The Skinny 


It took days for the TUSD governing board to settle, unanimously, on Estanislado Y. Paz as superintendent in May 2000. It took a slightly different board less than a minute, officially, along with a couple hours of negotiation, to dump Paz and replace him with retired TUSD hack Roger Pfeuffer.

Both moves are clear indications of the power of three-term board member Mary Belle McCorkle, Congressman Raúl Grijalva and the TUSD shadow government known as the Education Enrichment Foundation. Make no mistake: This was a McCorkle/Grijalva-engineered coup. They are in charge. Sure, it is Adelita Grijalva, Raul's daughter, who occupies the TUSD seat that daddy dearest once held for three terms, but she has no juice without him.

McCorkle and the Grijalvas pledged revenge 13 months ago when Paz made the mistake of not kissing their butts before he reshuffled the chairs of TUSD's bloated bureaucracy. He chopped several high-level bureaucrats, including Larry Williams, Gene Benton and, heaven forbid, Becky Montano, one of the goddesses of Tucson education.

Paz, who never really had that local-boy-returns honeymoon, scored some successes. Scores and performance were up slightly. But he was insulated and afraid to communicate with his staff and his board. Much of the problem lies with the district's lead counsel, Jane Butler, who guided him into much of his trouble.

But this is about McCorkle and the Grijalvas. McCorkle, one of the most capable and vicious politicians in Tucson, knows how to bide her time, cultivate support and then strike. She perfected her shtick after she was passed over back in the 1980s for a top--if not the top--TUSD job, and was then chased out of the TUSD high command when she was a district bureaucrat. She landed at Sunnyside School District and then mounted the first of her three successful runs for the TUSD board from the foothills in 1992. Her husband was a TUSD bureaucrat, and their daughter, with the help of Mary Belle's brute force, was installed as an ill-prepared, undertrained principal of Dietz Elementary School.

Board members Judy Burns, Bruce Burke and Joel Ireland defended Paz last March when his reorganization hit the fan. Adelita Grijalva, between primping and checking her cell phone, pouted and ran to daddy for advice. McCorkle plotted.

Ireland, in his fourth term, can go any way the wind blows and offered no defense for Paz this time. Paz should have known he would not make it to the end of his contract in June 2005 when he had to rely on the likes of Ireland. Burke could also not be counted on. He has become a do-nothing mute.

Burns, the hardest working member of the TUSD board, smartly told the Tucson Citizen's Mary Bustamante, the best reporter covering TUSD, that fixable problems were not getting fixed, and that while Paz may not be solely to blame, he was "the only person we supervise."

Shed no tears for Paz, who has been floating his CV and responding to headhunters on an on-off basis. He'll collect nearly $200,000 to do nothing.

The board sat in a rare Saturday session to accept Paz's resignation and to appoint Pfeuffer as the interim and caretaker superintendent.

Paz didn't show. He held his own weird press conference at nearby Mansfeld Middle School. A crew from his family was at the TUSD meeting, which included a 45-minute secret session. When board members emerged and took the vote to say adios to Paz, those relatives shouted, "I'm your puppet."

Marvin Gaye sang that best: "Pull the string and I'll wink at you, I'm your puppet. I'll do funny things if you want me to, I'm you puppet."

Pfeuffer is that puppet, if only for the interim. He is a career education bureaucrat with 30 years at TUSD, including several as an assistant superintendent. His wife, Vera, also has enjoyed a TUSD career. They are politically active, contributing to all the right TUSD candidates and other city pols. His mother-in-law is Roslyn Miller, the former TUSD curriculum specialist and wife of former two-term Democratic Mayor George Miller.

Pfeuffer was pushed by a number of TUSD special interests, including the Education Enrichment Foundation. We got a big kick out of Ray Davies, whose life is TUSD and the city's Human Relations Commission. He sat in the back of the board room and told a parade of principals, principal coaches and assorted other TUSD hacks--who would have been better off staying home or doing some work--that he had declined to speak to three reporters for fear that it would threaten the Education Enrichment Foundation.

But Davies told the TUSD folks that he and his pals were pushing Pfeuffer as a healer and communicator and that he wanted him to be the interim superintendent, even though he was also pushing Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to appoint Pfeuffer for some education post.


The Arizona Daily Star couldn't figure out two weeks ago why Mary Judge Ryan was leaving her job as chief deputy to Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, a Democrat who is seeking her third term this fall. But the dots to connect were right in that day's Star, if on a different page.

Turns out Ryan, a two-time loser for Congress, was taking the fall for promising a big payment to elite law firm Waterfall Economidis Caldwell Hanshaw & Villamana for work by James Stuehringer to defend disgraced former prosecutor Ken Peasley on multiple misconduct charges.

Waterfall Economidis fought to get what it is most assuredly due, but lost in a state Court of Appeals ruling that said the county could stiff the firm, because the Board of Supervisors never approved a contract more than $25,000. That put on the record a flat reversal of what the county attorney's office and former board counsel David Dingeldine repeatedly told past Boards of Supervisors: If the work was done, payment must be made, regardless of supplemental contracts.

Maybe Waterfall Economidis can take its loss out of the shares of one of its fairly new lawyers, Barry Kirschner. He is the husband of Leslie Nixon, top aide to Sharon Bronson, the Democratic chairman of the Board of Supervisors.


As we predicted a couple weeks ago, voters in Oro Valley are trying to run a referendum to reverse the smokin' deal their Town Council cut with Vestar Development of Phoenix to subsidize a shopping center at Tangerine and Oracle roads. One of the more appalling giveaways from a council prone to doing whatever developers want, the Vestar deal is based on the assumption that nobody would want to develop the corner--in one of the most affluent and fastest growing corners in the state--without a handout. It's like a Rio Nuevo for the wealthy.

Now the town attorney, Mark Langlitz, has decided that the Vestar deal was an "administrative" act and not a "legislative" one, so it's not subject to a referendum. Yeah, right. By the way, Langlitz is the appointee of Town Manager Chuck Sweet. The bozos on this council even gave away that power.

We would remind the folks in Oro Valley that their brilliant legal team has been defeated twice in federal court by perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, who represented himself. Sweeney could read the First Amendment.

The point may be moot if Oro Valley voters dump the current gaggle of potted plants like Councilmen Bart Rochman and Dick Johnson and elect some new folks who oppose the Vestar Deal and support the referendum.

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