Denise Birdwell Headshot 60fed7e62ddde

Former superintendent in Arizona charged with fraud in school construction project

July 26, 2021
The case against Denise Marie Birdwell involves a $2.5 million procurement contract when she was superintendent of the Higley Unified School District.

A former superintendent of the Scottsdale and Higley districts in Arizona has been charged with fraud in connection with alleged misuse of funds in the Higley district.

Denise Marie Birdwell has been charged with 18 felony counts connected to alleged fraud involving a $2.5 million procurement contract when she was superintendent of the Higley district in Gilbert.

The charges against Birdwell were disclosed in a report by the Arizona auditor general's office,  which investigated financial transactions in the Higley district from 2012 to 2016, reports 12 News.

Birdwell subsequently became superintendent of the Scottsdale district, but was forced out of her job in 2018 amid similar allegations of questionable dealings involving some of the same vendors she worked with at Higley schools.

The investigation focused on the misuse of public money in building two schools.

Among the charges against Birdwell:

  • Illegally steering a $2.6 million contract to vendors from whom she would receive $100,000 in payments.
  • Illegally authorizing the spending of $6 million in public money to help pay for construction that school district voters had rejected.
  • Failing to disclose more than $100,000 in payments from one vendor on her tax returns.

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