Greenburg: Kravetz’s comments illustrate unwillingness to instill SUSD accountability

During the June 6, 2019 special study session of the SUSD Governing Board, Governing Board member Sandy Kravetz articulated for maintaining the status quo of her tenure on the board by thwarting attempts at instilling accountability, which were coupled with her desire to eliminate public comment at Governing Board meetings.

At the conclusion of sensible suggestions for handling public comment by Dr. John Kriekard and Governing Board President Patty Beckman, which would restore public comment to the period of time immediately after the superintendent’s comments, while providing public comment opportunities for agenda specific items preceding each agenda item vote, Kravetz said:

“Well the other thing I would like to remind us, is that we are not (a) one bound, to have public comment…”

Kravetz’s reminder to the Governing Board about their ability to deny public comment may be a right of the Governing Board, but the fact that this was Kravetz’s response to Kriekard and Beckham’s suggestions betrays Ms. Kravetz desire for ruling without dissent and is in keeping with the prior board’s activities of threatening and suing constituents who came forward with commentary not flattering to their stewardship of the district.

Even more startling was Kravetz’s response to board member Greenburg’s suggestion that the district begin to follow their own written policy of having an internal auditor working at the district. Kravetz said in reply:

“…while I appreciate the … the desire for fiscal responsibility, I don’t know that a full depart — auditing department is going to yield the results that will, uh, envision. We’ve had auditors before, internal auditors, and correct me if I’m wrong, um, and, you know, if somebody wants to hide something, it’s unfortunately gonna get hidden…”

Kravetz also stated that dollars spent on an internal auditor would be dollars that could not be spent in the classroom:

“…but how many people do you envision in an auditing department? Because then that takes away…those are dollars that could be, um, spent or invested in our classrooms…”

While noble in sentiment, Kravetz’s reasoning rings hollow in the face of the enormous amount of money that Kravetz allowed to be stolen from those same classrooms by the Birdwell regime she recruited, brought to the district, and unleashed on our community.

Further, if one were to extrapolate on her statement, i.e., that people wanting to hide things are going to hide things and that there is nothing that can be done about it, then there would seem to be no need for any type of oversight or even law enforcement.

As part of the five-person board charged with overseeing the district during a time of rampant criminality, it is certainly convenient for Kravetz to now blame those crimes on some type of cosmic unpreventable inevitability that would have been impossible to detect by an auditor.

Perhaps an internal auditor would have brought to the board’s attention that they were about to hire a superintendent who had been mired in controversy, running the gamut from plagiarism to serious financial impropriety while she was employed at Higley Unified School District.

Perhaps an internal auditor would have spotted that Louis Hartwell was not only the superintendent’s de-facto brother-in-law, but was a part-time warehouse manager at Higley. An auditor might have found it odd that Hartwell would suddenly be elevated to the position of District COO, in charge of disbursing hundreds of millions of dollars of bond funds.

Perhaps an internal auditor would have spotted that Laura Smith, SUSD’s CFO, was writing checks to a company she owned. This might have saved the district the embarrassment of having their CFO indicted on 11 criminal counts.

Perhaps an internal auditor would have discovered that SUSD administrators were participating in a bid-rigging scheme and saved the Attorney General the time of having to sue SUSD for participating in bid-rigging.

Perhaps an internal auditor would have questioned why a convicted felon, posing as an architect was paid $200,000 per field to make drawings of three football fields.

Perhaps an internal auditor would now question why SUSD is paying Governing Board member Barbara Perleberg’s legal fees for a lawsuit Perleberg filed as a private individual without board approval?

Perhaps the auditor might ask why Kravetz, who sits on the board of the SUSD Self Insurance Trust, which until this week also had a Jones Skelton partner sitting on the same board, is allowing the district’s insurer to pay for Perleberg’s personal legal bills while paying Jones Skelton to defend Perleberg.

Perhaps the auditor might ask why Michelle Marshall, the general counsel for the district, (whose 2019 salary was $171,450), is currently having her employment performance review for her contract renewal conducted by Jennifer MacLennan, an attorney with Gust Rosenfeld.

Ms. MacLennan is the same attorney recently hired by Ms. Marshall on behalf of SUSD to negotiate the roofing contract and solar panel contract for Coronado High School.

An auditor might point out that having a vendor to whom business had been awarded conduct an employment review of the person who awarded them the business would appear to be a conflict of interest.

Perhaps an auditor might point out the impropriety of Governing Board member Kravetz requesting, in April of this year, that an investigation be launched into the rehiring of Christine Marsh, the 2016 teacher of the year whose reputation is flawless.

It is clear that Kravetz’s desire for being able to govern by fiat, without any checks and balances that could be provided by an internal auditor will make her life easier.

It will perpetuate the myth that she is blameless for the enormous mistakes she made during her tenure while leaving the district subject to recurring problems caused by cronyism, the theft of district resources, and a complete lack of accountability.

Editor’s Note: Mark Greenburg is the father of Governing Board member Jann-Michael Greenburg and a resident of Scottsdale.

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