Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I ran across this Arizona Republic article online regarding Michelle Robertson. I make no comment. This is something you will have to judge for yourself. As a voter in Glendale all information offered is valuable to make an educated decision regarding your vote.

Here is the link to the article despite my replicating it in full below.  https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2020/07/16/conflicting-allegations-michelle-robertson-roil-glendale-mayoral-race/5443509002/

Conflicting allegations involving Michelle Robertson roil Glendale’s mayoral race

Lily Altavena,Joshua Bowling, Arizona Republic, July 16, 2020

A Glendale mayoral candidate last year accused a co-worker of sexual misconduct. Now, the man says he was falsely accused.

Michelle Robertson, a longtime Glendale resident who is running on the Aug. 4 ballot against incumbent Mayor Jerry Weiers, claims she was sexually harassed by the Cartwright School District’s former chief financial officer.

Zeek Ojeh, the CFO, in a notice of claim filed against the district in March, contends Robertson falsely accused him as part of a broader scheme to oust him for exposing potential corruption in the district.

“This is a classic whistleblower case,” Alden Thomas, an attorney for Ojeh, said. “We are confident Mr. Ojeh will prevail. The district failed to respond to our notice of claim, so we will be proceeding with litigation.” 

Robertson called Ojeh’s claim baseless. Her original complaint to the district in September accuses Ojeh of multiple instances of sexual harassment and misconduct. 

“No means no. It’s a very clear statement,” she said. “I could not stop crying. I thought, ‘This has got to stop.'”

Ojeh’s claim includes screenshots of text messages allegedly from Robertson, a district employee, to Ojeh that contain explicit photos and messages. The claim alleges that Robertson “relentlessly pursued” Ojeh. 

Robertson told The Arizona Republic that she has not seen the notice of claim Ojeh filed with the school district. She said Ojeh harassed and assaulted her.

She said she never harassed Ojeh.

“I did not sexually harass this man,” she said. “We had a friendship, but we had a very clear understanding of boundaries; physical boundaries and things like that. There would be months where we didn’t talk on a personal level.”

Robertson was born in Tucson and moved to Glendale as a teenager. She ran for Maricopa County superintendent in 2016 and has participated in local override and candidate campaigns.

In the course of her campaign, Robertson has raised nearly $53,000, according to campaign finance records. Weiers has raised more than $233,000.

$1.5 million phone contract 

Ojeh in his claim states that he wanted to make sure he was saving the district money when possible. 

In July 2019, LeeAnn Aguilar-Lawlor, Cartwright’s superintendent, told Ojeh that she and three school board members wanted to award a $1,475,000 contract to Mitel, a communications company, to replace the district’s phone system, according to the claim.

Specifically, she wanted the contract to go through a particular Mitel dealer, the claim states.

Ojeh asked why, according to the claim, and Lawlor said he should do what he’s told. The claim adds that “several board members were in favor of this contract because they were friends” with the Mitel dealer. 

In an email attached to the notice of claim, Ojeh wrote to Lawlor in August 2019 that two other vendors could provide new phone systems for $500,000 to $600,000, half the price of a contract with Mitel. 

Ojeh then asked district attorneys to weigh in. They wrote that the district would not be complying with state procurement law if it did not participate in a competitive bidding process.

The contract did not go through. 

District spokeswoman Veronica Sanchez said the superintendent and board followed the law and did not insist on Mitel.

“The district superintendent did not insist on switching phone contracts,” she wrote. “Alternate phone contract options were presented to the governing board at the request of the governing board.”

Accusations of a sexual nature 

A month after the dust-up over the contract, Ojeh states in the claim, Lawlor told him there had been a “credible complaint of a sexual nature” made against him. She provided him a letter informing him he would be reassigned to work from home. 

His accuser was Robertson, a former teacher and current Cartwright human resources employee.

Robertson alleged that Ojeh assaulted and harassed her multiple times by taking her hand and forcing her to grab his genitals, kissing her without her consent, playing footsie under a table during a meeting and sending cards and gifts to her home without ever asking for her address.

The district received recordings of a conversation between Robertson and Ojeh in September 2019 and began investigating, according to Sanchez. 

In the recordings, Robertson appears to confront Ojeh in a phone conversation about kissing her at work.

“The boundary was no kissing me at work, and we hadn’t had a physical relationship outside of work,” she says in the recording. “Why did you cross the boundary?” 

Ojeh responds, “I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t know what to say there.” 

In the recording, Robertson describes an interaction where he kissed her after a meeting. She asks if he remembered putting her hand on his genitals.

He responds and  “If I did, it was an involuntary action … It wasn’t like I planned to do that.”

Ojeh in the notice of claim denies sexually harassing Robertson. Ojeh said he had a consensual flirtatious relationship with Robertson, but the two were never physically intimate.

According to Ojeh’s claim, he saved text messages from Robertson. Screenshots of texts provided blur Ojeh’s messages and only show what Robertson allegedly wrote.

In one, dated in 2017, she texts, “We should be dating. Are you attracted in that way to me?”

In a set of texts in the claim dated February 2019, before Robertson complained to the district, Robertson allegedly writes, “This is serious. I’d like to provide an opportunity for you to address and clear things up. You can call tonight or tomorrow.”

Robertson in her complaint alleged that Ojeh had confronted her in the district office’s parking lot. She alleged that she later texted him because she wanted to establish clearer boundaries. 

An attorney for Ojeh wrote that in February 2019 he had asked her to stop contacting him over personal matters “and that he was not interested in an intimate relationship.”  

Ojeh informed the district in September 2019 in a letter through his attorneys that he would not seek contract renewal.

Ojeh in his claim alleges he is suffering emotional distress for being a whistleblower and is asking for $750,000. 

Reach the reporter at Lily.Altavena@ArizonaRepublic.com or follow her on Twitter @LilyAlta.

© Joyce Clark, 2020         

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