TUSD Administration Orders Legal Witch Hunt In Response To Hicks Letter

Congressman Raul Grijalva and TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez enjoy a public relations moment dining with students (TUSD photo)

On November 25, 2015, Tucson Unified School District Governing Board member Michael Hicks advised Judge David Bury of a witch hunt that is being conducted by attorneys for the district in response to a letter Hicks sent to the court earlier this month. Hicks wrote to the court after he discovered that the district had filed papers informing the court of an investigation pertaining to his November 2, 2015 letter to the court.

According to the November 25 letter, Hicks was first informed of the witch hunt by Bill Brammer, of Rusing, Lopez, and Lizardi, that his firm was planning to recommend that his letter be investigated. Brammer backed down when he was advised by Hicks on November 11, 2015 that his “communication to the Court was expressing a minority opinion about a civil rights/desegregation case and that I believed that any investigation involving my correspondence was unwarranted and that I viewed it as reprisal for expressing a minority opinion through my letter to the US Federal Court.”

To read the correspondence click here

“I believe that the announced “investigation” sends a chilling message to the entire TUSD community,” wrote Hicks in his November 25 letter. “I also believe that the decision to conduct the investigation is highly suspect and may be in violation of open meeting law.”

Under the leadership of Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, and Governing Board member Adelita Grijalva, many employees describe intimidation tactics including “witch hunts.” In his November 2, letter Hicks alerted Judge Bury to a scheme by Sanchez and Grijalva to build opposition to the court-appointed Special Master, Willis Hawley, assigned to decades old desegregation case, in order to have him removed by the court. Hicks also advised the judge of the intimidation tactics used against employees by the district’s Superintendent, H.T. Sanchez.

Brammer appeared to have taken exception to the portion of the November 2, letter in which Hicks wrote:

On October 5th and 6th the Special Master met with all of the parties involved. I was in attendance much of the time on both days. Those in attendance from both the Fisher and Mendoza party conveyed extreme concern over the District’s involvement in dispersing inaccurate misinformation and in lodging personal attacks. District officials wanted to know who, when and where- while at the same time denying that anything inappropriate had occurred. The superintendent was absent both days. Evidently TUSD legal counsel attended the school meetings at which the described actions took place; during which the superintendent encouraged members of the Mendoza class to displace the Mendoza Plaintiffs and their Representative- based on information provided only by the Defendant- TUSD. While I question the appropriateness of TUSD legal counsel standing by while the administration provides disparaging and untrue comments to parents (mostly Hispanic class members), I understand that my opinion as one board member becomes a mute voice in attempting to deal with this issue at the Board level. To me it is very clear that the District has not met its obligations at the magnet schools and that the blame is all being swung in the direction of the Court, the Special Master and the plaintiffs.

Hicks responded to Brammer and advised him it was not, in fact, his firm to which Hicks was referring, but to the district’s internal legal counsel Julie Tolleson. The November 25, letter reads in part:

On November 11, 2015 I responded to Mr. Brammer (attached- B) and reminded him that my communication to the Court was expressing a minority opinion about a civil rights/desegregation case and that I believed that any investigation involving my correspondence was unwarranted and that I viewed it as reprisal for expressing a minority opinion through my letter to the US Federal Court. In response, Mr. Brammer informed me that his law firm would not be engaged in the matter any further, based on the fact that I had informed him that the legal counsel to whom I referred in my letter as attending magnet school meetings was not him or anyone from his firm but rather TUSD Chief Legal Counsel, Julie Tolleson.

In response, Hicks heard from Tolleson on November 12, 2015 in an email correspondence. According to Hicks, that email:

“… included notice that Gordon Lewis of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli out of Phoenix would be handling the investigation regarding” and that the investigator “would obviously define his own parameters but that she thought it was safe to say that the investigation would include evaluating what representations were made by district personnel and whether those were improper and whether district personnel have taken any improper steps to interfere with the plaintiff representatives relationship with their counsel, or undermine the special master, “or however we might want to define it”. She further stated that given that she attended some of the referenced meetings, Mr. Lewis would likely coordinate any interview scheduling needs through the Board office or perhaps directly through relevant departments. The scope of the investigation seems pretty far-reaching.”

Hicks advised the court that he submitted his “minority report/opinion to the Court and made it clear that what I reported was my viewpoint. I also stated that based on fear of retaliation, I would not reveal any sources. (I gave my word to individuals to maintain confidentiality and I intend to keep my word.)”

“Mr. Brammer and Ms. Tolleson both chided me in their correspondence for not having “reported” my concerns to the Board or to them. They are ignoring the state of affairs as it is now is within TUSD,” wrote Hicks. “They are also ignoring that I will not reveal any sources, as I have stated. I am more emphatic about this today!”

Hicks asks the judge, “If I have attracted such “heat,” imagine what parents, staff, students and community members might fear from speaking up. Neither Mr. Brammer nor Ms. Tolleson has indicated to me under what authority they have pursued an investigation or under whose direction they have done so.”

Both Hicks, and his fellow board member Dr. Mark Stegeman are treated with disrespect according to observers, and their concerns are either ignored, or in some cases they are prevented from even expressing them during board meetings.

“The decision to move in the direction of investigating my correspondence seems to have been made quickly but it is not clear by whom, when or where, much less how much the investigation will cost,” writes Hicks. He also questions the fact that “there is no stated or implied authority to conduct the investigation.”

Hicks echoes other district staff and plaintiff representatives’ concern, when he writes: “This situation is yet another pointed example of the climate under which the desegregation case is being managed.”

“This letter is to inform the Court of what has transpired since my last communication and to assert the fact that I will not take part in any imposed investigation. By informing the Court of the situation, my actions, I hope, will not be interpreted as lack of cooperation but, instead, as my resolve to freely express a minority opinion, without being subjected to intimidating bullying tactics and more than questionable actions around who, when and where the decision was made to investigate my correspondence to the Court,” concluded Hicks.

Just last week, Judge Bury admonished the district for the misinformation given to parents of children in certain magnet schools.

Related articles:

Court Told Of Intimidation By TUSD Administration

Court Accepts TUSD Magnet Plan, Critical Of Grijalva

Desegregation Plaintiffs, Special Master Try To Meet TUSD Demands

Is It Time For HT To Resign From TUSD?

Juarez Proven Wrong On TUSD Principal Innocence Claim

14 Comments

  1. No i did not sign as I never knew where to go. Only saw 1 time that there was a signing over at udall park or someplace like that. Never heard anything of it since. Dont know what neighborhoods you walked as n one came to the south side that I know of.

    When you say you posted, where was it? Many do not go to websites of a small group or activity. So you may have been active, but it appears it was in a small section of town! I really dont know. This site covered you guys 1 or 2 times but nothing to really activate folks. Dont know how many sigs you needed or got maybe you could illuminate folks on how many actually signed/participated?

  2. The state legislature will consider pulling the deseg money in the next legislative session. As a resident of Pima County, who is being taxed for the mess that is TUSD, I fully support that effort and home they pass that into law. The free ride on the backs of people who do not send their kids to TUSD schools, nor live inside TUSD boundaries needs to come to an end. Perhaps the voters within TUSD will wake up when they are forced to pay for all of it instead of relying others to pick up a chunk of the tab.

  3. well it appears that the recall effort was not very effective. No info where and when they would be out and about, no one in the various neighborhoods looking for signatures, so I guess yes it was a failure.

    Hopefully (but doubtful), there will be changes but with a d behind their names you kn ow in this area that the r’s dont vote and the indy’s only sit back and whine and cry about party politics but seldom get out to make the changes they claim they support. So the d will allow these sleazebags to continue and the school system to fail at the expense of the kids. Just remember if only 1 kid graduates!

    • Hank, you can add one other thing too with the school. As long as the school produces victims and not students, no business will ever settle here. The business friendly county and city have taken care of that over the years and now simply add TUSD to the mix and this area becomes toxic to any industry that might want to set up shop in the dusty little cow town….

    • Hank , the recall was not a failure . We were at libraries and walked the streets we worked very hard on this. We posted where we would be and had regular spots, other than that most of the media in this town are owned by TUSD, and would not assist. We have opened many eyes to what has been going on in TUSD , including many lawmakers. Our concerns for TUSD employees was justified, and I will continue to fulfill my promise . My question to you Hank is did you sign, did you volunteer to collect signatures , where were you when we were being threatened. Don’t criticize the people that stood up and fought when no one else would

  4. This whole district including the school board needs to be cleaned out and every thing reset. I would not send my kids to it that is for sure.

  5. The cesspool continues to stink and the taxpayers money continues to get pissed away for nothing. Yea, just want is needed, more lawyers. Gee, I am so happy, more money going to overhead and not into the classroom. And the finished product that leaves each June of the Grijalva led board is simply not prepared to work in the real world. They do know how to play the victim and race card though. Parents should be so proud, right?

  6. It is my understanding that there weren’t enough signatures for the recall. The circulators made the decision not to turn in any signatures, because TUSD employees who did sign, would face retaliation.

    Two of the Board majority, Ms. Foster and Mr. Juarez are up for re-election in November. Don’t forget to vote.

  7. I want to commend Mr. Hicks and express my admiration for his courage in speaking truth to power given the hostile and retaliatory environment created by HT Sanchez, Adelita Grijalva, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez. He speaks for thousands of employees of TUSD and for thousands of TUSD families. Everything he said in his initial letter is true, many, many people have been witness to all he expressed in his letter. As citizens we have seen this at the board meetings, school meetings, TUSD leadership meetings, and by TEA leaders. Furthermore, the TEA President Jason Freed has gone around to schools and bad mouthed Special Master Hawley. Jason Freed, TEA president has become another mouthpiece for HT Sanchez and so employees and dues paying union members have lost a true representative. Who would have thought that our voices would be represented by Mr. Hicks and for that I am truly grateful. Thank you Mr. Hicks.

  8. Tolleson’s letter is a great example why people dislike and mistrust lawyers. She seems to be saying that district personnel would be investigated to determine if any tried to undermine the special master or the relationship between the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the desegregation lawsuit and their clients. Any person following the story knows the only people that statement applies to are Sanchez, other central administrators under his control, and the principals of the building s where they attempted to do just that.

    I would wager a bunch of money that none of these people will be investigated. What TUSD really wants to know is which district personnel have been leaking information about the real goings on at TUSD, especially the examples of intimidation by Sanchez, Grijalva and the rest of their clique.

    • I read in the ADS that the deadline to file the petitions passed with no one filing anything. Another bust!

    • We collected many signatures , just not enough. The threats and intimidation against volunteers and TUSD employees made this a very difficult Task. Our committee decided not to turn in the petitions because of Ricky Hernandez connection to Grijalva, and a promise that I made to TUSD employees that the petitions would be turned for Sanchez and Grijalva to get hold of and retaliate against said employees.We have been very successful in opening peoples eyes , we are not finished , I have been working on away to rid us of these people, and it is going well. We need to support Mr. Hicks , believe me they will pull out every little evil trick to attack him.

  9. This appears to be a pattern of behavior in TUSD as rumors of Intimidation and Retaliation continue to emanate from 1010 (TUSD HQ).

    I would like to say I am shocked that Mick Rusing’s law firm would participate in this type of action but then again I must remind myself that it is a bunch of attorneys. I am sure TUSD will or has received a substantial invoice for this “service”.

Comments are closed.