A judge has effectively dismissed 12 of 25 criminal counts against Maricopa County School Superintendent Sandra Dowling.
Judge Edward Burke’s ruling on Monday means the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which secured the indictment on Nov. 21, can return to the grand jury to reinstate the criminal counts of theft, misuse of public monies, and bid rigging that Burke dropped.
Most of the dropped charges stem from $1.8 million Dowling transferred between different funds.
According to Burke’s ruling, the state withheld information that the grand jury might have found favorable to Dowling and probably would not have indicted her on those counts.
Burke ordered two bid rigging charges dropped because the state unintentionally misled the grand jury about the evidence.
“It’s a good first step,” said Craig Mehrens, Dowling’s defense attorney. “But they aren’t going to give up.”
Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General said her office will either seek an appeal of Burke’s ruling or just return to the grand jury.
The remaining counts allege Dowling stole $163,000 in donated money and spent $207,000 in school district funds for lobbyists, in part because she sought an appointment with the Bush administration.
Burke on Monday also dropped two counts against Dowling’s son, Dennis Dowling.
Dowling has been elected to five terms as superintendent of the Maricopa County Regional School District. Her duties include serving as the fiscal agent for school districts, maintaining records for home-schooled students, and providing services to school districts and private and charter schools.
Dowling is best known for founding the Thomas J. Pappas Schools for homeless children.
Dowling opened the first of two Phoenix Pappas schools in 1989, and a Tempe campus at 1640 E. Apache Blvd. in 2001.
She also successfully lobbied lawmakers to change federal law so homeless children could be segregated.
In December, Judge Kenneth Fields stripped Dowling of her responsibility of overseeing the school district’s budget.