It was a rough day, all day for Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo and some governing board members of the Sunnyside Unified School District on Tuesday. From the early morning Governing Board meeting to the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting, the District’s shady practices were exposed and the recall effort to end the culture of corruption was fueled.
The Governing Board meeting was scheduled early in the morning in an effort to reduce public and parent participation. While the timing did appear to impede attendance, the attention watchdog Board member Buck Crouch brought to the district was more than the administration could have ever hoped to avoid.
Crouch revealed that the graduation rates touted by Superintendent Isquierdo and his cronies on the Board, are false. In a dramatic presentation, Crouch presented graduation rate data from the Arizona Department of Education which is nearly 25 percent lower than the data released by the District.
According to Crouch, the administration has “overstated the number of graduates.” Crouch pointed out that the ADE data shows only a marginal increase in graduation rates since Isquierdo was hired.
“When I compared the graduation rates and numbers posted on ADE, they were grossly different than what Isquierdo has been claiming,” Crouch told constituents later on Facebook. “2% is not the same as double, although both have a 2 in them. Isquierdo claims that the ADE numbers are wrong. Yeah, right.”
Isquierdo’s cronies on the Board, Louie Gonzales, Bobby Garcia and Eve Dong have used the false numbers to rationalize their renewal of Isquierdo’s contract. It was the renewal of Isquierdo’s contract that led to the recall effort against Gonzales and Garcia.
“This is no surprise our community just confirmed why we are having recall election,” said recall organizer Richard Hernandez. “We Sunnyside community have lost all respect for the board majority who has allowed and assisted in being dishonest.”
The Recall Election was the subject of the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ meeting later in the morning.
Supporters of the recall effort, Governing Board candidate Mike Polak, and election integrity experts urged the supervisors to ensure that the election is handled in a fair and transparent manner.
“We are exhausted from hurdling the many obstacles thrown in our way by corrupt-powers-that-be, but we will not rest until every ballot is counted in a fair and transparent manner,” said organizers in a statement released after the meeting.
According to the recall committee, “through the efforts of Pima County Elections Integrity commissioners, Bill Beard and Mickey Duniho, elections expert John Brakey and Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, we were able to get the Pima County Elections Division director Brad Nelson to agree to withhold counting the ballots until the day of the elections.”
However, oversight, at the polling places remains an issue for the committee and election expert John Brakey.
The rest of the Pima County Board of Supervisors refused to consider a request by Supervisor Miller for a Special Meeting of the Board to address the issues surrounding this election. In their statement, organizers say that this refusal is “especially disconcerting given the County’s history of questionable elections and ongoing lawsuits surrounding the elections.”
The Election Division notified election integrity activist John Brakey that despite the fact that the election is nonpartisan, it has decided that only representatives from the two major parties will be allowed access to the count room where the central tabulator is. The County Recorder has denied them access to the Apollo Middle School polling sites. Brakey had tried to nominate Mickey Duniho, who is registered Independent, however Division director Brad Nelson denied the request.
This decision is made despite the fact that Arizona is a Party-centered state for the purposes of partisan election oversight. This election is nonpartisan, so the candidate should be allowed to provide oversight.
The decision is raising eyebrows in light of the behavior of Republican Election Integrity Commissioner Benny White, who became very aggressive at a meeting of the Elections Integrity Commission when the recall committee and candidates Eric Giffin, and Mike Polak requested independent oversight.
On Tuesday Miller made a request for an emergency meeting to address the recall committees concerns after her appointee to the Election Integrity Committee; Commissioner Bill Beard supported the candidates’ request for oversight.
Following the Pima County Election Integrity Commission meeting that was held on Friday, May 6th, Miller said she fielded numerous phone calls from voters demanding answers and transparency in the elections process.
Miller stated, “This is a non-partisan issue involving the need for a more transparent, fair elections process and we must address the concerns of the voters and insure that everyone has the clear and undisputed right for their vote to be counted.”
Pima County Election Integrity Commission member Bill Beard said, “There have been various concerns over the years about election integrity and the transparency of procedures with the Pima County elections process. The current Sunnyside recall election has done nothing but validate these concerns.”
Pima County is the only county in the State of Arizona that has an elections department which reports directly to the County Administrator. In the majority of the other counties, the elections department reports to the county Recorder’s office.
Recall committee members are considering legal action against the County, if their observers are denied access to the three ballot processing locations.