Ex-Gilbert School Superintendent Faces 18 Counts Of Fraud

PHOENIX (AP) — A former suburban Phoenix school district superintendent accepted money in exchange for awarding building contracts to certain vendors, according to an Arizona Auditor General report.

The report, which was released Thursday, led to Dr. Angela Denise Birdwell, former Higley School District superintendent in Gilbert, being indicted earlier this month on felony charges involving fraud. Kay Hartwell Hunnicutt, Birdwell's housemate, and two vendor employees were also indicted.

Birdwell faces the most counts out of all of them. The 18 charges against her include misuse of public monies and conflict of interest. The charges against Hunnicutt, an attorney, involve filing a false return.

Hunnicutt, who has served as Birdwell’s attorney in the past, did not immediately return a phone message Friday seeking comment.

Among the report's findings was evidence that Birdwell accepted thousands of dollars in personal checks from an unlicensed architect. Later, when she was superintendent in 2012, the architect's firm won a $2.5 million contract to build two middle schools. The firm and a developer also received information that others making bids did not.

The report covers the district's financial activity between May 2012 and April 2016. Birdwell was superintendent from 2009 until her retirement in 2015. She went on to be superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District in 2016. She was dismissed by the district governing board in 2018, a year before her contract was up, over similar allegations of misuse of school funds.