The ongoing confrontation between the Scottsdale Education Association (SEA) and the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) has been complicated by the intervention of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS has revoked the tax-exempt status of SEA.

A spokesperson for SEA says the IRS' ruling was triggered by "clerical errors" in the organization's tax filings over the past three years.  According to the spokesperson, SEA is in the process of having its 501(c)(5) status reinstated.  The organization's position appears to be "no harm, no foul" and suggests that SEA is still a "legitimate entity."

SUSD isn't so sure.

Superintendent Denise Birdwell responded that the IRS's ruling"raises legal issues for the district."  She notified all SUSD employees: "At this time, the SEA members may not use the email, mailboxes or a bulletin board to distribute SEA information."  The SUSD Governing Board has scheduled an executive session to address the district's "possible legal concerns."

There's no good time to have a close encounter with the Internal Revenue Service - but SEA's recent experience with the IRS couldn't have come at a worse time.

The relationship between SEA and SUSD has become tenuous at best. Both groups are suspicious of the other's true motivations and don't trust one another. It's a classic political paradigm of management (administration) vs. labor (teachers).  Growing tension between the two during the past nine months has coincided with Superintendent Birdwell's evisceration of the school district that's been disguised as "reorganization."

Obviously, SEA's tax status shouldn't have anything to do with it being recognized as an entity with which the SUSD administration should be engaged.  But it should be equally obvious that Birdwell, who has a bad case of compulsive control, has been waiting for any excuse to mute SEA's voice with the school district.  

SEA gave Birdwell an excuse, even though it's a flimsy one.

"There is no legal argument why SUSD is not working with us, period," according to a posting on social media by Rony Assali, one of SEA's leaders.  "The administration is looking for a public reason to break ties with SEA being involved.  They are using scare tactics."  

Readers will recall that Dr. Birdwell attempted to end the school year two months ago on an upbeat note when she said: "We're going to be meeting this summer with the SEA.  They have a new executive board and have a very positive outlook on moving forward.

"We're going to look at meet and confer," she continued, and then asked the rhetorical question: "Can we do it in a more productive manner?"

That out-of-character optimism was before the latest SEA-IRS-SUSD SNAFU.

When the Governing Board convenes their executive session at 3 PM Thursday at the Mohave Annex, they will look to their general legal council, Michelle Marshall, to guide their discussion about the so-called SEA dilemma.  It's been said that Marshall, who specializes in employment and labor law, knows her stuff.

Unfortunately, because somehow Marshall survived Superintendent Birdwell's inquisition of much of the highest level of SUSD's administrative team, Marshall's objectivity is viewed with skepticism by many in the school district -- including members of SEA.