In a press release dated Tuesday, September 10, Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that a State Grand Jury has indicted the former superintendent of Apache Junction Unified School District for one charge of theft and three charges of misuse of public monies, all of which are felonies. 49-year-old Chad Wilson is accused of illicitly authorizing $133,223 of additional compensation to district administrators above their contracted amounts, including $480 to himself, and failing to obtain Governing Board approval he knew, or should have known, was required.
The investigation, conducted by the Office of the Auditor General, revealed that during the time period between May 2012 and April 2017, Wilson reportedly awarded various school administrators performance pay, professional development instruction pay and athletic attendance pay without informing the district’s governing board and obtaining approval.
Specifically, the Auditor General Financial Investigation Report states that:
Over a period of 5 school years ending in 2016, Dr. Wilson illicitly authorized a total of $126,793 of “performance” payments to 11-15 administrators without obtaining Board approval or even establishing specific performance criteria administrators had to meet to qualify for the payments.
For a period of 2 school years ending in 2017, Dr. Wilson illicitly authorized a total of $3,880 of “professional development instruction” payments for 5-7 administrators and $2,550 of “athletic event attendance” payments to 3 administrators.
These payments, ranging from $80 to $720, were for time administrators worked on Fridays, providing professional development instruction for teachers and/or attending athletic events. During that time period, the district had implemented the 4-day school week as a cost-saving measure, and the time that district administrators spent working on Fridays were in addition to their regular contracted workdays.
“Nonetheless,” the AG concluded, “the Board had not given approval for any of these payments.”
Even though Dr. Wilson’s employment contract required him to dedicate in excess of 40 hours per week to perform his duties, he directed staff to include his Friday “professional development instruction” hours with the other administrators and thereby received $480 that he was not entitled to.
The report also concludes that district officials did not have adequate controls in place to ensure that the Governing Board approved all employee compensation, but commends the Board for having put new checks and balances into place to prevent any future circumvention of procedural policies. Additional recommendations made by the Attorney General’s office have now been implemented by the district.
According to a press release issued by AJUSD on September 10 (see sidebar, left), “Throughout the course of the investigation, district personnel fully cooperated and collaborated with the investigator. As well, prior to the initiation of the investigation, the Governing Board and the recently appointed Superintendent [Dr. Krista Anderson] pro-actively took action to remediate improper practices that had occurred.”
Those actions were:
Since April 2017, the administration put controls in place to ensure that the Governing Board approves all employee compensation and benefits.
Since April 2017, administrators stopped receiving additional compensation for attending professional development instruction and attending athletic events.
In addition to its annual audit, the district is scheduling internal audits of payroll, benefits, extra-duty compensation and random records to check for accuracy and compliance. The current administration is committed to strict compliance with legal requirements.
The district is implementing protocols to ensure that no individual can circumvent them.
The district will work diligently to ensure all deficiencies are disclosed and that the district operates in an ethical and fiscally prudent manner.
As recommended by the Auditor General’s Office, the district is in the process of modifying documents supporting employee compensation, such as schedules of employee salaries and benefits and personnel action request forms to include the Board meeting approval date.
The district statement concludes, “Working in a transparent, ethical and honest manner and serving as good stewards of public funds is of the utmost importance to the current administration and Governing Board of Apache Junction Unified School District. We are glad this chapter has been resolved so we can move forward with being the best educators for the students of our district.”
Wilson was the superintendent at AJUSD from 2009 to 2017. He currently serves at East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), where he was appointed interim superintendent in January after 19-year veteran superintendent, Sally Downey, was placed on leave pending an “investigation of allegations related to operational and legal compliance.” Wilson was permanently awarded the job in July after Downey resigned.
EVIT held a Special Board Meeting on Thursday, September 12 to consider “possible legal action regarding the employment or assignment of the Superintendent.”
EVIT PIO CeCe Todd informed The News on Friday, that the Board unanimously voted to have Dr. Wilson remain as EVIT superintendent, but with the additional financial safeguards recommended by the Auditor General in their report.
Several people spoke in support of Wilson at the meeting, noting that the charges do not affect EVIT and lauding the “energy and positivity” he has brought to the EVIT community. Kelly Grantham stated, “Morale was really low, and he brought us hope.”
Instructor Jon Howell summarized, “The entire situation smells of a witch hunt... Let that witch hunt be contained there, and please refrain from allowing it to spill over onto EVIT.”