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TUSD financial watchdog group changes rules

Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 06:58:38-05
Tucson Unified's Governing Board approved -- 3 to 1 -- a new charter that aims to change how a watchdog group oversees the district's finances.
 
KGUN 9 was first to report the controversy surrounding TUSD's audit committee and the resignations of two members.
 
It all started during an October board meeting. A 3-to-2 vote to hire Michelle Tong in an administrative role. But Tong's husband served on the audit committee.
 
And KGUN9 discovered two other committee member's wives worked for the district -- a direct violation of the charter. Two board members, Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks, called it a conflict of interest.
 
That set in motion a charter clean-up. The old charter stated a committee member may not serve if an immediate or close family member is an employee.
 
The new charter language shifted from "an employee" to someone "in a leadership capacity" like a principal or administrator. 'Because that type of leadership has influence in the organization," said committee Chairman, Charles Andrade, who recommended the change.
 
Stegeman had addressed the committee at a November meeting, "Two persons have in my view honorably resigned to address this issue. But the issue is not yet fully addressed."
 
Stegeman argued for another change to maintain the committee's watchdog role. The District Chief Financial Officer and the designated governing board member had the power to vote under the old charter. The new one strips away the voting power.
 
The audit chairman told KGUN9 the proposed changes are necessary to maintain it's intended independence since it handles complaints of financial wrongdoing, theft, and fraud.
 
Board member Mark Stegeman voted no on the new charter. He told KGUN9 that he objects to the conflict of interest rules. He believes no committee committee members should serve if an immediate or close family member is an employee. Committee member Ricky Hernadez, who's wife  does not have a leadership role in the district, remains on the committee. 
 
Board member Michael Hicks did not attend Tuesday's board meeting.