First, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry cancelled plans to honor Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal at its annual awards lunch this week, and Glenn Hamer says his board will soon decide whether to ask Huppenthal to step down or drop out of the November 2014 election. Chamber drops plan to honor John Huppenthal.
Now the GOP’s high priestess on education matters in Arizona, Lisa Graham Keegan, has called on John Huppenthal to resign. Can you spell “damage control”? Huppenthal continues to take heat for blog posts:
Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican who is a former state schools superintendent and who continues to be an education advocate, said Sunday night that she took the message a step further and told Huppenthal to resign.
“His comments are extremely disrespectful of the people the state superintendent serves,” she said. “Most of what you do in that job is enforce equal access to education. More than a third of families in Arizona receive assistance because they can’t make ends meet.”
Huppenthal did not return calls and text messages for comments Sunday. [How ironic.] His staff has said he is finished discussing the blog posts.
OK, here’s the bullshit part: “Huppenthal maintains that he made the posts after hours from his own computer.” Blog for Arizona has the goods on him and has shared it with some reporters.
The bloggers have said they traced posts Huppenthal made under the pseudonyms to a dedicated Arizona Department of Education IP address.
“John Huppenthal’s use of Department of Education computers on work time to troll the Internet and leave sock-puppet comments here is a misuse of state equipment and resources,” a June 18 post on the site states.
Arizona law prohibits state employees from using work computers to run outside businesses, to make large numbers of personal photocopies or to look at pornography. But there is some wiggle room for things like personal e-mails and bill paying, according to a state official.
And here comes the lame defense from the Attorney General’s Office, you know, Tom “banned for life by the SEC’ Horne, who is also being prosecuted for misuse of government equipment and using his office to campaign for reelection (so what is this worth?)
“It’s not all black and white,” said Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. “For example, if I took 15 minutes out of my day and paid bills online, read some political articles and made a blog post, that would be OK.
“What cannot be done is campaigning, active electioneering or excess abuse of anything — copies, personal e-mails and personal phone calls.”
Huppenthal chief of staff Merle Bianchi said that as an elected official, Huppenthal is not an hourly worker and does not punch a time clock.
“He has no work time,” she said. “He is on call 24/7.”
Well, certainly when it comes to posting comments to news sites and blog sites. Or doing robo-calls for private education organizations. But actual work?
The three candidates campaigning for Huppenthal’s position also were critical. Democrat Sharon Thomas said he should resign now.
And local school officials called Huppenthal’s behavior embarrassing to the state.
“His posts … reflect poorly on how our state views public education,” said David Schaefer, president of the governing board in the Cave Creek Unified School District.
“He has been in public service long enough to know he is held to a higher standard and somehow continues to use poor judgment. This provides us a window into the real person we have placed in a position of authority and responsibility.”
Bonnie Sneed, president of the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board, said via e-mail: “He has embarrassed himself, more than Arizona. I have to believe that he fully understood that his comments and behavior were inappropriate, both in content and timing), or he wouldn’t have felt the need to use false identities.”
Christine Porter Marsh, an English teacher at Chaparral High School in the Scottsdale Unified School District, meanwhile, sees a lesson for students.
“Here we are, as teachers, trying to instill in our students the significance of what they put on the Internet. I tell my students it can potentially be there for their grandkids to see,” she said.
Other officials question the judgment of a leader who would spend hours writing anonymous blog posts instead of working to solve the state’s education problems.
“I can’t in good conscience support him any longer,” said Jaime Molera, a longtime state board member and a former state schools chief.
Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said Arizona schools have too many challenges — low state funding, the transition to a new set of state academic standards and selection of a new state assessment — to get distracted by Huppenthal’s political problems.
“We have huge issues facing public education in this state,” Morrill said. “Why isn’t he focused on those?”
Huppenthal’s chief of staff, Merle Bianchi, said that Huppenthal has no more to say about the controversy (maybe one of his newly acquired aliases will; the guy is an obsessive-compulsive, he cant’ stop himself). “At this point, he has released a statement, and that is it for him.” He can’t hide forever. Huppenthal will have to debate:
Tuesday, July 15, 5:30 p.m.: Citizens Clean Elections Commission debate for Supt. of Public Instruction (Republicans), televised by KAET-TV Horizon Channel 8. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 364-3477.