The Skinny

TART TUSD TORTS: New year, new money to waste at Tucson Unified School District.

When the kids are out of pencils or Sam Hughes Elementary teachers cry again about the lack of toilet paper, call the TUSD board and ask members about Jim Bloodsworth and Carolyn Sebastian and the tens of thousands of dollars being given to lawyers to defend indefensible TUSD.

Bloodsworth, a nerdy math teacher, earned high marks at Sahuaro High until he got crossways last year with then-Principal Steve Wilson. Bloodsworth bounced a violent student from his classroom and sought a restraining order after the student put his fist through a door glass. Wilson, with plenty of help from TUSD's legal department, turned it into a racial issue.

Ivan Abrams, Bloodsworth's lawyer, could have fun in court showing how TUSD lawyers ignored conflict of interest provisions to help secure an attorney for the student. Other fun exploration could include Lisa Ilka Abrams, a TUSD lawyer who held improper ex parte conversations with a city magistrate hearing the matter of the restraining order.

Most explosive in this case will be the behavior of Lisa Abrams's boss, Jane Butler, who violated the Open Meetings Law and Bloodsworth's employee rights by telling a TUSD African-American group that Bloodsworth would be fired.

This performance touched off a stirring rebuke from the normally placid Carolyn Kemmeries, whose term on the TUSD board ended Dec. 31.

"I heard Jane Butler assure these people that she wanted Mr. Bloodsworth's job in words that were extremely inappropriate. She sounded like she had a personal vendetta against this man," Kemmeries told Superintendent Stan Paz after listening to a tape of the meeting. "I heard Jane lie (through omission and commission) about what other teachers had reported about the student." The parentheses are Kemmeries'.

Kemmeries noted that if TUSD failed to consistently apply the student code of conduct, "that does not excuse Jane's deliberate attempt to mislead these people."

TUSD has hired Lyle Aldridge, whose firm Gabroy Rollman Bosse was a participant in the debacle that cost TUSD $120,000 in a settlement with former Tucson High Principal Cecilia Mendoza, to fight powerhouse lawyer Stephen Weiss on the Sebastian matter.

This sad secretary was sexually harassed and put in a quid pro quo by her incompetent former TUSD boss, Paul Felix, according to court papers Weiss filed. Vulnerable and troubled by her personal problems, Sebastian was tossed out of her job, Weiss says, when she put a stop to Felix's intrusions.

TUSD's secret operations will be fully exposed in this case. Under a plan secretly approved by Felix's padron, the Rev. Joel T. Ireland, Kemmeries and board member Mary Belle McCorkle, Felix got moved from his ill-deserved job as human resource director to assistant principal at Hohokam Middle School. Sebastian was given a little money through a no-show job.

Weiss should easily show that the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on because of Sebastian's duress.

Felix is not quite history. He is hanging around Nosotros, at the non-profit's school that has links with TUSD.

Rather than tackle these problems, the TUSD board catered to an extreme pander by Adelita Grijalva at its first session of the year. Grijalva got approval of a resolution telling Pima County to make Kino Community Hospital something it has never been: a full-service hospital. Bruce Burke wisely abstained. TUSD has no business telling the county what to do with its hospital. If a fraction of TUSD board members and employees used Kino, it likely would not have its annual multi-million-dollar deficit.

BORDER BEATEN: What the hell is wrong with the Bush administration? When George W. isn't creating phony made-in-America photo ops, rattling the war drums or running up the country's credit card something fierce, he's stiffing us. The latest screw job came last week, when the U.S. Senate passed a Bush budget plan that zeroes out--zeroes out!--the federal program that provided money to states to cover some of the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants. Not a federal problem, says Bush, as he cuts the program that provided some $560 million last year, including roughly $16 million to Arizona. It's hard to believe the only chance of saving the money now lies with the U.S. House of Representatives. So much for Homeland Security.

LOFTY DISCUSSION: Good old Henry Kissinger--brilliant international diplomat or calculating war criminal? (Come to think of it, there's no reason he couldn't be both.) Journalist Christopher Hitchens lays out a damning case for the latter in The Trial of Henry Kissinger. The book inspired filmmaker Eugene Jarecki to create The Trials of Henry Kissinger, an exploration of the tenets of international law that's part legal brief, part psychodrama. The film opens this weekend at The Loft, 3233 E. Speedway.

If you really want to toss around the idea, stop by the movie theater at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, for a light brunch and a panel discussion exploring Kissinger's culpability. The Tucson Film Society has roped in some heavy hitters for a panel discussion, including former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman, former CBS and ABC newsman Richard Threlkeld and Michael Schaller, a Regents Professor of history at the UA who served on an advisory panel overseeing declassification procedures as well as the handling of Henry Kissinger's papers. We're told Hitchens himself will be coming by for the show.

Tickets are $10, $7 for members of the Tucson Film Society, which local movie buffs ought to consider joining if they want to support independent cinema. Call 795-7777 for more information.

The Tucson Cinema Foundation has big plans now that they've managed to acquire for our favorite art house. If you haven't been by lately, check out the ongoing rehab work the following Friday, Feb. 7, when the group hosts a big fat honkin' grand opening party with food from Metro Restaurants, music by Bwiya Toli and the Tucson premiere of Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her, called the "best film of the year" by our close pals at The New York Times.

FINAL FELIX: Dan Felix was neither showy nor scared. He was devoted. He worked up to the end, when lung cancer that he staved off time and time again finally claimed him Sunday.

Felix was the only person to lead the parks and recreations departments of both Tucson and Pima County. He inherited departments that were pork barrels overflowing with political patronage handed down by entrenched bureaucrats who left major messes. Golf was one. Felix was a reformer, be it with county contracts or the city's debt-ridden golf system. And for that he undeservedly caught a lot of hell.

A 1968 grad of Canyon del Oro, where his son later starred on champion baseball teams, Felix began his recreation career at Harelson School. He was an executive aide to several county managers before he took over county parks and rec in 1989. He transformed a dilapidated, crony department into a modern and efficient one that also evolved into an environmental unit responsible for the stewardship of the county's expanding park and open-space preserves.

Felix, 52, moved to the city in 1999. Through the repeat battles with cancer--he was a lifelong non-smoker--Felix defused all sorts of battles, sometimes using his hyper-bureaucratic manner to calm warring factions.

He's the rare bureaucrat who will be missed.

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