Ed Board sues Douglas over access to investigative documents

Superintendent Diane Douglas speaks at the State Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Laura Sposato/Cronkite News)

The Arizona State Board of Education has sued Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas for refusing board investigators remote access to documents involving teacher misconduct.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court demands that Douglas comply with a board edict to provide access to the teacher certification database housed at the Arizona Department of Education.

“This lawsuit is the unfortunate result of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s stubborn refusal to execute policies approved by the State Board of Education,” the lawsuit said.

The board demanded remote access to the investigative documents within the database after staff members moved out of Department of Education offices to the State Capitol Executive Tower. They relocated as rancor grew between Douglas and the board, with the superintendent trying unsuccessfully to fire the board’s top two staff members.

The lawsuit contends that investigators’ work has slowed because they must walk across the street to the department and are escorted to their old computers.

Investigators only have access to the documents from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday but usually work 10-hour days four days a week, the lawsuit said.

“Failing to provide this remote access violates the Superintendent’s statutory responsibility to implement board policy and unnecessarily undermines the work of the investigative unit,” Mary R. O’Grady, the board’s attorney, wrote in a letter accompanying the lawsuit.

The board also alleges that Douglas hasn’t obeyed its direction that the Department of Education host the board’s new website.

The department hosts the board’s old website, and both sites claim to be the official place for meeting notices and agendas to comply with Arizona open meeting laws, the lawsuit said.

“The public can still be misled by the inaccurate and out-of-date Old Website. And without judicial intervention this misleading website will remain available to the public,” the lawsuit said.

Charles Tack, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said Wednesday afternoon that Douglas hadn’t had a chance to review the lawsuit.