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Accused Maricopa County Community College District Board Member Responds

A Maricopa County Community College District board member accused of tainting the search for the district’s next chancellor has responded to the allegations. 

A Mesa Community College professor who served on the hiring committee for a chancellor for the Maricopa County Community College District says a board member threatened him after he complained that she was damaging the integrity of the search.

Keith Heffner filed a whistleblower complaint Monday. He said that he filed a records request for the investigation into board member Kathleen Winn. The investigation said Winn “irreparably harmed” the search when she tried to persuade one candidate to drop out of the interview process and openly advocated for a candidate she favored. 

In his complaint to the governing board, Heffner says he shared the 38-page investigative report with the hiring committee and then it went out to the district faculty on Friday. 

He says Winn texted him: “You will not like my response have a fabulous weekend.”

The text “is plainly a reaction to my exercise of my right to inquire into the operation of the District protected by Arizona’s public record laws,” Heffner wrote in a complaint to the board.

He asked the board to discourage Winn from making threats and asked for protection from future acts of retaliation. 

Winn hasn’t responded to the threat allegation. But on Tuesday, she sent a statement through a public relations firm defending herself and casting the blame on her fellow governing board member and search committee chair, Linda Thor.

“Almost immediately after the finalist list became known to Committee members, allegations were made by the chair, who had on numerous occasions stated she preferred the interim chancellor. These allegations are believed by many to have been made in an effort to bring the search to an end and secure the interim chancellor’s continued employment,” her statement reads.

Winn alleges that the investigation was initiated by a board member trying to win over the favor of the faculty union. She says she voted to make the record public in what she called a politically motivated process. Later, she refers to the report as a "sham report."

She contends she was denied due process or allowed representation by an attorney.

Winn’s statement includes: “It is unfortunate that taxpayer money was used to sabotage the search process.”

She has not responded to KJZZ’s multiple requests for an interview.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is licensed to the Maricopa Community College District.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.