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Lily Altavena, Arizona Republic
Published 10:52 a.m. MT Nov. 25, 2019
A former Mesa school board president has asked the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to investigate some questionable raises given to Mesa Public Schools executives.
Ben Smith, a former Mesa school board president, filed the complaint claiming executives were given raises above what the school board approved, listing Superintendent Ember Conley as a primary party to the conduct.
It comes about a week after the school board placed Conley on paid administrative leave without telling the public why.
The complaint alleges criminal activity. It specifically refers to state law regulating school employee wages, which states, “The governing board at any time may employ and fix the salaries and benefits of employees necessary for the succeeding year.”
The Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the allegations, spokesman Ryan Anderson wrote in a text message.
“We are aware of the allegations involving Mesa Public Schools … Additional information will be provided when available,” he wrote.
District spokeswoman Heidi Hurst said the raises did comply with state law.
“It is standard district procedure that, due to the timing of the legislative budget process, contracts are issued and then adjusted based on the board-approved compensation plan,” Hurst wrote in a statement.
Conley could not immediately be reached for comment. She has only served about half of her three-year contract, signed in 2018.
Ben Smith Allegations of improper raises
According to the complaint, “an internal and anonymous source” said that $5,000 raises given tofour executives in June 2019 were “drastically higher” than what the board approved.
Some Mesa employees also may have received salaries higher than what was set out in contracts the board approved in March 2019, Smith wrote in the complaint.
Hurst wrote in a statement that Mesa employee contracts include language that a board-approved compensation plan may override sa
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