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Questionable campaign donations to two TUSD board members

Posted at 8:22 PM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 14:07:18-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - With the election for school board members only eight weeks away, KGUN 9 has learned of questionable donations to two Tucson Unified School Board members -- Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez.
 
The donations total $10,000 dollars and are being questioned by Michael Hicks, another school board members and an official in the Arizona Secretary of State's office is calling the donations questionable.
 
The donations are from the wife of an executive whose company was awarded a $21 million contract by TUSD two months earlier.
 
Sizeable contributions, $5,000 dollars each -- nearly the maximum -- went to Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez.
 
The donor: Carly Brooks, who lists herself as a housewife, living on Topeka Drive in Phoenix. 
 
But Carly Brooks is married to Robert E. Brooks. Both names and the same address show up on the Maricopa County Assessor's website. And Robert E. Brooks does business with TUSD.
 
He's Vice President of Marketing with ESI, Educational Services Inc., a third-party company that TUSD now uses to contract substitute teachers and retired educators.
 
And in June, the board majority -- Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez and Kristel Foster -- awarded ESI a $21 million contract.
 
A reported controversial mega-million dollar deal lumped into a 42 item consent agenda approved with a single 3-to-2 voice vote without discussion.
 
The Consent Agenda is supposed to be used for simple items. Contracts that are not expected to need discussion.
 
According to state law, companies are "prohibited" from making political contributions."
 
ESI Executive Robert Brooks did not make the $5,000 dollar donation, but his wife, Carly Brooks, did two months after ESI was awarded the $21 million dollar contract.
 
A questionable donation, because according state law:
"any person who makes a contribution in the name of another person or who knowingly permits his name to be used to effect such a contribution and any person who knowingly accepts a contribution made by one person in the name of a another person is guilty of a class 6 felony."
 
We reached out to Lee Miller from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, who told KGUN 9 sizable donations, as he says these were, require the names of spouses for full disclosure.
 
And he places responsibility on the candidates too saying "candidates must do their due diligence to know who's contributing to their campaigns, especially checking into large donations. And voters should know exactly who is donating." 
 
We've contacted all four people involved in the two political donations and only the two board members responded. 
 
Kristel Foster wrote:
I met many public school advocates last year in Phoenix, as I was there for many events during the fall of 2015. I did receive the donation from Mrs. Brooks and thanked her for her support.
 
Cam Juarez wrote:
Carly Brooks did in fact make a generous contribution to my campaign. All the pertinent information is listed in my campaign finance report. I will not disparage her or anyone that wishes to legally contribute to my campaign. I am very grateful for her contribution. I need to check out your allegation and decide whether I am going to keep her contribution or return the funds to her. If i can confirm your information, I might consider politely returning the funds. I do not know Robert Brooks, nor did I know Mrs. Brooks was married to him. Her contribution check arrived by mail. 
 
We've also have learned that school board member Michael Hicks plans to bring this issue up at tomorrow's regular school board meeting.
 
KGUN 9 will keep you posted on further responses from those involved and any developments in the story.