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Diane Douglas’ suit against Arizona education board dismissed

PHOENIX — A lawsuit filed by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas against the state Board of Education was dismissed by a judge Tuesday.

The court said Douglas has control of the Department of Education, she does not have control over the board and cannot fire board members or employees. Douglas said she is reviewing the decision.

The case stemmed from the February firings of two board members. Douglas felt her position permitted her, as secretary of the board, to dismiss executive director Christine Thompson and deputy director Sabrina Vazquez.

Immediately after the firings, board President Greg Miller questioned the legality of the decision.

“The chief of staff and the superintendent are trying to make decisions on staff members that serve the state Board of Education,” Miller said at the time. “I’m not sure what the legal capacity they can operate in could be.”

Tuesday’s ruling is the second hit Douglas took in the case. Gov. Doug Ducey overturned the firings, which sparked a war of words between himself and Douglas.

The suit was filed after the board voted to move its staff out of Douglas’ building in April, a move Douglas’ lawyer, Stephen Tully, called illegal.

“The law is clear: These employees have moved out of their offices at the Department of Education, they’re Department of Education employees,” he said. “It’s an illegal act.”

Board attorney Colin Campbell said Douglas created a hostile work environment.

In May, Douglas defended the suit, saying she was merely trying to clarify the law.

“We tried to resolve this amicably, I tried to take it to the Legislature,” Douglas said at the time. “The Legislature loudly and clearly said, `No, thank you.’ They support the authority and elected capacity of the superintendent, so now the courts will decide.”