Sunnyside open meeting violations charged

2013-08-16T00:00:00Z Sunnyside open meeting violations chargedBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board member filed a complaint this week with the Pima County Attorney’s Office and Arizona attorney general claiming his fellow board members violated the state’s open-meetings law.

Buck Crouch filed the complaint with both offices within the last two days after he was notified three of the district’s board members attended a school district administrator’s summit July 23 and 24, Crouch said.

The three board members who attended were Louie Gonzales, Eva Carrillo Dong and Bobby Garcia.

The Pima County Attorney’s office received the complaint and is working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine which will investigate the issue, said Christopher Straub, chief civil deputy for the County Attorney’s Office.

In the complaint, Crouch claims Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo directed district spokeswoman Mary Veres to invite three board members while purposely excluding Crouch and Daniel Hernandez Jr., who are his biggest critics.

At the summit, Isquierdo introduced Gonzales, Dong and Garcia, who voted to extend the superintendent’s contract, as “the ones that could be trusted,” according to the complaint.

Each of those board members addressed the group of administrators.

Crouch claims the gathering violated the open-meetings law because at least three board members were present, which is the minimum required to have a district board meeting, but there was no agenda or public notice.

Crouch learned of the summit from some of the administrators who attended, he said.

School district officials say they had consulted their lawyers for past events, who advised board members can be around each other in social settings.

“The board members are more than entitled to show up at district events,” Veres said.

Veres said she invited the three board members who appeared at the event, but the district didn’t purposely exclude Crouch and Hernandez.

She wasn’t aware if someone else was instructed to call Crouch and Hernandez, she said.

The complaint illustrates a longstanding conflict among the school board members.

Crouch and Hernandez are two of Isquierdo’s biggest critics, citing a litany of personal and legal problems that have plagued the superintendent since he was hired in 2007.

Isquierdo has faced criticism for filing for bankruptcy last month before he was scheduled to lose his Oro Valley home to foreclosure, owing more than $150,000 in back taxes, and having his driver’s license suspended because of unpaid fines and failure to appear in court.

The superintendent was also criticized for making improper charges on his district credit card and for the district’s use of athletes to pass out literature in support of a bond election in past years.

Both board members who were excluded from the summit voted against the superintendent’s three-year contract extension in June.

The other three board members support Isquierdo, saying the district has improved its graduation rates since he arrived.

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

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