Scottsdale district's CFO resigns amid conflict of interest allegations

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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, Laura Smith, tendered her resignation in a letter she emailed to the district Friday afternoon. Arizona's Family obtained that letter. It is posted in its entirety at the end of this article.

The district confirmed earlier this week that Smith was on administrative leave, but wouldn’t elaborate on why. In a letter from superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell, the alleged conflict is dated back to May 2017.

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 then 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.

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.

RELATED: Scottsdale district's CFO on leave pending outcome of conflict of interest 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."

In her letter to the district Friday afternoon, Laura Smith said she made a "genuine and innocent mistake" in not disclosing that her sister, Caroline Brackley" is the principal of PGPC.

"I did not intentionally act to reward the Professional Group while serving as the District's chief financial officer," she wrote. "I became chief financial officer in May. The Professional Group suspended my active ownership and participation on May 1, 2017 because of my new duties at the District. By the end of the month, my interested in Professional Group was valued; the Professional Group board accepted by request to buy my interest."

Laura Smith's letter goes on to explain how she "mistakenly signed to change order regarding purchase order to compensate the Professional Group for services."

Laura Smith explained that the orders were identified by numbers and did not contain list the Professional Group by name. 

"I sign dozens a week and those two were not flagged as benefitting the Professional Group so they slipped through the cracks," she wrote. "My signing them was not more than a ministerial error."

"My single, honest mistake and two inadvertent errors are not being unfairly extrapolated into something sinister," she continued. "It is not sinister nor dishonest."

Laura Smith ended the letter by saying she is resigning to "remove the distraction" on the district's investigation so that it can "focus on the District's major issues rather than my ancillary situation."

Her resignation is effective immediately.

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