By Tommy Acosta
Sedona AZ (July 6, 2015) – The drama deepens in the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office launching a preliminary investigation into apparent violations of conflict of interest statutes by two present and one former school board member after citing the school board for three open meeting law violations.
The potential criminal investigation is a result of a complaint filed with the AG’s office May 26, 2015 by a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Sedona (CCS) alleging present school board members Bobbi Surber and Karen McClelland, and former board member Carol Huggins, used their influence as SOCUSD board members to award contracts that were in conflict of interest.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Munns notified SOCUSD attorney Ben Hufford on June 30, 2015 that the complaint was referred to the AG’s Criminal Division for review to determine if a criminal investigation or further action is warranted.
In their 52-page complaint, the CCS group accused Ms. Surber, who was school board president at that time, of failing to adequately disclose her relationship with her former employer Shrader & Martinez, the contractor that was eventually awarded the $5 to $7 million contract to build the district’s new office building.
The complaint implies that Surber steered the school construction contract to Schrader & Martinez. “We believe she (Ms. Surber) benefitted by doing so,” the group states in their complaint. “We also believe these activities were carried out with the knowledge and assistance of McClelland and Huggins.”
According to the CCS group, the violations occurred from June 2007 through June 2011 during the expenditure of the $73 million Sedona school bond that was passed in November 2007.
School board member McClelland, responding to a request for a for a comment, dismissed the allegations.
“I will respond only to state that this complaint is without merit,” she wrote in an email to Sedona.biz.
This is a breaking news story. There will be more reporting as it develops.
Acting on a separate complaint, the AG’s office determined the school board unintentionally violated the open meeting laws on three occasions in June and July of last year when it went to into executive session and reportedly discussed items that were not properly agenized, according to Mr. Munns in a letter to the district dated June 25, 2015.
Mr. Munns also noted the board went into executive session at its July meeting without giving proper reason to do so. Mr. Munns advised the board to undergo public training on open meeting laws and publically review the substance of the complaint that led to the AG’s findings.