Arizona Education Department Flack Resigns Over Email Scandal | Phoenix New Times

Department of Education Flack Resigns After 'Vote Diane Douglas' Email Scandal

The associate superintendent of communications is out in the wake of an internal newsletter that violated Arizona election law.
A top official at the Arizona Department of Education resigned after an email was sent to all employees urging them to vote for Superintendent Diane Douglas in her re-election bid.
A top official at the Arizona Department of Education resigned after an email was sent to all employees urging them to vote for Superintendent Diane Douglas in her re-election bid. Joseph Flaherty

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A top official at the Arizona Department of Education resigned last month after a staffer emailed department employees encouraging them to vote for Superintendent Diane Douglas in last month's primary election.

Dan Godzich was hired as ADE's associate superintendent of communication last summer, even though he lied on his resume about his college degree. He resigned from his $85,000-a-year job on August 27, four days after the internal email was sent.

An image in the newsletter showed Godzich and Douglas wearing capes at a Halloween event. "Vote Diane Douglas," the newsletter stated, "The Wonder Woman of Education."

The internal newsletter to all employees appeared to breach a state law that prohibits the use of public resources for the purposes of influencing an election.

According to chief of staff Michael Bradley, the email was part of a regular newsletter circulated internally within the department, known as "The Apple Newsletter." The message was drafted and sent by a communications assistant, Patti Hultstrand, he said.

When confronted about the newsletter, Hultstrand said that she was unaware of the statute forbidding the use of public resources to sway an election, Bradley said. She was fired the same day that the email was sent.

Douglas emailed employees approximately an hour and a half after the email was sent, the Arizona Republic reported, to tell them that the newsletter was not approved before it was sent. She described the newsletter as "wholly inappropriate."

The superintendent and Bradley were unhappy with Godzich because he did not inform his staffers of the election-law requirements, Bradley said.

"What we said to Dan was that we were dissatisfied that he had not informed his staff of what the rules are, and that there was no formal process for 'The Apple' to be reviewed by him before it went out to the staff," Bradley said in an interview.

However, Douglas did not ask Godzich point-blank for his resignation in the wake of the scandal, according to Bradley.

When asked whether Godzich gave a formal reason for his resignation, Bradley said, "Not that I'm aware of."

An ADE spokesperson denied a public records request from Phoenix New Times for documents pertaining to Godzich's departure, citing the confidentiality of personnel records under Arizona Administrative Code.

Requests for comment to Godzich and Hultstrand were not immediately returned.

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The Arizona Department of Education communications director wrote on his resume that he had a degree from Hunter College in New York. He does not.
Arizona Department of Education
A former Republican adviser on education policy in the Arizona Legislature, Godzich previously worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Douglas hired Godzich at ADE in June 2017. Shortly thereafter, New Times reported that contrary to his resume, an ADE press release, and his personal LinkedIn page, Godzich never graduated from Hunter College in New York. He does not have a college degree.

Godzich attributed his misleading resume to an innocent error.

Douglas lost her re-election bid to former California congressman Frank Riggs in the crowded Republican primary last month, and as a result she will leave office in January.

The department will not hire someone to replace Godzich in the role, according to Bradley. Instead, his duties will fall under the government relations department. 
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