More evidence is surfacing indicating fictitious names are attached to five of the six arguments against the Scottsdale Unified maintenance and operations budget override that appear in the official voter information pamphlet.
“I got my ballot pamphlet in the mail yesterday for the SUSD override. As far as I can tell (besides Loyd Eskildson) the other ‘against’ writers appear to be fictitious,” Rose Finocchiaro Smith wrote to the Progress.
She may be on to something – especially since no one verifies the legitimacy of any author of statements in voter informational pamphlets.
“Our office does not verify the identity of individuals who submit arguments for the publicity pamphlets. Current statute does not require or authorize us to verify the identity of individuals (e.g. notarized documentation),” said Shane Wikfors, spokesman for the county school superintendent’s office, which produces the pamphlet.
While state law mandates the pamphlet to include arguments, it says nothing about verifying the authors’ identity – enabling anyone from anywhere in the world to submit an argument under a false name.
County voting and property records give suspicion to some credibility.
The five arguments in question were signed by Samantha Cartier, Hector Carrillo, Cynthia Majinsky, Jen Lopez and Sandra Lacey – individuals with little to no record of existence in Maricopa County.
The sixth argument against was written by Loyd Eskildson, a former chief deputy with the county school superintendent’s office and a vocal override opponent.
The arguments signed by Cartier, Carrillo, Majinsky, Lopez and Lacey have a few things in common.
They oppose the increased property tax rate that comes with an override.
“Our property tax money deserves to pay for Scottsdale students. This override is not necessary if we lived within our budget and didn’t accept students from surrounding communities,” reads the Cartier argument.
However, there is no evidence Cartier actually pays property taxes in SUSD boundaries because there’s no property to tax.
Samantha Cartier’s name appears nowhere in the Maricopa County Recorder's or Assessor's records. Not in Scottsdale or anywhere else in the county.
The same is true to Cynthia Majinsky, Jen Lopez and Sandra Lacey.
The Recorder’s Office records, which date back to 1947, have no recorded records of any kind with those five names. No liens. No judgments. No court records.
Similarly, the Arizona Corporation Commission has no records of businesses owned by these individuals indicating a purchase of any property.
The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office does have at least 80 records on file related to at least six different individuals named Hector Carrillo.
However, none of those documents are linked to an address within SUSD boundaries.
The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office has records of three properties owned by these individuals or associated businesses in Phoenix and Mesa, outside of SUSD boundaries.
Other evidence also calls into question the validity of these arguments.
The arguments signed by Majinsky, Carrillo and Lopez were all recorded by the county superintendent’s office at the exact same time, 1:51 p.m., on July 17.
County voter rolls also show there are no registered voters in the entire county named Samantha Cartier, Hector Carrillo, Cynthia Majinsky, Jen Lopez or Sandra Lacey.
There are 60 individuals named Jennifer Lopez registered to vote in Maricopa County, two within Scottsdale Unified boundaries.
The Progress was unable to contact those two individuals to determine if they submitted the argument against.
If the authors of those arguments are not Scottsdale residents, it is unclear who submitted them.
The arguments in the pamphlet include no further identifying information beyond a general description of the individual’s profession such as “architect” or “sales.” Additionally, the superintendent’s office redacted identifying information such as email addresses and physical addresses on copies of the original submissions provided to the Progress.
A second request for those email addresses was denied by the Superintendent’s Office on advice from the Maricopa County Attorney.
SUSD Board Member Jann-Michael Greenburg, who supports passage of the override, decried any attempts to include false statements in the pamphlet.
“It is a shame that an individual or individuals have resorted to providing the (Office of Maricopa County School Superintendent) false statements in an attempt to harm our community and I hope they reconsider their own position on the matter and vote ‘Yes’ instead,” Greenburg said.
The state law governing school district override elections says nothing about verifying the identity of those making the arguments.
According to A.R.S. § 15-481, the county superintendent is only required to fact check arguments.
“The names of persons and entities submitting written arguments shall be included in the informational pamphlet. The county school superintendent shall review all factual statements contained in the written arguments and correct any inaccurate statements of fact. The superintendent shall not review and correct any portion of the written arguments that are identified as statements of the author’s opinion,” according to the stature.
However, several ballot arguments in question do include statements indicating the writer may be a voter or resident within SUSD boundaries.
For instance, the Majinsky argument included this sentence: “I’m voting no and I hope you will too.”
The county superintendent’s office did not return a request for comment as to whether that statement falls under its fact-checking responsibility.
Melinda Gulick, co-chair of the Yes to Children campaign, who supports the passage of the override, said she believes most of the community supports the override.
“We respect the right of individuals in Maricopa County to express their opinion,” Gulick said. “The opinions that matter most to us are the registered voters in the school district –– the majority of whom are supportive of the SUSD M&O Override.”
Greenburg stressed he believes the override is an important resource for the district to continue funding programs at existing levels.
“Renewing SUSD’s Maintenance and Operations Override will continue to provide critical funding for our students’ education…” Greenburg said, adding:
“It is supported by many wonderful leaders in our community, including state senators, mayors, city council members, former and current school board members, teachers and, most importantly, students and parents. Losing this funding would result in significant cuts which would directly impact the lives of our children and families.”