Scottsdale Unified school renovation contract awarded to convicted felon

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Some parents are demanding to know why the Scottsdale Unified School District hired a convicted felon for a major school renovation project. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Some parents are demanding to know why the Scottsdale Unified School District hired a convicted felon for a major school renovation project. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Court records show Brian Robichaux was convicted of felony theft in a publicly funded construction project. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Court records show Brian Robichaux was convicted of felony theft in a publicly funded construction project. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Despite the red flag in Robichaux’s past, Hunt & Caraway was awarded the contract to redesign Hopi Elementary without going through the district’s public procurement process. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Despite the red flag in Robichaux’s past, Hunt & Caraway was awarded the contract to redesign Hopi Elementary without going through the district’s public procurement process. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
For months, parents have raised concerns about district renovation projects funded by a $229 million bond initiative. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) For months, parents have raised concerns about district renovation projects funded by a $229 million bond initiative. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Scottsdale Unified School District’s Governing Board met behind closed doors with attorneys again Monday, as some parents are demanding to know why the district hired a convicted felon for a major school renovation project.

The district’s procurement process has attracted the attention of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Spokeswoman Mia Garcia confirmed the AG’s office has two open investigations involving Scottsdale Unified and procurement, but declined further comment.

For months, parents have raised concerns about district renovation projects funded by a $229 million bond initiative, particularly the rebuild at Hopi Elementary School.

A design firm called Hunt & Caraway Architects created the plans for Hopi under the company’s lead architect and president, Brian Robichaux.

Court records show Robichaux was convicted of felony theft in a publicly funded construction project. The Arizona Department of Transportation hired Robichaux to build homes in 1996 for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Relocation project. Robichaux successfully completed three of the four homes.

According to court records, the architect “made numerous false statements and provided false documentation” about the status of the fourth home to collect $125,653 in payments, which he used for “other, unauthorized purposes.” The home was never built.

Robichaux returned $30,000. “However, he paid no additional monies, although he kept making promises, so the case was referred for prosecution,” records state. Robichaux was ordered to pay more than $95,000 in restitution.

Such a crime should have disqualified Robichaux from a school procurement contract under state law, said Scottsdale Unified parent and activist John Washington.

“If I had been vetting this guy for dogcatcher, I wouldn't have hired him,” Washington said.

Despite the red flag in Robichaux’s past, Hunt & Caraway was awarded the contract to redesign Hopi Elementary without going through the district’s public procurement process. Instead, the firm was approved through 1 Government Procurement Alliance, a Phoenix-based non-profit.

SUSD confirmed it has hired an outside attorney to review its procurement process.

“In the interest of transparency and to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent with the utmost integrity, SUSD General Counsel Michelle Marshall has hired an outside attorney to examine current SUSD procurement processes,” said Scottsdale Unified School District Public Information Officer Erin Helm in a statement.

“Susan Segal with Gust Rosenfeld will conduct that review. To avoid any interference with that process, District officials are not giving interviews at this time.”

Hunt & Caraway has removed Robichaux from its website. In a November letter to superintendent Denise Birdwell, new company president Tamara Caraway announced that Robichaux had resigned and all existing contracts would be under her direction. Caraway did not return a call Monday seeking comment.  

SUSD’s Governing Board will meet again Tuesday in closed session to discuss the procurement topic.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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