BRADENTON — A local doctor berated Manatee County School Board chairwoman Julie Aranibar in an August email exchange for the slow pace she and the school board were taking to approve a contract with a healthcare company his son helped found, saying he was “bustin his (expletive)” to help her get re-elected, in copies of emails obtained Thursday by the Herald.
Aranibar ultimately recused herself from the contract vote, citing a possible “quid pro quo” because of an email. But she refused to make the email public, saying she did not want to be the custodian of public records. It took the Manatee County School District more than a month to provide the email after a Bradenton Herald public records request.
The email exchange between Aranibar, district deputy superintendent of operations Don Hall and local Dr. Richard Conard between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 reveals Conard’s anger and disappointment with Aranibar, accusing her of not moving fast enough to have a contract with Compass Professional Health Service on the school board’s agenda for approval.
Conard’s son, Scott, was involved in founding Compass, but no longer owns the Dallas-based company, which aims to reduce healthcare costs, according to officials with the district’s health insurance committee. Richard Conard was a member of the committee involved in the search for Rick Mills as superintendent of schools.
In an email Aug. 8 to Aranibar, Conard asked if he was wasting his time trying to get her re-elected. Conard donated $250 to Aranibar’s campaign May 30, according to Aranibar’s filings on the county supervisor of elections website.
Aranibar forwarded the email to seek advice from school board attorney James Dye.
“I do not know if I have a conflict on this contract if Dr. Conard has donated to my campaign in exchange for a vote,” Aranibar wrote Aug. 8.
The proposed contract was placed on the board agenda for a vote Aug. 26, but was tabled because board members had more questions.
The “quid pro quo” email was first mentioned by Aranibar during that meeting, when she recused herself. The Bradenton Herald filed its original public records request Aug. 27, which was filled Thursday.
School board members approved the nearly $350,000 annual contract Sept. 9, with Aranibar again recusing herself.
Aranibar did not return an email seeking comment Thursday and calls to her phone went into voicemail. Conard did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday afternoon.
In the first email, dated Aug. 6, Aranibar wrote to Hall saying Conard had called her and was upset the contract was not on the agenda for Aug. 12. She indicated she had copied Conard on the email. Aranibar wrote in her email that she expected the concerns and questions on the contract to be resolved and that the item should be on the Aug. 26 agenda.
“Dr. Conard did not agree with the information I shared with him and would like a meeting with you and I as soon as possible,” she wrote.
Conard responded, copying Aranibar, Hall, board member Karen Carpenter, Superintendent Rick Mills and Pat Barber, who serves on the committee that recommended the contract to the board, saying the situation revealed a “horrible manipulative beaurocratic (sic) management and not leadership.”
“The public needs to be aware of this if you are still stonewalling it,” he wrote.
Hall responded and said he would be happy to meet with Conard, adding that Conard’s email included some inaccurate information “but we will not dwell on those.” The emails do not indicate whether a meeting took place.
In the next email, Conard wrote he has been trying for six years to get a meaningful health and wellbeing program into the school district and he was “constantly thwarted by the previous administration and for the past 16 months by the present one.” Conard wrote Aranibar constantly interrupted Compass’ workshop by trying to impress attendees of her vast medical knowledge.
Ultimately, Conard wrote that Aranibar’s actions were because of her concern for her re-election and that some of the misinformation concerning the contract considerations was because of her inability as a chair to bring the board to consensus on issues.
In her email response, Aranibar stated she did not lie to Conard. She asked to be sure Mills, Hall and Barber were copied on the response to the email to “ensure that I am answering based on what I was told and not lying as Dr. Conard states.”
The Bradenton Herald made its first public records request for the email Aug. 27. The district said it would cost nearly $100 to provide the single email.
The Herald again asked Aranibar for the email Sept. 4. But she said her school district iPad was not working and she didn’t have access to the email, in which she used both her private email account and her school district account.
During a number of revisions to the request to bring the cost down, cost estimates ranged as high as $368 to $91.
The Herald made a $91 payment to the district for the information. The request still was not provided a week later.
“It is not intentional,” district spokesman Steve Valley said on Thursday afternoon, noting that the district has one employee handling all the public records requests for the district.
The request was filled about an hour later, which totaled four pages of emails.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.