Support Ken Smith

To the Editor,

Regarding "Hot Seat" (The Skinny, December 16): County Attorney Barbara LaWall is alleging Amphi School Board member Ken Smith has a possible conflict of interest. Let's put things in perspective.

Smith ran for the Amphi School Board in 1998 and won by an overwhelming margin. His efforts, along with Board member Nancy Young Wright's, opened up the process and made things more public-friendly.

Three Board members, Gary Woodard, Richard Scott and Virginia Houston, the long-time incumbents, have held tight rein on the district and apparently resented the new members.

Due to their lack of due diligence in handling the affairs of the district, a recall was started against Woodard, Scott and Houston. Some of the furor resulted in Superintendent Robert (Bubba) Smith resigning.

As a desperate effort to discredit Ken Smith, the school board's attorney found a technicality. He then reported Smith to the county school superintendent for an alleged "conflict of interest." Ken Smith's wife Barbara retired from the district in 1996, but occasionally does volunteer work and substituting, as part of her retirement package. Ken Smith's board position is strictly voluntary.

The "conflict of interest" law apparently applies to spouses only. Note that Board member Virginia Houston has two daughters working for Amphi District. She even signed her daughter's contract! Technically, Houston is not breaking the conflict-of-interest clause. Superintendent Robert Smith's wife is a teacher for Amphi. Her husband is her boss. Both have paid positions, but again, no legal "conflict of interest."

It appears that "conflict of interest" is selectively applied and enforced.

It is unfortunate that a dedicated, well-qualified Board member such as Dr. Ken Smith has been undergoing such underhanded techniques. Being a volunteer, all his expenses for lawyers to defend himself are from his own pocket. Of course, County Attorney Barbara LaWall is using public funds that you and I pay to prosecute this individual. It does not make sense.

-- Rudy Roszak

To the Editor,

Regarding "Hot Seat" (The Skinny, December 16): Yes, Amphi, there really is a Santa Claus, but unlike Virginia, your employees are obviously too "wrapped up" for Christmas and already spending the raise he is responsible for giving you.

It amazes me that you can educate our children so well, but you don't have the passion, or the time to save your very own Santa, Dr. Kenneth Smith.

Are you blind to what has evolved from your "closed door" school board since the day his sleigh arrived? Having been married to an educator for 15 years, I can appreciate your position on a "What's the use?" attitude. But this is too important for you and your students' futures. Please open your eyes and stop ignoring what is really happening.

Parents, employees, taxpayers -- are you going to continue to let the grinches steal away what's right? Can't the good guy win once in a while, and last longer than just in our childhood fantasies in order to make that difference?

Just like in Miracle on 34th Street, you -- all of you -- can make your own miracle happen. Learn the truth, get the Scrooges out of your school district and save your Santa, Ken Smith!

-- Randi Ferguson

Not So Bad?

To the Editor,

Regarding Amy Silverman's "Conservation Conflict" (November 25): I doubt few, including Jane Dee Hull herself, would call the Governor "green." However, you have missed some pertinent facts in reprinting a Phoenix article about environmentalists' attempts to meet with Hull.

A large group of Tucson environmentalists met with Gov. Hull this fall. And although the meeting was short on substance, it was a very productive meeting in that the governor is interested in continuing the dialogue with us on important issues relating to the pygmy owl and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). The SDCP has garnered national attention because of its potential to develop a new environmental ethic, but is no doubt not even on Phoenix journalists' radar screen.

Sure, the meeting was set by Luther Propst of the Sonoran Institute -- and why not, if it works? And although neither the Sierra Club nor the Center for Biological Diversity was "invited," the Coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection Plan was (both groups are Coalition members), as was the Tucson Audubon Society and Desert Watch (also members), and other groups.

It was obvious to me that this was probably the first time that the governor has ever met with environmentalists. But there is a first time for everything, and I hope that our Phoenix counterparts have success in securing a meeting with Gov. Hull in the near future. Environmentalists in Tucson plan to continue our relationship with the governor and her staff and lobby her as hard as we can for environmental protection. Be careful what you reprint from Phoenix.

-- Carolyn Campbell
Director, Coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection Plan

Editor's response: Carolyn Campbell's complaint about overlooking her meeting with Gov. Hull is puzzling, given that reporter Amy Silverman mentioned that meeting in her article -- a meeting which Campbell herself concedes was not substantive. Further, Silverman's article was not limited to the problems that Maricopa conservationists have had with Hull. The article examined environmental controversies at the state Legislature, which -- the last time we checked, anyway -- affect Pima as well as Maricopa County, not to mention the rest of the state. We thought it important to explore the details behind the hiring of former state Sen. Jim Buster, one of the most anti-environmental lawmakers of the past decade, as DEQ's legislative lobbyist, as well as the possibility that DEQ itself might be dissolved by the Legislature. Campbell might think these issues are pertinent only to Phoenix, but we believe our readers might have an interest in these matters.

We wish Campbell the best of luck in her future interaction with Hull's office. From the looks of things, she's gonna need it.

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