Denise Birdwell, a school Superintendent who is currently on paid leave with the Scottsdale Unified School District, used district funds to hire an attorney to send letters to people she claimed were trying to interfere with her district contract. From the beginning, the attorney suggested this was a personal issue, rather than a district issue, and should be paid for by Birdwell. Friday, a district spokesperson confirmed Birdwell hand-delivered a reimbursement check to the district.
"I just took it as her lashing out and trying to intimidate me," said Susan Hughes. She said days after she sent an email to two SUSD board members outlining some concerns over potential conflicts of interest, she got a voicemail from superintendent Denise Birdwell.
"I am really running short on patience with all the rumors you keep saying about me," said a woman identifying herself as Birdwell in the voicemail Hughes provided to Arizona's Family.
One of those concerns had to do with Louis Hartwell, the district's COO, who is also the brother of Birdwell's housemate. He recently resigned.
Then, Hughes said, she got a letter from attorney Kraig Marton.
"It basically said, 'The purpose of the letter is to demand that you immediately cease and desist,'" Hughes said.
In emails obtained through the district, last June Birdwell asked Marton to retain his services, saying a Scottsdale community member was trying to interfere with her contract with the district. Marton responded, asking whether he would represent her or the district, saying from her description, it sounds like she personally would need counsel.
An SUSD spokesperson said the district contends it should not have paid for that. The spokesperson also said Birdwell hand-delivered a reimbursement check of $4,312.50 to the district Friday, signed by Marton's law firm, JaburgWilk.
"It does surprise me she thought it was a proper use of public money," said Karen Treon, who was mentioned in one of Birdwell's emails to Marton. Treon said she never got a cease and desist letter.
Treon and Hughes said they have been communicating with the Attorney General's Office.
"I think most of the things I've been concerned about have turned out to have been shown to be correct," Treon said.
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