Fourth Scottsdale Unified administrator to resign

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Dr. Pamela Sitton. (Source: Scottsdale Unified School District) Dr. Pamela Sitton. (Source: Scottsdale Unified School District)

An assistant superintendent in the Scottsdale Unified School District facing an internal investigation has agreed to resign at the end of July, making her the fourth high-level administrator to resign this year.

Dr. Pamela Sitton, who led the district’s human resources department, was placed on paid leave last month for “allegations of unprofessional conduct.” The district did not elaborate on the allegations, but the timing of the leave came shortly after parents uncovered payment discrepancies to three employees and an outside attorney launched a review.

[RELATED: Fourth Scottsdale Unified administrator placed on paid leave]

Under a separation agreement dated May 15, Sitton will remain on paid leave through July 31. Beginning June 16, she will be paid accrued vacation in lieu of work days. Sitton’s transportation allowance was suspended May 16 and her bonus for holding a doctoral degree will lapse July 1.

Another section adds that the agreement “shall not be construed to be an admission of liability or wrongdoing by any party.”

Sitton’s resignation follows those of former Chief Financial Officer Laura Smith, former Chief Business Officer Louis Hartwell and former Superintendent Denise Birdwell.

This month, a grand jury indicted Smith on 11 felony counts. Parents who have closely followed the case suspect the Attorney General’s criminal investigation is not yet complete.

[READ MORE: Ex-Scottsdale district CFO indicted in conflict of interest case]

On the surface, Sitton’s resignation does not appear to be directly related to the conflict-of-interest case that ensnared Smith or the allegations of procurement violations that dogged Birdwell and Hartwell.

Instead, her resignation appears to stem from her oversight of a human resources department beset by what the district described as payment errors.

In April, Arizona’s Family reported that Pima Elementary Principal Alexis Cruz-Freeman received a $3,000 “doctoral stipend” bonus even though she did not hold the advanced degree. In a letter to parents, Cruz-Freeman said the payment was an error and said she would return any funds she received.

Concerned parents later discovered that Michael Roberts, a district-level administrator, also received a $3,000 doctoral stipend without the degree.

“Any money already paid will be returned, and the stipend will not be paid moving forward,” said SUSD public information officer Erin Helm at the time.

Both Roberts and Cruz-Freeman are in the process of getting a doctorate but have yet to earn the degree.

An attorney hired by the district also investigated why a $7,239 stipend was paid to Dr. Christopher Thuman without approval from the governing board. The district halted payment of the stipend last month.

Thuman is a former district administrator who was transferred to a position as principle of Ingleside Middle School. Former Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell “apparently agreed” to maintain his district-level salary after the transfer, according to a letter dated April 19 from attorney Susan Segal.

In the letter, Segal said the district’s investigation was into the stipend not Thuman himself. She also added, “To date, we have found no wrongdoing on your part.”

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