Scottsdale district's CFO on leave pending outcome of conflict of interest investigation

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Laura Smith (Source: Scottsdale Unified School District) Laura Smith (Source: Scottsdale Unified School District)

The Scottsdale Unified School District's chief financial officer is on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation into an alleged conflict of interest. It's the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the district.

The district confirms Laura Smith is on leave, but wouldn’t elaborate on why. In a letter from superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell, the alleged conflict is dated back to May of 2017.

[RELATED: Emails suggest SUSD superintendent sought favors from unlicensed architect]

So far, the attorney general's office has only confirmed to us that they have two open investigations involving SUSD and the procurement process.

We spoke with Rose Smith, a retired district employee who wanted to snuff out some rumors she had been hearing. She said she requested hundreds of publicly available documents and she took what she found to the attorney general's office.

"I came up through SUSD, my grandchildren attend SUSD schools now," Rose Smith said. She now calls herself a concerned citizen.

[RELATED: Scottsdale superintendent decries 'fake news' amid AG spending investigation]

"We feel there’s a conflict of interest here," Rose Smith said. "We have the CFO, whose company is directly benefiting from our bond funds, our public funds."

Laura Smith is not only the chief financial officer for SUSD; according to the Arizona Corporation Commission, she is also the president of The Professional Group Public Consulting, Inc, or PGPC.

In Rose Smith's records requests, she said she found documents detailing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of potential deals between the district and PGPC.

"They're charging us $130 an hour," Rose Smith said.

She said she shared this with a small group of Scottsdale residents who then brought this to the school board last summer and then she went straight to the attorney general's office.

"Laura Smith needs to pick a hat -- either she's our a CFO or she's our vendor, but she can’t be both," Rose Smith said.

We reached out to Laura Smith but we haven’t heard back.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

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Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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