Two Tools Track Arizona Governments, Reveal Missteps and Waste

Arizona Capitol

It is National Sunshine Week, which celebrates transparency in government, including creating awareness about requesting information from governments through FOIA public record requests. In Arizona, there are two tools provided by state agencies which allow anyone to look online at some of the government spending by state and local governments. Although it is a minimal amount of data, it reveals some missteps and waste. 

The Arizona State Treasurer manages AZCheckbook.com, which provides information about funding the state gets from all sources, including the federal government, and how much it is distributing to schools, cities, and towns. The Arizona Department of Administration operates OpenBooks.AZ.gov, which provides checkbook-level information about individual state expenditures, including on the city and county level.

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Four People Indicted for Fraud at Higley Unified School District in Gilbert

After an investigation by the Arizona Auditor General into alleged financial mismanagement at Higley Unified School District in Gilbert, a grand jury indicted four people for fraud. Dr. Denise Birdwell, a former superintendent of both Higley and Scottsdale Unified School Districts, was indicted on 18 felony counts related to reportedly misusing $6 million of public monies, including conspiring to get around school district rules in order to make sure Higley’s $2,557,125 contract went to a certain vendor. Birdwell’s domestic partner, Hartwell Hunnicutt, and two men from the vendor, Gary Aller and Steven Nielsen, were indicted on related felonies. 

State Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), who served on the Higley school board from 2013-2015 while much of this took place under Birdwell, said he was attacked and stonewalled by district administrators as he and another board member fought to get to the bottom of serious concerns and suspicions that many people had at the time.

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