Public records requests from Glendale Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District, and Deer Valley Unified School District all paint a picture that the DVUSD community is all too familiar with; governing board member Kim Fisher has a long history of unprofessional conduct and hostile behavior in Arizona school districts. Records indicate that this behavior dates back over ten years, resulting in reprimands, a resignation, and contract non-renewal.
Accusations of Slander, Libel, and Defamation
AZ District News verified that Fisher did resign. However, she failed to provide all the details of what happened.
Glendale Elementary School District Investigation
Kim Fisher was employed by GESD beginning January 7th, 2011, as an administrative assistant. Due to this employment dating back a decade, the District no longer has records accessible for public review. However, court records provide a glimpse into the events that led to her resignation, dated February 21st, 2013.
In June 2012, Fisher’s supervisor and GESD’s Human Resources Department received notice from the Director of Information Technology that he and his employees had been dealing with Fisher’s “unnecessarily vindictive, jealous, and unprofessional behavior for the past few months.” He made similar complaints in August 2012, providing additional examples of unprofessional conduct that continued after the initial complaint. According to documents, the Director of I.T. pleaded for help, saying, “because of Kimberly’s unpredictable and irrational behavior, I fear for my team’s safety, emotional well-being, and ability to effectively work with her.”
Because of Kimberly’s unpredictable and irrational behavior, I fear for my team’s safety, emotional well-being, and ability to effectively work with her.– Matthew Peterson, GESD Director of IT
The I.T. Department employees accused Kimberly Fisher of creating a hostile work environment due to her constant rude and demeaning comments, delaying their work, and undermining them to others. Fisher admitted to having a bad relationship with the I.T. Department, calling it a “den of iniquity” and claiming they tried to discredit her.
Because of the nature of the complaint, GESD contracted a third-party attorney to investigate the allegations. The investigation included interviews with Fisher and other employees and a review of emails and District policies governing conduct and ethics. During these interviews, Fisher acknowledged the characterization of her emails as unprofessional and hostile as accurate and that she sent two emails she referred to as “not kind.” Court documents state that the resulting confidential report to Superintendent Quintana on October 18th, 2012 concluded “the weight of the testimony and the available documents indicate that Ms. Fisher acted improperly.” Specifically, the investigator found that Ms. Fisher’s conduct had been unprofessional, several of her emails were both unprofessional and hostile, and employees feared that she would act violently in the future.
Accusations of Physical Assault
The most egregious accusation was the physical assault of a colleague with whom Fisher appeared to have a history of issues. The incident occurred when Fisher was helping the I.T. department with a project, and the room where the incident occurred was filled with boxes and other materials. Fisher and Kathern Murphy were walking through a narrow pathway in the room when they bumped into each other. Murphy claims she veered away from Fisher and avoided eye contact, but they still bumped into each other quite hard. Murphy says that Russell Deneault, the I.T. Systems Coordinator, witnessed the bump and told her that Ms. Fisher initiated the contact and purposefully shoulder-checked her. During the interview, Mr. Deneault confirmed this account, stating that Fisher leaned into the bump and purposely tried to make forceful contact with Murphy.
Fisher denies Ms. Murphy’s account and claims that Murphy initiated the contact by pushing her shoulder into her chest. She further claims that this constituted an assault and that the next time it occurs, she will go to the police. Unfortunately, there were no other witnesses to the incident besides Deneault, who Fisher claims is biased against her. What happened during the incident is unclear; both parties have different accounts. The investigator found determining what occurred and who initiated the contact challenging. Fisher’s superior agreed with the assessment, so he did not consider this claim in the later letter of reprimand.
What is overwhelming is the fear of IT Department employees that MS. Fisher would act violently in the future– Dominic Verstegen, Investigating Attorney
Where are the Keys?
The most common complaint was that Ms. Fisher did not promptly provide keys to I.T. Department employees, as was part of her job. Fisher denied any meaningful wait and said the only delay was waiting until certain rooms were re-keyed. However, this claim was not supported by written correspondence and was dismissed by I.T. Department employee interviews. Several employees reported having to wait outside often until someone with a key showed up because they had no keys.
The Director of the I.T. Department, Matthew Peterson, complained to Fisher’s supervisor about her responsiveness to their key requests on June 8th. A few weeks later, Ms. Fisher met with Mr. Peterson to discuss the problem. Mr. Peterson followed this up with an email listing the keys needed. Instead of getting the keys to the I.T. Department that they requested, Ms. Fisher sent an email asking for an audit of all the keys checked out to the I.T. Department. It took two weeks to complete this task. Still, after completing the audit, the I.T. Department did not receive the requested keys. Instead, Ms. Fisher sent an email saying only three I.T. Department employees needed keys. In closing her email, Ms. Fisher said, “[f]alse information may be documented, and used for an I.T. reorganization but please use the facts when referring to me.”
This correspondence led to a meeting between Mr. Peterson, Ms. Fisher, and Fisher’s supervisor, Mr. Hegarty, to discuss the keys and the other issues between Fisher and the I.T. Department. During that meeting, Peterson said that instead of working out their problems, Fisher spent nearly three hours saying things that were very rude and untruthful. He said that she said he was unqualified for his position, that he should do specific work that Ms. Murphy was doing, and other things that were not helpful or accurate.
Ms. Fisher disagreed that she was rude but verified that they spoke about Mr. Peterson’s qualifications and other things of that nature. She recapped the meeting in an email she sent to Mr. Hegarty. In that email, Fisher reiterated her feeling that Mr. Peterson was unqualified for his job. She also defended her work on getting the I.T. Department employees the keys they needed, noting that she was too busy with other projects.
The investigation found that Ms. Fisher’s story regarding the keys was inaccurate, as the I.T. Department denied her claims, and the Director of the I.T. Department perceived her behavior as rude and unhelpful.
However, in his November 27th, 2012 response, Fisher’s superior, Mr. Hegarty, said that after reviewing documents and examining backup materials provided, there was no conclusive evidence regarding the alleged mismanagement of keys or an attempt to keep the I.T. staff from their work assignments. He determined that Fisher was able to provide enough evidence to contradict some of the conclusions in the original finding, making those findings inconclusive.
A Familiar Attitude
A frequent theme amongst nearly everyone interviewed was Fisher’s problematic attitude toward others. In her interview, Fisher acknowledged that she “can be unpleasant at times, but that most people get along with her and that everyone can be unpleasant occasionally.” However, the evidence in the investigation in the form of inter-organization emails suggests more than an occasional unpleasantness.
The example above, with Fisher responding to the Director of I.T. about false information and using facts when referring to her, was not the only instance of hostility and vitriol toward others. On August 10th, 2012, Kathern Murphy emailed several staff and department leaders, thanking them for “lending staff to our project.” Instead of politely responding or ignoring the note of appreciation, Fisher responded, “I am not property to be lent and I do not appreciate this email in any way at all. Please either have Kathern remove me from this type of email or have her consider her words. I will not be degraded by your over paid secretary because of her offensive nature and lack of appropriate knowledge.”
I will not be degraded by your over paid secretary because of her offensive nature and lack of appropriate knowledge.– Kim Fisher
In addition to the emails, several I.T. employees reported in their statements that they saw Fisher’s behavior as more than inappropriate; they believed that she was committing unlawful defamation and expressed concerns that Fisher was damaging their reputations. Several employees stated that Fisher would often talk about how numerous individuals were unqualified to do their jobs, even if they had been in that position for a long time. Fisher openly admitted to talking poorly of Murphy’s qualifications and emails document similar statements of others, including Mr. Peterson.
Letter of Reprimand
The independent investigation found that many individuals described Fisher’s behavior as “unprofessional, insulting, hostile, rude, nasty, and degrading.” The investigator concluded that some or all of these descriptions of her behavior were warranted, even if Fisher’s conduct was not intentional. Ultimately, the investigator determined that Fisher had problems working well with others.
Fisher was provided a copy of the investigation’s findings in October 2012. After receiving the letter of Reprimand on December 20th and following District policy, Fisher submitted a rebuttal and Formal Grievance Presentation to no avail. Due to the findings of the independent attorney’s investigation, Superintendent Quintana upheld the decision of Mr. Hegarty to impose discipline and the Letter of Reprimand issued on December 20th, stating, “it has been concluded you violated Governing Board Policy GBEA’ Staff Ethics’ and Governing Board Policy GBEB’ Staff Conduct’. Fisher continued to work for GESD in the same position with the same pay rate, hours, and benefits until she resigned effective February 21st, 2013.
When questioned about the investigation and letter of reprimand by AZ District News, Fisher responded, “everything they found in their investigation was refuted with evidence and they were only left with one email they said wasn’t nice so they forced my boss to give me a letter of reprimand. He and I drafted it together. He then resigned with majority of our entire department and I resigned later.” In court testimony, however, Fisher made it very clear that she did not have a hand in drafting the letter and only asked for sections she disagreed with to be removed before she’d be willing to sign it. She went as far as claiming, with no evidence, that Mr. Hegarty was not responsible for writing the letter and that H.R. had written it.
However, in the letter of reprimand, Mr. Hegarty clearly states that “after careful consideration of the facts relating to conduct and ethics issues, the decision has been made to impose a Letter of Reprimand.” The letter goes on to identify, “as it relates to the inappropriate and hostile communication, it was concluded that Ms. Fisher has exhibited this behavior, especially in written form. There were several emails submitted that confirm this behavior.” According to court records, at least two emails were used to come to this conclusion, not one.
In addition, Mr. Hegarty did not resign from his position at Glendale Elementary School District; he retired on December 21st, 2012. Fisher’s claim that the “majority of our entire department” also seems to be unfounded – according to board docs, two members of the business services department resigned between the December 12th and February 14th board meeting when Fisher’s resignation was approved. However, personnel records for GESD before late November 2012 are no longer accessible.
Fisher Resigns from GESD
January 31st, 2013, Fisher submitted a 14-day (working days – 21 calendar days) notice of resignation to Glendale Elementary School District due to constructive discharge. In the resignation letter, she states that she has had several medical problems related to stress after going through the process of an EEOC complaint filed in 2012 and the events leading up to the filing. Despite the medical issues, she believes she could still contribute to the District in their position with the support of her superior, Mr. Hegarty.
However, when Mr. Hegarty left, Fisher became concerned about her position. After talking with Superintendent Quintana just before the winter break, she found a new hope that any issues could be resolved and she could make it through the transition. Upon returning from the break, Fisher says it became clear that her new hope of a positive new year would not be the case. She claims that her position was downgraded, and she was treated dismissively and degradingly by Mr. Conrad, who clarified that her work from the past two years would not be included in his agenda.
Fisher notes that in meetings, Mr. Conrad’s behavior was dismissive and disgusted by anything she said. She provided an example of a meeting with Mr. Quintana where he requested Fisher’s input – but due to Mr. Conrad’s actions, she walked away because she felt her presence was not wanted. Fisher also claims she was told that it was inappropriate for her to talk to the directors, which she found unusual as she believes she had been a key factor in the success of communication between the support center directors and the business office for the past two years. She made several accusations of harassment in both her response to the investigation and her letter of resignation.
Finally, Fisher claims that with her education and experience, she had a lot to contribute to the District, as displayed by the many projects she had completed over the last two years, including benefit renewals, negotiating contracts, and facility reorganization, which have enriched the lives of the District’s students and employees. She ended the resignation by stating that it was unfortunate that she could not continue making such contributions.
In response to Fisher’s Letter of Resignation, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Barbara Goodwin wrote that H.R. had conducted interviews within the finance department to determine if she had been subject to harassment. She interviewed twelve employees, seven of which identified signs of a strained work environment; two stated they had observed inappropriate/unprofessional statements by her, two said they had observed her arguing or demonstrating defiance, one stated that she was disrespectful, one stated that she was hostile toward others, one stated they had seen her cry, and four said that she had shared unprofessional gossip. Goodwin noted that several of those interviewed indicated that Fisher had acted unprofessionally both before and after she had tendered her resignation.
In her dealings with her new boss, Rick Conrad, Goodwin wrote, “The question was asked regarding observations of any interactions between you and Rick. It was stated that you had been observed as defiant, disrespectful, outspoken, and inappropriate when interacting with Rick [Conrad]. It was also stated by two interviewees that in one instance they had overheard both you and Rick yelling at one another. One interviewee stated that Rick walked into his office without acknowledging you and it could be interpreted as unfriendly.”
Those interviewed all stated that they did not feel Fisher was ever harassed or intimidated as an employee of Glendale Elementary School District. Ultimately, Goodwin concluded that there was no evidence supporting that Fisher was subjected to harassing and intimidating behavior such that her work conditions were intolerable. The District administration disagreed with Fisher’s claims.
On October 11th, 2012, after the complaints from the I.T. department, Fisher filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) based on discrimination. The EEOC issued a dismissal and notice of right to sue, finding no reasonable cause to believe a violation of the law had occurred. After her resignation, she filed another EEOC complaint on September 11th, 2013, charging that she was given a letter of reprimand, was denied an appeal process, her superior removed her work and “verbally assaulted” her and then refused to communicate with her, and she resigned due to constructive discharge. Again, the EEOC issued a dismissal and notice of the right to sue for this complaint.
In response to a request for a statement from AZ District News, Fisher said, “their investigation only happened because I filed with EEOC.” However, the ‘Report Regarding Investigation of Issues Raised by ITS Department’ was delivered to the District only seven days later, on October 18th. In her EEOC filing, Fisher states, “I work for the company as an Administrative Assistant. I complained on behalf of two employees based on age and gender discrimination in or around November, 2011. I was retaliated against by not being considered for a position I applied for. I applied for the position of Coordinator for Classified In or around April 2012 for which I was qualified. Shortly after my supervisor had provided an opportunity to work on the wellness program. The opportunity was removed without justification. I informed my supervisor that I was going to complain to the EEOC due to the negatively impacting actions. As a result, I was further retaliated against by being subjected to an Investigation; for which I was not told the allegations against me. I believe I was retaliated against in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 1964, as amended and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.” Fisher had not filed the EEOC complaint prior to the investigation commencing, or she would not have been able to use it as the basis of her complaint.
Fisher wrote in her second EEOC complaint, “Subsequent to filing my previous EEOC claim, additional actions were taken against me and were partly included in the first claim. The day after receipt of the right to sue notice I was offered to have any discipline against me regarding the investigation during the first EEOC go away if I would drop my claim. I refused the offer and was reluctantly given a letter of reprimand by my supervisor as he was leaving the organization. I was additionally denied the remainder of the appeal process as stated in the beginning of the investigation following my first filing. At that time I received information from the EEOC first claim, information that I was on a list of individuals to get rid of, and information that the recruitment denial from the first EEOC was due to my being ‘not Hispanic enough’ rather than because of my defending employees being discriminated against.”
Fisher v. Glendale Elementary School District
On September 19th, 2014, Kim Fisher filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against Glendale Elementary School District. In various counts, Fisher alleges that the District discriminated against female candidates for the position of Director of Finance Purchasing and Director of Maintenance Operations. She claims the District continued discriminatory practices after voicing her concerns in writing. Fisher also alleges that she was not considered for the position of Coordinator for Classified despite satisfying the requirements for the job and that she was subjected to unfounded disciplinary actions after filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Fisher sought relief for the claim of unlawful employment discrimination and punitive damages.
After a motion to dismiss, the judge dismissed four of the six allegations in the lawsuit with prejudice due to procedural errors by the plaintiff. Fisher failed to comply with A.R.S. § 12-821.01, which states that a public entity has 60 days to respond to a notice of claim, allowing them to investigate and assess liability and permit the possibility of settlement before litigation. Fisher filed her lawsuit only four days after this notice – so the four state counts were deemed barred and dismissed with prejudice. The court also determined that Glendale Elementary School District as a government entity was immune from punitive damages as a matter of law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Counts two and six, related to Fisher’s claims of violating Federal discrimination laws, were allowed to proceed.
The remaining counts were alleging that GESD violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, claiming that the District denied her equal terms, conditions, and privileges of employment due to her race and gender by not considering her for positions as Coordinator for Classified and with the District’s wellness program. Fisher believed that the District refused to consider her for a role she felt qualified for because she “was not Hispanic enough.” Fisher claimed that GESD was discriminating against non-Hispanic applicants because they wanted the employees to represent the District (Glendale is 79% white, 11% Hispanic).
I’m American. That’s my national origin, so it’s – it’s the fact that my lineage is not full Hispanic, I believe, is the basis of why I was discriminated against.– Kim Fisher
Kim Fisher’s evidence for her accusations of discrimination based on her race included a conversation she claims she overheard between a board member speaking to Superintendent Quintana, in which he commented on employees “reflecting the face of the district “. In a request for comment, Fisher told AZ District News, “the face of the district is a direct quote from a board member from meeting minutes.” However, the court records indicate that Fisher testified that she did not know the name of the board member who said it, did not know or ever clarify what that person meant by ‘face of the district,’ did not know the date of the comment, and ultimately admitted that the alleged comment may have been made before the person became a board member. According to the records, there is no evidence that a board member ever made this statement on the record or at all.
In her deposition, GESD legal representation Rob Haws attempted to clarify what race or national origin Mrs. Fisher was claiming she was being discriminated against for:
Haws: Can you tell me – you’ve alleged that you were discriminated against based on your race or your color or your national origin; is that correct?
Haws: And your race is what?
Fisher: I am half Spanish and the other half is a mixture of Irish, Scottish, French.
Haws: So what is your race that you’re claiming was the basis of your discrimination underlying this lawsuit?
Fisher: I was not fully Hispanic. Or the wrong color of Hispanic I believe is how I phrased it in the documentation.
Haws: Okay. So I’m still not clear. What race are you claiming that you have that you were discriminated against?
Fisher: It’s not – it’s – it’s I lack being fully Hispanic versus half. I am not fully Hispanic.
Haws: Okay so is your claim that because you’re…
Fisher: Half white.
Haws: Half Hispanic, that you were discriminated against because you weren’t fully Hispanic?
Haws: Okay, what national origin are you claiming is the basis of your lawsuit?
Fisher: “What’s the difference? That’s always confused me. It’s – I’m American. That’s my national origin, so it’s – it’s the fact that my lineage is not full Hispanic, I believe, is the basis of why I was discriminated against.
It should be noted, Rob Haws now represents Deer Valley Unified School District. Mrs. Fisher continues to show unprofessional behavior and hostility toward him. Fisher stated during the January 24th, 2023 DVUSD board meeting, “Everyone knows I have a problem with Rob Haws. I’ll deal with it, and the District will still use him. But I review everything he does because I don’t trust him.”
In the end, the lawsuit was dismissed through summary judgment. The court found that Fisher could not produce any evidence for her discrimination claims. GESD provided a clear statement of facts that Fisher could not dispute with compelling, direct, or circumstantial evidence. Additionally, the court found that Fisher was not discriminated against but that the evidence reflected that she “was not performing her job satisfactorily due to unprofessional conduct in the form of hostile and unkind emails to co-workers.”
In conclusion, in the lawsuit against Glendale Elementary School District, Fisher failed to raise genuine issues of material fact regarding her claims of discrimination. On May 3rd, 2017, Judge Eileen S. Willett granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgement, ruling against Fisher and on behalf of Glendale Elementary School District.
Phoenix Union High School District
On April 2nd, 2018, PUHSD notified Kimberly Fisher of their decision to non-renew her for the 2018-2019 school year. Fisher was employed with Phoenix Union High School District from March 2015 to June 2018, at which time her contract ended with non-renewal.
In the rebuttal to her notice of non-renewal, Fisher claimed that the reasoning was that she made one significant error during her employment, “I spoke up for myself and employees being abused on the fourth floor and I refused to write up or perform processes that are illegal or would result in audit findings for the District. Yep, I blew the whistle and this is the result.”
In a voicemail dated April 4th, 2018, Fisher requested that the District provide “information of any charges that have been waged against me so that I can at least have information to be prepared for the meeting,” implying that she was being investigated for wrongdoing. Executive Director of Talent Laura Telles responded to Fisher, informing her that the District was not bringing any charges against her. Because of the lack of charges, they could not provide any documentation. It is interesting, however, that Mrs. Fisher immediately assumed and stated several times that she wanted to know what allegations and charges were being waged against her. On April 5th, 2018, the PUHSD governing board voted unanimously not to renew Fisher’s contract for the following school year.
In response to AZ District News, Mrs. Fisher attempted to clarify, “PUHSD had no grounds to terminate me so they didn’t renew my contract. I made them do it in a public meeting where they stated my performance was good but they were going a different direction. I received full pay including performance pay long after I was gone since it is later in the year.” The public meeting is no longer available for viewing. However, it should be noted that public records requests indicate that Fisher was placed on paid administrative leave when she was informed of the non-renewal of her contract.
A Representative for Phoenix Union High School District has yet to return a request for comment.
I Caution You To Not Put Out False Information
AZ District News contacted Mrs. Fisher for comment on this story. Her entire response is below:
The greater question is why are you targeting me. It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the great things I have accomplished in DVUSD. It is just political.
I caution you to not put out false information. So I will give you a few basic facts.
1. I resigned from GESD after giving a 21 day notice.
2. I sued them because of a recruitment that was discriminatory
3. Their investigation only happened because I filed with EEOC
4. Everything they found in their investigation was refuted with evidence and they were only left with one email they said wasn’t nice so they forced my boss to give me a letter of reprimand. He and I drafted it together. He then resigned with majority of our entire department and I resigned later.
5. The face of the District is a direct quote from a board member from meeting minutes.
PUHSD had no grounds to terminate me so they didn’t renew my contract. I made them do it in a public meeting where they stated my performance was good but they were going a different direction. I received full pay including performance pay long after I was gone since it is later in the year.
I have NEVER had a negative performance review. Your actions against Board Members including me should be criminal. They are definitely immoral.”
Continued Unkind and Unethical Behavior
Throughout the court documents and evidence, Fisher claims that employees and departments would not talk to or work with her, a common claim that we hear during Deer Valley Unified School District board meetings and in her social media posts. Also, similar to recent statements, she makes claims in testimony that her “unkind” emails and behavior were in response to bullying. Fisher often claims to be a victim but is rarely able to provide evidence to support her allegations.
What evidence is clear, though, is that Kim Fisher has a history of unprofessional and hostile behavior toward district leadership, colleagues, and just about everyone she disagrees with.