Illegal sale of property is alleged in Tucson Unified School District

All six workers in department suspended during investigation
2013-05-11T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:48:22Z Illegal sale of property is alleged in Tucson Unified School DistrictAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

TUSD's Property Control Department is under criminal investigation for allegations that employees have been selling district property illegally for six years.

All of the department's employees - at least six - have been placed on administrative leave. It is currently being run in a limited capacity by other district employees.

The value of the property is not known. No one has been charged.

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent John Pedicone and other district officials refused to comment beyond confirming the investigation is being done.

It is alleged that one employee paid subordinates to load up tables, desks, chairs, chalkboards and high-priced interactive white boards, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.

None of the money made from the sales went back to the school district.

TUSD is conducting its own investigation but has also enlisted Tucson police, expressing the intent to prosecute, Widmer said.

The Property Control Department receives materials that have been ordered by the district and is also responsible for distribution, according to TUSD Chief Operations Officer Candy Egbert. It also stores surplus property and delivers extra furniture for school events.

Egbert would not discuss the incident, citing the open investigation.

The allegations surfaced in mid-April when an employee came forward to report a property control supervisor was selling property for cash during work hours and keeping the money. TUSD reported the incident to police on Thursday.

Bruce Slabaugh, president of the union representing blue-collar workers, said he was not aware of the allegations but knew employees had been placed on leave.

According to Slabaugh, the district has long had an agreement to give some surplus property to other entities, including schools in Mexico, but said much of what was stored in the warehouses did not have significant value.

Four of the five TUSD board members said they had no details about the investigation. Board member Mark Stegeman could not be reached for comment.

This is not the first time district officials have come under fire for illegal procurement activities.

Several employees retired abruptly or had their contracts not renewed in 2009 after a state attorney general's investigation found evidence of bid-rigging and conflict of interest in the purchase of technology systems and equipment, including the same type of electronic white boards that are part of this investigation.

On StarNet: Find more education and TUSD news at azstarnet.com/education

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.

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

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Get weekly ads via e-mail