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Total Recall 

A recall campaign effort to oust TUSD board majority gets accused of coming from a place of retaliation, not concern

click to enlarge TUSD’s governing board majority is facing a possible recall.

MarÍa Inés Taracena

TUSD’s governing board majority is facing a possible recall.

Brian Sauber plans to be at the Wilmot Library on Wednesday and Saturday mornings through November, collecting signatures for a recall campaign he's leading against Tucson Unified School District Governing Board members Adelita Grijalva, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez.

With roughly 15,000 signatures needed for each member by Nov. 19, Sauber knows it's a challenge. But his discontent for what he sees as a corrupt board majority is fueling his effort.

"It's time to tell the people who are doing it wrong, 'You are fired,'" he says. "The district needs to be returned to the students, parents and teachers."

The first issue that sparked the fire in Sauber was when Grijalva's mother-in-law was appointed last year to serve as the principal of Myers-Ganoung Elementary School, he says. At the time, Grijalva did not inform the rest of the board, except for Foster, about her relationship with Olga Gómez. The governing board president removed herself from voting, and has said she didn't fill in the other board members so Gómez could get an impartial process.

"By not notifying other board members, you have a violation of open meeting laws right there," Sauber argues. "That was illegal."

He says he's witnessed violation after violation, from alleged financial irresponsibilities to administrative discrepancies (including Grijalva filling her 2014 post-general election campaign finance report to Pima County officials seven months after the December 2014 due date)—enough to file a complaint with the state's Attorney General's Office. (Sauber has been emailing back and forth with an investigator, who could look into possible violations of open meeting laws, as well as "misappropriation of funding" by the board majority, he says).

Most recently, Sauber is outraged by the trio's approval of TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez's new contract, which granted Sanchez a 24 percent pay raise, increasing his base salary to $260,000 this school year and reaching $280,000 on his proposed final year of service, which is 2018. He also gets a $25,000 incentive for every year he remains employed with TUSD, and gets 44 vacation days that he can turn in for cash, as well as many other monetary rewards.

"Cam Juarez, with the whole Sanchez contract, he was confronted by (TUSD Board Member) Michael Hicks and basically told Hicks he had received (a draft of the) contract weeks before voting. And (board member) Mark Stegeman and Hicks only received a copy of the contract in executive session, just before the vote." This, too, is a violation of open meeting laws, he adds. (Hicks and Stegeman voted against the contract.)

To Grijalva, Sauber is nothing but an unhappy, former TUSD employee. All that's needed to do is to take a good look at Sauber's past with the district to know this recall movement is founded on retaliation, she says.

Sauber worked as a custodian at an elementary school for two decades. He was fired from the district three years ago over allegations of misconduct, which included allegedly making "several phone calls ... making serious allegations" against his ex-wife, who was an educator also at a TUSD elementary school, according to documents the district sent the Tucson Weekly.

"In these phone calls you accused this teacher (former spouse) of behavior that could potentially affect her employment, including some allegations that were sexual in nature and questioning her emotional stability," the documents say. (Sauber accuses his ex-wife of having affairs with students' parents, but there is no evidence of that mentioned on the TUSD documents.) Sauber denies making any of these calls, and argues his termination isn't backed up by any evidence. The TUSD documents say he identified himself in some of the phone calls, and in others he posed as someone "other than yourself." One of the calls was partially recorded, and Sauber's voice was identified by people who knew and had spoken with him, the documents say.

There are also allegations of harassment and lying to get vacation days approved, according to the docs. Grijalva says Sauber has sent her more than 40 emails urging her to help him get his job back.

After the pre-termination hearing, Sauber tried to appeal the district's decision several times and requested a mediation with the governing board, but that didn't get anywhere. Sauber began an online petition earlier this year to pressure the district into re-exploring his case, pleading for his job to be reinstated, but that hasn't helped either.

"One of the allegations (Sauber) is throwing is that (the district) didn't give him a due process. He did have all these processes that he went through. He wanted the governing board to hear the case, which is not even a process that exists," Grijalva says. "He was livid and said, 'I am going to start a recall!' This is retaliation for him not getting his job back when I wasn't part of him losing his job."

Sauber says his job situation has nothing to do with his recall campaign, which also has the support of other TUSD parents, as well as teachers, he says. "This is an issue as a TUSD parent and tax payer," he says.

Sauber is confident the recall will be successful in bringing the much-needed changes he feels TUSD needs.

"It is not just me, if you look at the board meetings, how many people are coming in and questioning this stuff and they get ignored," he says. "There are serious concerns that people need to act upon. I feel responsible for helping."

More by María Inés Taracena

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