VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 9   | MARCH 2 – 8, 2011


CSHS coach accused of showing students pornography

richard florezCCUSD – One family referred to Cactus Shadows High School Wrestling Coach Richard Alex Florez, Sr.’s style of coaching as “offensive.”

Another parent said his son told them Florez called students names such as “pussy” when they’d lose a match.

Parents received a call from the district stating there were some serious allegations brought against the coach, and, according to one parent, incident statements filled out by students included allegations that Florez showed students pornography on his cell phone.

Upon questioning and taking statements from students, Scottsdale police determined the incident occurred in November at Deer Valley High School in Glendale and because the incident occurred in Glendale, Scottsdale Police Sgt. David Kamleiter, the school resource officer for CSHS, called to inform parents they would need to contact the Glendale Police Department if they wished to file charges, which is exactly what at least one parent did this past weekend.

Another parent, who contacted CSHS Principal Steven Bebee to ask if Florez had been suspended or terminated, said Bebee stated he wasn’t at liberty to discuss personnel issues.

On Feb. 22, Sonoran News asked Superintendent Debbi Burdick if Florez was still employed by the district as a wrestling coach, what he stated as his regular employment on his application and if a background check and fingerprinting was done prior to employment.

Burdick responded generically with, “We conduct background checks on all paid positions and volunteers, including coaches. We conduct fingerprint clearance checks on all paid positions and volunteers (including coaches) unless they already hold a valid fingerprint clearance card issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.”

We asked again what Florez did for a living when not coaching, if the wrestling season was over and if Florez would be coaching for CCUSD next year.

Burdick responded, “We don’t discuss our employees personally. I would suggest you contact Mr. Florez for that information. Again, wrestling season has concluded. Mr. Florez was hired by the District as a coach this year for one sport only.”

When Sonoran News reminded Burdick a coach’s application for public employment was a public record and formally requested a copy, Burdick replied, “I will send our HR (Human Resources) department your request for a public record.”

That request was subsequently expanded to a copy of Florez’s personnel file, which included Florez’s “Application/Request for Clearance Approval for Paid non-district coaches” and a copy of Florez’s certification that he had completed the Fundamentals of Coaching course, as required by the state, on Sept. 12, 2009 through the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Florez’s address, Social Security Number and contact information were redacted.

The section asking Florez about his present employment was left blank, as was the section asking if he possessed a current fingerprint card, if he presented a copy of his fingerprint card and a copy of his driver’s license.

Where it asked about previous related experience, he listed “Norte (sic) Dame Prep” and wrote, “See attached resume.”

Florez wrote, “Please review attached resume” where it asked for references.

However, no resume was attached and, according to Tussey, Florez’s resume went to the selection committee and HR was not provided a copy.

The bottom of the application states, “I recommend the above-named person be approved to provide the above described services on CSHS school campus(es) effective November 2010 under the direct supervision of (CCUSD employee name,)” which was also left blank.

Florez signed the application Sept. 29, 2010, certifying “that the information presented herein is true, accurate, and complete. I authorize the investigation of all statements contained herein and hold harmless anyone providing truthful information in response to the district. I also authorize the Cave Creek Unified School District to make reference/background checks prior to my placement as a coach …”

It states in boldface, “I understand that my placement is not finalized until the background investigation and/or board approval has been completed. I understand that any falsification, misrepresentation or omission may be cause for placement denial or dismissal.”

The application was then approved and signed by Cactus Shadows High School Athletic Director Rick Swearengin on Oct. 5, 2010.

The clause stating “placement is not finalized until the background investigation and/or board approval has been completed” gives the district plenty of leeway, since new hires, terminations, leaves of absence and the like are generally presented to the board for approval as part of the consent agenda, without names or any backup documentation. The board blindly approves what the administration presents, presumably with an expectation due diligence has been performed.

According to Tussey, the district does not require employees to obtain a clearance card until after an offer of employment is made because there is a cost associated with obtaining clearance.

His file also included a letter signed by Cave Creek Unified School District Executive Director for Human Resources Patti Tussey that was hand delivered to Florez on Feb. 9.

It stated, “As you are aware, all coaching assignments are one season with no expectation of continued employment. Please consider this notice of the recommendation to end your employment relation-ship with Cave Creek Unified School District effective the end of regular competition for the 2010-2011 coaching season.”

“Effective upon this notice, you are not to initiate contact with district students, parents or staff (other than the principal, Mr. Bebee) and may not come on to district property. In addition, though you may attend district events as a parent, you may not attend district events representing CSHS wrestling or as a CSHS athletic coach.”

DPS said Florez’s application was received in October 2010 and a “Level One Restricted Clearance Card” was issued on Jan. 25, 2011.

The restriction is based on Florez having a single DUI within the past 5 years and means Florez was prohibited from driving students or employees.

Considering it can take up to four months for DPS to process an application for clearance and the coaching season for wrestling is only about four months long, it would seem CCUSD would require coaches to obtain clearance prior to being hired rather than wait until after they’ve coached a full season to find out whether or not they will receive DPS clearance.

DPS, which is tasked with providing fingerprint clearances for the entire state, said all clearances are performed on a first-come, first-serve basis and, contrary to what Tussey told Sonoran News, it does not offer expedited services.

What seemed especially curious about Florez is he obtained the state-required Fundamentals of Coaching certification in September 2009 but never applied for a clearance card, which would have been good for six years.

And, while Tussey said the district also performs its own background checks, the district apparently didn’t find anything objectionable in Florez’s background to preclude him from employment.

Sonoran News, on the other hand, learned Florez was arrested for possession of marijuana, a felony offense, on or about Nov. 6, 2010, three days before the board approved a consent agenda that most likely included hiring Florez, and nearly three months prior to DPS issuing Florez a clearance card.

While Florez hasn’t been convicted, in January 2011, Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Keelan Bodow ordered proceedings suspended for two years to allow Florez to participate in the deferred prosecution program, which includes an order to enroll in TASC (Treatment Assessment Screening Center) for substance abuse screening, counseling and/or drug testing services under the guidelines set forth by Maricopa County Superior Court.

In addition to his recent marijuana possession charge, readily available public records revealed other incidents involving Florez, to which the district apparently found no objections.

In September 1996, Florez’s girlfriend Georgette Nera sued Florez to obtain an order of paternity.

Cited for a DUI in 1999, Florez entered a plea deal in 2000, pleading guilty instead to an amended charge of reckless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor.

In 2000, the Department of Economic Security filed a child support lien against Florez for $4,266 on behalf of Melissa Montez.

And in September 2004, Florez was cited for driving with a suspended, revoked or cancelled license.

Currently, donations to schools for tax credits may only be used toward extracurricular activities and character education.

The Arizona Character Education Initiative and Commission, founded in 1999 by Governor Jane Dee Hull, states: “By integrating character education with traditional education, children learn the importance of having good character.” 


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