Sandra D-Minus

Former employees hand county schools chief flunking grade in public ethics

Cook on the county cell phone: "Her [Dowling's] cellular phone calls were unbelievable. They were always above $150 and there were so many personal calls on there that . . . we would complain that she can't use the phone for her personal calls. She'd end up giving a check for $10, $15. One time she felt that, I think, New Times or somebody was doing an article so she paid a higher amount. But she doesn't pay for her own personal usage on that. She just makes a token to look like she's paying."

Dowling's response, when Cook tried to take it up with her: "That she's the County School Superintendent and then she almost became comical because then she would say that she's the governor of Maricopa; because she's elected by the whole population."

In the deposition, Cook also accused Dowling of sexual harassment because of the way she sat. "She sat very unladylike. She would hike up her skirt. She would throw her knee up leaving nothing to your imagination as you would be sitting across from her."

Candace Steill, in her sworn testimony, lists a half-dozen males who complained to her about Dowling's posture. She calls Dowling's open-legged position "a Sharon Stone."

She mused, "I've wondered that if it was a form of intimidation, the way she--I can't believe some of the blatant--let's see. I'm trying to delicately put this--disregard. Most women would sit in a chair and make sure they cross their legs properly or would take a little more care."

Cook and Steill both allege that Dowling regularly used county staff to conduct campaign work, sometimes on county time.

Cook also recalled that Dowling was often preoccupied with finding her husband, Dennis, a job. (Dowling's son, Dennis Junior, works for the county regional school district; her daughter also used to work for the district. She's prohibited by law from hiring her husband at the district.)

Cook said that he was ordered to write a letter for Dennis Dowling, saying he'd completed an internship for his teaching certification--when he hadn't.

"I was told by Sandra to make sure that he would go out to East Valley and do an internship," Cook said. "He didn't show--the principal said something to me. I said something to Sandra. She said, 'Just give him a letter that states that he accomplished it.' And I know the principal at East Valley was upset, and I just felt it was an order from her, so I did it."

Cook also said that he believed Dowling lies: "I mean, she gave stories that she was kidnapped twice, not once, twice in her lifetime. And the reason she started the Pappas School [for the homeless] is because that's where she was thrown out of this car, absurd things.

". . . She said she had cancer. I don't know--as a matter of fact, she was supposedly in the hospital now with some type of growth or something, and originally it was supposed to be the size of a softball, and it was the size of a watermelon after she got done.

"But those who were close, [former spokesman] Jim Bloom, Mark Frazier, myself, when she'd tell these stories, I mean, you would just roll your eyes, because, you know, it wasn't true."

Cook admitted he felt foolish discussing any of it.
"It reminds me of my first--one of my first board members back in Pennsylvania. He said, 'Lee, never argue with a fool, because the people will not know who the fool is.'

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