Higley USD acknowledges former administration's 'wrongdoings'

Higley USD governing board
The Higley USD governing board agreed Dec. 8 to acknowledge the former district administrations' "wrongdoings" related to deals to construct HUSD's middle schools. (Screen capture from YouTube)

The Higley USD governing board agreed Dec. 8 to acknowledge the former district administrations' "wrongdoings" related to deals to construct HUSD's middle schools. (Screen capture from YouTube)

The Higley USD governing board approved a consent judgement Dec. 8 with the Arizona Attorney General’s office stemming from activities surrounding the construction of the district’s two middle schools.

Under the judgement, the district agrees to acknowledge the wrongdoings of its former administration from May 2012 through April 2016, according to an emailed statement from the district.

The Auditor General’s Office released a report this summer outlining the financial activities that resulted in criminal indictments against former Superintendent Denise Birdwell, her attorney and two district contractors involved with the lease deal for Sossaman and Cooley middle schools.

All the district personnel involved with the deals no longer are associated with the district.

Nonetheless, under the judgement, the district will conduct additional auditing and procurement training for employees to resolve the matter, according to the district.


Its email also stated the district has been proactively working with its attorneys and the Attorney General’s Office “to acknowledge and come to closure with the findings addressed in the Auditor General’s Report.”

The report from the Auditor General’s Office alleged that Birdwell conspired with the contractors to circumvent school district procurement rules and gave Educational Facilities Development Services an unfair advantage over other vendors to win a $2.56 million project development contract for the middle schools in 2012.

Birdwell was charged with 18 felony counts, and the two employees of a district vendor, Gary Aller and Steven Nielsen of Educational Facilities Development Services, were charged with three counts each.

The charges included conspiracy, procurement fraud, fraudulent schemes, misuse of public monies, false return and conflict of interest.

Additionally, Birdwell attorney Kay Hartwell Hunnicutt, who the report said has a personal and financial relationship with Birdwell, was charged with three counts of false filing.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.