Greenburg: the curious case of credentials, Scottsdale Schools and Louis Hartwell

Lessons learned from Louis Hartwell.

Jann-Michael Greenburg

In January of 2012, Scott Thompson, the CEO of Yahoo, was forced from his job for lying on his résumé about degrees in accounting and computer science he never earned. David Tovar, the VP of Corporate Communications at Wal-Mart, was fired for claiming to have a bachelor’s degree he never earned. David Edmondson, the CEO of Radio Shack, voluntarily resigned from the company after claiming to have bachelor’s degrees he had not earned.

Closer to home, Sandra Baldwin, the first female president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, resigned for claiming to have both a doctorate and bachelor’s degree that she had not earned.

This brings one to the curious case of Mr. Louis Ross Hartwell, the COO of the Scottsdale Unified School District, whose fictitious résumés and sham letters of recommendation elevated his career in four short years from a lower-level warehouse manager at Higley Unified School District, earning $46,865 a year, to his present position as the No. 2 executive at Scottsdale Unified School District, earning $120,000 per year.

Considering Mr. Hartwell is in charge of disbursing more than $229 million dollars of the community’s money, the Governing Board is remiss in not having investigated Mr. Hartwell and promptly sounding the alarm.

If one believes Mr. Hartwell’s LinkedIn résumé, the multiple résumés uncovered from Superintendent Birdwell’s emails (from the records requests served on Higley Unified School District), and the information contained in his bio on Scottsdale Unified School District’s website, then one would believe that:

  • a) Hartwell possesses an MBA from Wharton and a degree in Business Management from the University of Kentucky; and
  • b) he is a former Partner at KPMG.

If one believes “a” and “b,” then one must believe in Santa. Unfortunately, the Book of Life notes only that Mr. Hartwell has achieved nothing that he so artfully claims: Hartwell has no formal education beyond high school, no partnership at KPMG, and no job experience that would make him a competent steward of taxpayer money.

Mr. Hartwell’s problems are not “personal threats and attacks” or a “harsh culture and climate,” he claimed in his Feb. 13 letter of resignation. Mr. Hartwell’s problem is that he is, through lack of both education and experience, incompetent to fulfill the duties of the job he was hired to do.

If one can imagine Walter Mitty being called upon to perform open heart surgery, then the reality gap created by Mr. Hartwell’s résumé fraud will come into sharp focus.

Mr. Hartwell’s statement in his letter of resignation that he is willing to discuss the value of the remaining time on his contract were the Governing Board wishing to remove him earlier than June 1, is remarkable. The appropriate remedy for his fraud he has perpetrated on our community is that he should be terminated from his employment immediately and required to return the money he was paid.

There is precedent for this type of demand, given that he obtained his present job through deceit. Mr. Hartwell indicates he will be looking for work elsewhere and it would be morally bankrupt for our Governing Board to simply sweep this issue under the rug and let Mr. Hartwell slink away to set up his con-game somewhere else and fleece another unsuspecting school district or employer.

In a larger context, what message is the Governing Board sending our students regarding Mr. Hartwell?

Is the message that it is acceptable to falsify your résumé and your record of academic achievement to obtain employment? Is the message that obtaining employment through nepotism is a better option than a record of actual work experience and academic success?

One would hope that the Governing Board would finally review this matter, take the swift action that is long overdue, send a message to everyone that says there is no substitution for hard work, real academic achievement, and that fraud against the district will not be tolerated.

There are two ways to get to Carnegie Hall: one can practice, or one can take the subway and buy a ticket. Mr. Hartwell has successfully tricked the community by gaining access to the stage through the latter option. Now that we have sat through his performance, it is proper to ask for a refund.

Editor’s note: Mr. Greenburg is a graduate of Arcadia High School and the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law. He is a Scottsdale resident

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