New job for Sunnyside board member's daughter raises questions

2014-02-25T00:00:00Z 2014-04-04T18:19:05Z New job for Sunnyside board member's daughter raises questionsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The daughter of Sunnyside Unified School District board member Louie Gonzales was transferred to the district’s Human Resources Department more than a week ago, despite questions about her qualifications and motives for her hiring.

Sunnyside’s Governing Board approved the transfer of Michelle Morita, Gonzales’ daughter, to a secretary position in Human Resources.

Posted job qualifications say the position requires three years of human-resources-related experience. But Morita previously worked as a secretary in the district’s Curriculum and Professional Development Department.

She was originally hired by the district as a bus driver and has worked at Sunnyside for at least five years, Gonzales said.

Morita’s résumé was not available.

Morita’s move to the Human Resources Department has attracted attention because of her father’s comments at a November Governing Board meeting, after a group submitted signatures forcing a recall election against him.

Gonzales said he wanted to find out who signed the petition so he could know who “shook his hand and stabbed him in the back.”

Some have suggested Morita’s hiring is a way to find out which employees signed the petition.

“The main concern is she’s going to be in a very sensitive area” with access to employee records, board member Buck Crouch said. “They’re concerned that, with the comments Louie made, her being in Human Resources will be able to have leverage over those employees who signed the petition.”

Gonzales and board member Bobby Garcia are targets of a recall election because they, along with board President Eva Carrillo Dong, support Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo.

The three credit Isquierdo with boosting graduation numbers and increasing student access to technology.

Crouch and board member Daniel Hernandez Jr., along with many district parents, residents and some employees, have criticized Isquierdo’s leadership, as well as for a litany of personal and financial problems, including filing for bankruptcy and not paying his taxes.

The recall election will take place in May.

Morita was unavailable for comment, but Gonzales said he doesn’t need to use his daughter to get employee information because he’s a board member, so he can make a formal request from the district’s staff.

“Their jobs are not in jeopardy because we know who we’re letting go” because of the district’s budget cuts, he said. “There is no dirt on my employees to get.”

Gonzales also defended his daughter’s hiring, saying Morita gained human-resources experience before she came to the district while working at a labor-services company, where she conducted interviews and handled payroll.

She also worked in finance at Desert Diamond Casino, he said.

Although she has no human-resources experience with the district, Gonzales described her appointment as a lateral move because her old and new positions are similar.

Gonzales said his daughter should not be denied an opportunity just because he’s related to her.

“I’m not going to jeopardize my daughter’s opportunity because I don’t want the attention,” he said.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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