You could have guessed this was coming.
When the Tucson Unified School District board emerged from executive session Tuesday and voted on a new superintendent, the vote was not unanimous. It was 4-1.
And once again, that one “no” vote came from board member Mark Stegeman.
Oh, he had a reason. This time, his reason for voting against the naming of interim Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo as permanent superintendent was this: He thought they should not name the finalist until a contract is signed.
That seems fine in isolation, but not when you look at the pattern.
On Aug. 28, 2012, Stegeman voted against an extension of the contract of then-Superintendent John Pedicone. That foreshadowed a split with Pedicone that led to his decision to resign, in part due to Stegeman, in March 2013.
“I voted against Pedicone’s extension because I thought the timing was bad,” he told me Wednesday.
Once Stegeman had contributed to the departure of Pedicone, it was time for the district to hire another superintendent. They did another of those vaunted nationwide searches and came up with H.T. Sanchez. On June 18, 2013, the board voted to hire him, 4-1. Stegeman voted no.
“I voted ‘no’ because I felt that his record did not support his elevation to a job as difficult as this at this point in his career,” Stegeman said at the time.
Again, a defensible argument, especially considering Sanchez’s tumultuous few years. But only in isolation.
When you look at the pattern, you see Stegeman undermining a superintendent again and again. Perhaps it’s to preserve his own deniability, so he can say “I didn’t vote for the guy” if things go bad. Perhaps he doesn’t like commitment.
In the case of the current hire, Stegeman had made it very clear that his favored candidate was Stephen Trejo, former principal of C.E. Rose K-8 school. So maybe that’s another reason for his “no” vote on Trujillo, though again Stegeman said his reason was strictly procedural.
Stegeman wrote me a lengthy email Thursday explaining why he thought Trejo was a better pick than Trujillo, so clearly that wound hasn’t healed.
Pedicone told me, when I called him Wednesday, that split votes are normal in the day-to-day business of school boards, but unanimous votes are important for incoming superintendents.
“Boards should be critical. They should not make these decisions lightly,” Pedicone said. But, he added, “When you do what he did, it creates that little doubt, even if he makes the excuse that that’s because he wants to see the contract first.”
Board President Michael Hicks told me that Stegeman is the only one on the board who had taken that position.
“There was nothing that was written that we weren’t going to name the candidate prior to the contract,” Hicks said. “That’s just something Mark had decided.”
Undoubtedly, once a contract is negotiated, Stegeman will join the rest of the board and unanimously approve Trujillo’s hire. But he’s already planted that seed of doubt and preserved that bit of deniability if things don’t go so well.
Donations roil Tucson Democrats
The latest round of campaign-finance filings for the upcoming Tucson City Council elections included two details that got local Democrats riled up.
One was a donation by a Democratic council candidate, Felicia Chew, who is running for the party’s nomination in Ward 3. On Aug. 9, the day of a forum on sustainability attended by all the council candidates from all the wards, Chew donated $10 to Ward 6 Green Party candidate Mike Cease.
Ward 6 incumbent Steve Kozachik, a Democrat, called it a “poor decision to help an opponent of mine to qualify for public matching funds.”
This of course added to the perception that Chew may not be much of a Democrat at all. She previously acknowledged voting for Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic presidential primary and Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election.
Meanwhile, Ward 3 Democrat Paul Durham cried foul at another set of donations — to the third Dem in the race, Tom Tronsdal. He received $1,000 total in two contributions from Republican mega-donors Jim and Vicki Click.
Tronsdal told me he’s never even met the Clicks but had some association with them through a couple of charities. And he pointed out that he had lots of donations from Democrats, too.
“I’m not ashamed of their donations, but I didn’t ask for them,” he said.
Miller AWOL again
Last week, former Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll texted me and said “I’ll bet Honorable Ally Miller doesn’t show up.”
He was referring, of course, to the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday. Protesters showed up Monday and there was much public criticism during the meeting of her insensitive-at-best Facebook comment the day of the vehicle attack against protesters in Charlottesville.
And Carroll, who fought with Miller during much of their shared time on the board, was right: Miller didn’t show up.
This isn’t the first time she’s absented herself when sharp criticism was occurring or forecast. On June 21 last year, Miller abruptly left a meeting during a discussion of her response to public-records requests about the infamous Arizona Daily Herald episode, in which a staffer for Miller secretly set up a short-lived online news site.
On Thursday, Carroll proposed and I accepted a double or nothing, though I’m still not clear what’s at stake: He’s betting Miller won’t show up on Sept. 5, when the board discusses what it can do in response to Miller’s Facebook post.
That’s not possible, is it?