letter on March 27, 2015, wherein Superintendent Kishimoto informed of her intent to recommend non-renewal of his employment contract with Gilbert Public School District. I will not belabor all the improper and ethically problematic occurrences leading up to this letter, but will only alert that the firing of this beloved Coach and the “non-renewal” of his teaching contract have been so rife with issues and misconduct on the part of the Gilbert School District that it will be the subject of further litigation and has already been a popular story on the news.

With that information as a background, hundreds of students signed a Petition asking for renewal of Tim Rutt and numerous parents, teachers, other staff, and students all attended the Governing Board Meeting held on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Gilbert School District’s Administrative Offices to show their support for Tim Rutt. The Board had set this hearing at a time when the agenda was quite full. At the hearing, after making the standing room only crowd of people wait through numerous other business items, the Superintendent and President called for an Executive Session pursuant to A.R.S. 38-431 prior to discussing the next agenda items: i.e., Coach Rutt. The Board asserted its acknowledgment of the numerous students there who were being kept up late and stated that the Executive Session would last ten minutes at most.

The Executive Session lasted for well over ten minutes and in fact closer to thirty minutes, and when the Board members finally returned they were all carrying a piece of paper (clearly written and distributed during executive session by the attorney for the District, Denise Lowell-Britt): two of the members later read directly from this sheet of paper regarding not renewing Mr. Rutt’s employment, and a Board member has thereafter asserted his belief that the Executive Session was in fact a statutory violation. The Board member’s comments are attached hereto, and in combination with the numerous witnesses who would be willing to attest to the facts as laid out in this letter, the comments establish that the Executive Session was held for purposes of addressing Coach Rutt’s employment even though he was never provided any 24 hour Notice of any Executive Session as the statute clearly dictates.

Furthermore, no count of the parents, staff, and students present and prepared to speak at the hearing could be made as the room was completely full and there were people left standing outside as well, but many of the parents wanted to speak and were forbidden from doing so by the Board, in particular the President and Superintendent made it clear that only Todd Nolan, Coach Rutt, and one parent were allowed to speak for 3 minutes each. When objection was made, the Board ignored it. This was in no manner a reasonable time limit or limit on who could be heard as the room was overflowing with supporters for Mr. Rutt who were not allowed to be heard, while at the same time another agenda item, regarding the budget, included every speaker at the meeting who wanted to be heard on that subject, and did not exclude any of those who wanted to speak (many more than the three people allowed to talk for Tim Rutt).

The conduct of the Board was so egregious and clearly predetermined against Mr. Rutt that one teacher, who was at the meeting to speak on the budget, specifically stated that he did not know Coach Rutt and was not there for that purpose, but since it was so clear that the Board was railroading Mr. Rutt, he determined that his three minutes of time should be spent reminding the Board and Dr. Kishimoto in particular about what their job was and that they were clearly acting inappropriately regarding Coach Rutt including but not limited to holding an improper Executive Session.

The Board secretary had also informed parents who presented their requests to speak while the Board was on break for Executive Session, that the requests had to be made before the meeting so they could not be heard, regardless of the fact that the room was so full that many of the parents did not know where to find the tiny slips of paper that count as requests to speak, as the card table they were on near one of the doors was blocked by the standing room only crowd and no announcement was made regarding the necessity for a slip of paper to be turned in to the secretary prior to the Board commencing business.

I apologize for being verbose, but this is not a simple matter. The blatant workplace violations and issues with the Gilbert School District’s handling of this matter have been shocking. To top it off, at the one meeting where Mr. Rutt was allegedly to be heard and his employment truly considered by the Board, instead the Governing Board for the District made a mockery of the system and most importantly, the Open Public Meeting Laws by meeting in private and then having a prewritten and predetermined plan for non-renewal prior to any actual discussion at the Public Meeting.

Please investigate this matter and I am sure you will recognize the blatant violations that occurred. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Cari McConeghy Nolan
Attorney and Concerned Parent

You know we’ll have more … a LOT more. Woo hoo for Team Rutt!

Big Fat Asterisk: Keyboard’s young ears are sensitive, so the only balls we’ll talk about are footballs.

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