The State Board of Education today directed its administrator to fill vacant jobs, potentially sparking further litigation from Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas.
Douglas objected during the board meeting, saying state law only allows the board to hire staff upon her recommendation and that board staff worked at her direction and she could fire them.
She was the only board member to vote against the motion.
The board’s administrative staff consists of an executive director and an assistant director.
Douglas has already gone to court to assert the staffers work for her and she has the power to fire them. The assistant director position has been vacant for weeks as the board takes on several large projects.
Douglas’ chief of staff, Michael Bradley, said she will probably try to work out the dispute with the board before running to court, but he said all options are on the table for now.
The current legal dispute over who controls board employees is in a holding pattern, as Douglas waits for a judge to formally sign off on her ruling.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patricia Starr ruled July 14 that the court had no jurisdiction in Douglas’ suit seeking a declaration she can hire and fire board employees. Starr determined the conflict between Douglas and the board was a political issue the court was prohibited from ruling on.
Starr also found that Douglas has no right to fire board employees because the board does the hiring, so it is implied the board does the firing.
The Arizona Court of Appeals refused Douglas’ request for an expedited appeal, meaning it will likely take more than a year before the court renders a decision.
And now Douglas objects to the language board attorneys used in preparing a final judgment for Starr to sign.
Douglas cannot appeal until Starr signs the formal judgment.
The controversy began in February when Douglas fired the board’s executive director, Christine Thompson, and deputy director, Sabrina Vazquez.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the Department of Administration not to recognize the firing, effectively allowing them back to work.
Thompson, Vazquez and 11 investigators moved out of their offices in the Department of Education and into leased space in the Executive Tower. Starr also refused to order the employees to return to their old offices and work under Douglas’ control.
Vazquez has since left her job to accept a lobbyist position with the University of Arizona.e