COTTONWOOD – According to two sources, the attorney for Mingus Union High School District has filed a notice of claim for $393,986.05 against Valley Academy of Career and Technical Education for money MUHSD says it was underpaid from fiscal years 2012 through 2016.
The announcement of the claim notice was made at Mingus Union’s monthly board meeting, March 28.
According to MUHSD Board President Anita Glazar, Valley Academy – V’ACTE – “is aware of” the claim filed by Susan Segal of Gust Rosenfeld PLC.
“We have asked for mediation,” said Dr. Jack Keegan, interim superintendent at Mingus Union. “And they have responded.”
David Cantelme, attorney for the Verde Valley’s career and technical education program, Mingus Union “elected to hire a lawyer and make a formal claim under Arizona law dated March 13, 2017.”
Which the V’ACTE lawyer said was a violation of Section 11 of the Intergovernmental Agreement “between the districts effective July 1, 2016.”
“Neither party may file a claim against the other without first participating in good faith with a trained and impartial mediator,” Section 11 states.
Cantelme also said that “had Mingus Union asked, V’ACTE would have honored its agreement to mediate this controversy in good faith and would have tried to resolve it without wasting taxpayer money on lawyers.”
Though technically it wasn’t mediation, Mingus Union Business Manager Kirk Waddle stated that both he and Keegan met with Valley Academy Superintendent Bob Weir on March 3 about the funding shortage.
“[We] presented our data and outlined what we would like to resolve the shortfall,” Waddle said. “We were told that a settlement would not be considered and that he would simply turn it over to the VACTE attorney.”
According to Waddle, the average split paid to Mingus Union by V’ACTE for the five fiscal years was 53 percent. MUHSD records show that V’ACTE paid $1,274,559.77 of the $1,668,545.82 owed.
“My belief is that this money is owed to [MUHSD],” Glazar said Tuesday to the board. “And I believe we should go back farther.”
Dr. Keegan also told the board that the district has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of V’ACTE’s recent audit for fiscal year 2015-2016 for “a complete picture of how the money was spent.”
Said MUHSD board member Jim Ledbetter, Mingus Union was “taken advantage of.”
“We acted in good faith,” Ledbetter said. “And [V’ACTE] didn’t. At the end of the day, students were getting short-changed.”
“We have an attorney,” Waddle said. “Call it a claim, whatever. The next step is mediation.”
He said – she said …
Regardless of the penalty for breaking Section 11 of the IGA, V’ACTE attorney Cantelme disputes the percentage split of the agreement.
“The IGAs effective during the years covered by its claim did not contain a provision allocating the state funding at issue 70 percent to Mingus and 30 percent to V’ACTE,” “If Mingus Union had such wording, it would have quoted it and it did not.”
Though the V’ACTE attorney is disputing the accuracy of the 70-30 claim, Mingus Union’s attorney is not.
Said Segal, the 70-30 funding split is in Exhibit E of the 2016-2017 IGA.
“It’s in there,” Segal said. “I know. I negotiated it.”
According to Exhibit E Financial Provisions of the 2016 IGA by and between V’ACTE and MUHSD signed by then-V’ACTE board president Steve Dockray, Superintendent Bob Weir and legal counsel: “Each member district shall be eligible to receive 70 percent of the Average Daily Membership generated annually in Joint Technical Educational District revenue based on aggregated ADM as provided by the Arizona Department of Education.”
‘Why did we wait?’
The superintendent at Camp Verde Unified School District also agrees with the expectation of a 70-30 split in revenue.
Though Camp Verde Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Dennis Goodwin has not read the most recent Intergovernmental Agreement, he said Thursday that he has “heard 70-30 said a lot.” Even by Weir, who left Camp Verde High School in July 2016 after 24 years.
“When Bob was principal, he said that V’ACTE was supposed to be paying us on a 70-30 split,” Dr. Goodwin said.
According to Cantelme, Mingus Union’s claim “also finds no support in the parties’ conduct over the years.”
“For years, it accepted the share of state funding paid to it, and made no objection,” Cantelme said. “If it had a true basis for demanding more money than it received, it would have said so at the time.”
Which is a statement that Mingus Union board member Anthony Lozano echoed on Tuesday.
“Why did we wait so long to say we were taken advantage of?” Lozano asked his fellow board members.