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 his split with Stegeman, in March 2013.
"I voted against Pedicone’s extension because I thought the timing was bad," he told me Wednesday.
Once he 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 about Sanchez.
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.
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.