Diane Douglas Lawsuit

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State Superintendent Diane Douglas has been sued by the State Board of Education. Greg Miller, president of the board, will tell us more.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," the head of the state board of education explains why the board is suing schools Chief Diane Douglas. Also tonight, we'll get the latest news from southern Arizona. And we'll check out an extremely fuel-efficient car. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio took the witness stand again today in his contempt of court hearing. Plaintiffs' attorneys played video clips and used depositions and previous testimony to try to use Arpaio's own words against him, specifically his defiance of a court-appointed monitor overseeing his office. A subdued Arpaio also tried to shift blame to his subordinates when asked about his office disobeying a court order to stop enforcing federal immigration laws. The state board of education has sued the superintendent of public instruction over access to a website used in teacher investigations. The board also wants the education department to redirect traffic to a new website, something the department has refused to do. Greg Miller is the president of the state board of education. And he joins us now. Good to have you here.

GREG MILLER: Thank you, Ted.

TED SIMONS: Why are you suing Diane Douglas?

GREG MILLER: Well, because Ms. Douglas continues to be an obstruction to the ongoing work of the state board staff.

TED SIMONS: And we mentioned access to this teacher misconduct information. Her office says the work that you're doing is technically illegal because it's outside of her control.

GREG MILLER: Well, she's wrong. And she -- she -- she basically went to court to try to prove that and judge Starr threw the case out, telling her she didn't have that authority and so her initial response when she did it was we just need clarification from the court. I don't know -- it's -- well, she got the clarification but it wasn't what she wanted. And therefore, she's continuing that process, she's filed an appeal and we'll see how that goes. So we have asked her on multiple times, in March and in July, officially in those times and multiple times just on a routine working basis to provide that access to the certified database for the people who had access to it before we moved. And basically she's not letting that happen. And so the information we can get it by going or people can go to the department's building and they're escorted and they have a shadow with them the entire time they're there. They can't even get up and go to the restroom without the shadow. And basically that process is slowing down that review and the need for that kind of information. For instance, just this last meeting we basically pulled certification of a convicted pedophile. So those are the kinds of things that aren't working too terribly well. On the actual webpage, our webpage is the state board of Ed, it was housed within the department's overall webpage. And when we moved, we set up a new one. And actually the I.T. department at ADE did provide the transfer, and then a week later, she turned it off. And has left the old page there.

TED SIMONS: And again, she's saying that the work is illegally outside of her control. That's why she's not cooperating.

GREG MILLER: Well, she's absolutely wrong and she's already tried to make that argument and the case was thrown out.

TED SIMONS: Regarding this teacher misconduct information which seems like a pretty important function here that should not be hindered or compromised or messed around with, she's also mentioning that remote access, which is what you're doing or what you're asking for, that could compromise information.

GREG MILLER: Well, I would point out that that's almost a laughable joke and the reason that it's almost laughable is that, first of all, there are several ADE sites around the state that have remote access to all digital information and virtually every LEA, Local Education Agency, have access to that same databases with screens and protections in it. You can't go everywhere. But we all -- we all have it. So that's just, to me that's just a fly in the ointment. It's not true.

TED SIMONS: And as far as moving, a lot of this seems to be based in moving out of the department of education building and into the executive tower. Was that move necessary?

GREG MILLER: I think so. Three or four reasons. The first one was is that the two senior people in the office were terminated without any advance notice to anybody. They were handed boxes and told to put their personal things in it and escorted by a DPS officer to their car. It took over a week or two to get them back in there. I don't remember now the exact timeline but to get them back into their offices. Well, we had people, senior people on her staff that were harassing our -- maybe that's a harsh word. Inconveniencing our staff.

TED SIMONS: How were they doing that?

GREG MILLER: One filed an H.R. complaint about one of the employees, quote, sound familiar, attacking her. And another senior member or staff would come and walk into their work space and just hang around and not talk to anybody, not do anything, not ask any questions, just be around and it became a concern about whether private conversations or protected conversations were being monitored. That was the last straw. At that moment in time, nothing -- you're not going to be able to work in that kind of an environment and get the things that we needed to get done so the board decided move into the tower.

TED SIMONS: And now, you want remote access, she says no. Now, you want website information redirected to your new website, she says no. So you filed suit. Now, her suit, as you mentioned, earlier, a judge said I have no dealing with this. This is political. Why is your suit not political?

GREG MILLER: Well, the difference there is the definition of the roles or the actions. Her suit was basically saying that she had full control over our staff. She does not. There's an A. G.'s opinion back in the late '80s, this has been gone through by several different iterations. I can remember another superintendent who was concerned about this issue and was an attorney himself and fairly familiar with the A.G.'s office, and he came back and said no, the board is in control of the board's employees. So when you look at what we're doing, we're talking about the fact that she's not complying with the statutory requirements of her office, which is to provide -- the way we are set up, the state board is the policy maker, the department of ed is the implementer. The superintendent is to ensure that the policies get implemented. She has a unique role or the superintendent, whether they're male or female has a unique role in the fact that they get to participate in the decision making for the policy. But it's a group decision.

TED SIMONS: It is but again, I think some folks would still say yes, but the suits are similar enough to where if you're going to say one is political, even though it was dealt with delineation of duty, the other deals with the same thing and maybe a little bit on a different avenue but it's the same kind of ballpark here.

GREG MILLER: If you go back to Judge Starr's initial ruling, she basically made it fairly clear that several of the issues weren't political and defined the fact that the superintendent didn't have those authorities. So some of the other issues and the superintendent was to enforce board policy, all right. Well, these are policies that we've put into place and voted on to ensure that our staff can do the job that we're constitutionally required to do.

TED SIMONS: So it sounds like the bottom line is here there's just a conflict as to whether or not board employees work for Diane Douglas. That's at the heart of all of this.

GREG MILLER: I believe that's one of the majors.

TED SIMONS: Did you grab Diane Douglas's arm during a board meeting?

GREG MILLER: No, I did not.

TED SIMONS: What happened?

GREG MILLER: Well, I actually went back and watched the tape myself. But what had happened was is that we were discussing one of the items on the agenda that she wasn't terribly happy about at all and I offered everybody the opportunity to speak. Several members did, including the superintendent. And then I asked again if there was anyone else who wanted to talk, and then no one wanted any more time so I said the president is going to take some table time, talk time. And I started and I basically told her that I felt like she was in noncompliance of her job in supporting the supportive role that the superintendent has for the board. And she just started going off. Point of order, point of order, point of order. And I turned to her and I said, you know, you've had your opportunity, I'm not going to yield the floor to you again. And she still didn't stop so I reached up and moved her microphone. And that's what happened.

TED SIMONS: And that's the result, an assault claim and the DPS investigation.

GREG MILLER: Right.

TED SIMONS: We've only got about a minute left. She says you can't control your temper at any disagreement, that the agenda items are never discussed for inclusion and you have no purpose but to incite conflict and to create billable hours for your attorneys.

GREG MILLER: I read that, too.

TED SIMONS: I read that, as well. Now, first of all, just in general, we're running out of time, do you think that maybe if she has that impression, could you have handled all of this a little better?

GREG MILLER: Well, one always look back with 20-20 rather than when you're there and sure maybe it could have been handled a little better but when you have tried to get along and you've tried to be accommodating and you've provided lots of different opportunities, you've been sued unjustly and had it thrown out of court, you've been degraded in some ways in public debate, it's very difficult at that moment in time to say that you could have handled it a little better. I didn't lose my temper. I told her she wasn't going to get the floor and I never touched her.

TED SIMONS: Can this be resolve?

GREG MILLER: I think it can and the way it can be resolved is the legislature can go back and review what they dropped at the end of session last session, which was cleaning up of that undefined overlap between the Constitution and state law and, in fact, in a couple of state laws that even are in conflict. And fix that. And if they would do that, then the lines would be clear.

TED SIMONS: All right, we've got to stop right there. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

GREG MILLER: Thank you.

Greg Miller: President of the State Board of Education

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