The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has received the second complaint in a month alleging open meeting law violations by the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.
The new complaint, sent to the Attorney General on July 11, alleged that some board members used group text messages to circumvent state laws requiring that official board business be discussed in meetings open to the public and that proper notice be provided to the public prior to those meetings.
The complaint was filed by Scottsdale resident Mark Greenburg, father of current SUSD board member Jann-Michael Greenburg.
Jann-Michael Greenburg filed the first complaint with the AG on July 3.
The younger Greenburg’s complaint alleged that discussions by board members at two executive sessions in December 2017 and February 2018 violated Arizona’s open meeting laws.
Those discussions predated Greenburg’s time on the board.
The Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating Jann-Michael Greenburg’s complaint.
Spokesperson Katie Conner said the Arizona Attorney General’s office has not yet made a decision about whether or not it will begin an investigation into Mark Greenburg’s complaint.
“We have requested some additional information from the complainant and we are awaiting the response to our request,” Conner said.
The new complaint, filed by Mark Greenburg, alleged more recent violations.
He alleged that 10 group text messages between at least three board members in 2018 and 2019 could have violated state law.
The board members in question include current members Barbara Perleberg and Sandy Kravetz and former members Pam Kirby and Kim Hartmann, according to metadata obtained by Greenburg.
The collection of three or board members would constitute a quorum, or the minimum number of members needed to pass action items at a board meeting.
Current board member Allyson Beckham, who was on the board in 2018, did not take part in the 10 conversations, according to the data.
Greenburg’s allegations are based on cellphone metadata records for Perleberg that he obtained as part of the discovery process in an ongoing lawsuit Greenburg filed against Perleberg.
Cellphone metadata includes caller’s phone number, recipient’s phone number, call time and call length but does not include the actual contents of a call or text message.
Perleberg, through a district spokesperson, declined to comment.
In his complaint to the Attorney General, Greenburg admitted he does not know the content of the group text messages in question.
“However, the number of group texts among either three or four Board members, particularly in clusters of two and five days, strongly suggests that they were discussing SUSD matters outside of public view. It would be difficult to draw any other conclusion. At the very least, these circumstances warrant investigation,” according to the complaint.
The group texts would likely only constitute violations if the board members discussed taking action on specific district business.
Two of the conversations at the center of Mark Greenburg’s complaint took place on June 15, 2018. and June 16, 2018. among Perleberg, Kravetz and former board members Kirby and Hartmann.
Kravetz declined to comment for this story.
Kirby and Hartmann did not respond to a request for comment.
The other seven group text conversations in question took place from Dec. 25-29, 2018.
Only Perleberg and Kravitz were still on the board.
Mark Greenburg’s complaint also alleged instances of “quorum splinterings”—or multiple one-on-one conversations between two board members.
These conversations would likely only constitute violations if a board member proposed legal action to another board member and then contacted a third board member to propose similar action—creating a de facto quorum.
“Public officials may not circumvent public discussion by splintering the quorum and having separate or serial discussions with a majority of the public body members,” according to the Arizona Agency Handbook, which is published by the Attorney General’s office.
“Splintering the quorum can be done by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically or through other means to discuss a topic that has been or later may be presented to the public body for a decision,” according to the handbook.
Greenburg admitted he does not know the content of the conversations.
Greenburg’s complaint stated he was suspicious because a number of the conversations in question took place within a day of scheduled board meetings.
Greenburg cited over three dozen instances in which at least three board members had one-on-one telephone calls lasting more than two minutes on the day before or day of a public meeting between April 12, 2018 and April 16, 2019.
He also cited over 250 instances in which three or more board members communicated one-on-one via text message the day before or day of a public meeting between June 12, 2018 and May 14, 2019.
The complaint also alleged that Perleberg, Kravetz and Kirby communicated via text message during meetings.
While it is unclear if that would violate state law, texting during meetings is explicitly not allowed under SUSD’s Governing Board Policies.
From June 7 to Dec. 31, 2018, the metadata showed that Perleberg had text conversations with Kravetz, Kirby or Hartmann on 19 occasions during board meetings, according to the metadata.
As of May 31, Perleberg and Kravetz have exchanged 27 text messages during board meetings in 2019.
The metadata also shows that Perleberg continues to communicate with Kirby during board meetings even though the latter no longer serves on the board.
One instance occurred on April 16 just after Kravetz, Perleberg and Beckham voted to table a discussion on rebuilding Kiva and Pueblo elementary schools. The measure passed 3-2 with Board President Patty Beckman and Greenburg dissenting.
Video of the meeting available on the district’s YouTube page appears to show Perleberg typing on her cellphone shortly after the vote.
According to the metadata, Perleberg received a number of messages from an unknown number earlier in the meeting and sent a message to Kirby minutes after the vote.