Laura Smith resigned from her position as chief financial officer of the Scottsdale Unified School District on Friday, Jan. 26, according to a statement by superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell.
In the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 29, the superintendent released a statement stating she had received Ms. Smith’s resignation letter. Ms. Smith was put on administrative leave days earlier, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, pending an ongoing investigation.
In a letter sent to top Scottsdale Unified School District officials last Wednesday, Dr. Birdwell explained that Ms. Smith has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation related to an alleged conflict of interest from May 2017.
The alleged conflict of interest arose following the district entering into a monetary agreement with financial firm Professional Group Public Consulting, Inc. — also known as PGPC — of which Ms. Smith is named president and director.
In December 2017, Gust Rosenfeld attorney Susan Segal publicly announced that she was investigating Ms. Smith’s conflict of interest with the district. The PGPC issue is part two of an internal district review of which Ms. Segal was contracted for.
“Late Friday afternoon, I received the resignation letter of CFO Laura Smith and have since then forwarded it to the Governing Board,” Dr. Birdwell said in a Jan. 29 prepared statement sent to the Independent.
“This change does not impact the ongoing investigation related to Ms. Smith which will continue to conclusion. We anticipate the Governing Board will receive an update on the investigation next week. We remain steadfast in our mission of providing the best student-focused education possible and will not waiver.”
Ms. Smith’s resignation letter states her sister, Caroline Brackley, is also listed as a principal of the company.
“As you know, I completed three conflict of interest statements revealing my past relationship with the Professional Group,” Ms. Smith’s letter states. “Although it is common knowledge in Arizona education circles that Caroline is my sister, I inadvertently erred in not also disclosing that on the conflict of interest forms. It was a genuine and innocent mistake.”
Ms. Smith goes on to say that she did not intentionally act to reward PGPC while serving as Scottsdale School’s CFO.
“I became chief financial officer in May,” she stated in the letter.
According to Ms. Helm, and a February 2017 SUSD Governing Board Agenda, Ms. Smith was hired as CFO Feb. 15, 2017.
“The Professional Group suspended my active ownership and participating on May 1, 2017 because of my new duties at the district,” she said.
“By the end of the month, my interest in the Professional Group was valued; the Professional Group board accepted my request to buy my interest.”
Ms. Smith says she mistakenly signed two change orders regarding purchase orders to compensate PGPC for services.
“It was an inadvertent mistake,” she said.
“My career has been devoted to helping school districts maximize financial resources to help our students. My single, honest mistake and two inadvertent errors are now being unfairly extrapolated into something sinister. It is not sinister nor dishonest.”