Former Mingus executive assistant accused of forging MUHS letter
CAMP VERDE – A 46-year-old Rimrock woman who also serves as executive assistant to Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison is facing felony charges of tampering with public records and taking the identity of another.
Brandi Bateman is accused of forging an official Mingus Union High School document. Bateman was serving as executive assistant to former Mingus Superintendent Penny Hargrove at the time. She currently serves on the Beaver Creek School Board as well as the governing board of the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical District.
Bateman appeared out of custody Monday for a Donald hearing at Yavapai County Superior Court in Camp Verde. Supervisor Garrison was present at the hearing. The case is being prosecuted by Coconino County Deputy Attorney Eric Ruchensky.
According to the indictment, Bateman is accused of forging a letter addressed to the Office of the Arizona Attorney General Civil Litigation Division and purporting it to be authored by Hargrove in January 2018.
According to a Sedona Police Department report, Bateman filed a complaint against the Mingus board in October 2017, accusing board members of multiple Arizona Open Meeting Law violations. In January 2018, the board received a registered letter from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office regarding the complaint. Bateman obtained the letter and never gave it to Hargrove or anyone else on the school board.
Bateman allegedly then wrote and sent, without authorization, the following response letter:
"Dear Mr. Skinner
“The Governing Board of Mingus Union High School District #4 denies any violations of Open Meeting Law of the meetings listed on your correspondence. To that we provided the agendas and minutes to both meetings. No audio or video recording exists of these meetings, Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have, my contact information is below.
Dr. Penny Hargrove
Mingus Union High School District #4"
The signature area for Hargrove was left blank.
Hargrove is listed as a victim in the case. Hargrove resigned in November following an investigation of her handling of the school’s AZMerit testing last spring. Hargrove does not wish to aid in prosecution as a victim of forgery and criminal impersonation, according to Sedona police.
According to the police report, Bateman understood what she did was wrong but felt she was acting in the best interest of the school district.
“Brandi had a strained relationship with Penny (Hargrove) during this time and when I explained the perception of her actions; making the complaint, responding to her own complaint on behalf of MUHSD#4, and denying the complaint without advising Penny, it appears she was setting the business up to fail. Brandi agreed with this assessment,” the police report states.
Presiding Judge Michael Bluff said Bateman could face up to 3.75 years in prison if found guilty at trial. If Bateman decides to plead guilty to a Class 6 felony of tampering with a public record – as offered by the Coconino County Attorney’s Office -- she faces a maximum sentence of two years, Bluff said.
Ruchensky said he would likely push for probation instead of a prison sentence.
“That’s my intent as I sit here right now,” he said in court Monday.
Bluff said there is also a chance the felony would be re-designated as a Class 1 misdemeanor, following the successful completion of probation.
Bateman will appear in court again Monday, April 8, at 4 p.m., for a possible change of plea or settlement.