Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ethics Complaint

I can't recall if I have already shared this, but last week I sent an email to Noel Treat, the District's Ethics Officer in which I made a number of Ethics Complaints - in accordance with Board Policy F11.00

Here is the text of the complaint(s):
On January 6, 2010, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson provided to the Board her 2010 Statement of Financial Interest and Potential Conflict of Interests. On this statement, the superintendent disclosed that she is a non-salaried officer of three non-profits: Board member of the NWEA, Board member of the Broad Center, and Board member of United Way of King County. Further, she attested that this list is complete to the best of her knowledge as of the date of her signing (January 6, 2010).

This list, however, was not complete. The superintendent is now, and was at the time of her statement, a member of the Board of the Alliance for Education. The Alliance for Education is also a non-profit.

I regard her failure to disclose this position as a violation of the Ethics Policy.
I regard her attestation that her disclosure list was complete as another violation of the Ethics Policy.
I regard her failure to recuse herself from decisions regarding the numerous dealings, financial and otherwise, between the District and the Alliance as a string of additional violations of the Ethics Policy.

Some sort of censure - if not termination for cause - is a necessary response to these violations. Following the censure, the superintendent should disclose (or resign) her position with the Alliance and recuse herself from any future dealings between the District and the Alliance - as she claims to have done with the NWEA.

I see it that way, but I'm not the Ethics Officer. You are.

I await your decisions.
So here's the weird thing. Mr. Treat has referred the matter to the District's outside special ethics counsel for an external review and a determination. What's that about? I'm going to get a message from some lawyer, hired by the District to serve as outside counsel. This is probably because it would be tricky for Mr. Treat to investigate or stand in judgement over his boss. But how is it any less tricky for a vendor to do so?

Anyway. I wanted to keep folks current on the news.

27 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Where is Archibald Cox?

The Superintendent is NOT a Crook.

Then again resignation looks like a good option Mr. Nixon.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What!? Mr. Treat is the Ethics Officer and he knows as such he reports to the Super and Michael DeBell. Is this what is going to happen on every charge against the Super? If so, then we should have been told when they created the office. I'm seeing the Board this morning, I'll let them know.

lendlees said...

Does this mean we pay Mr. Treat AND outside council? This seems odd and expensive.

Seattle Parent said...

Here's a possible complaint-
the agenda to last night's Budget Work session & tonight's Transition Plan has apparently been changed without any notice that I've seen except for this now on the Board's home page:

Note to Public: The board and district leadership are taking an Integrated Planning approach to the 2011-12 student assignment plan transition, long-range capacity management, program placement for 2011-12, and budget development for 2011-12. Upcoming work sessions and workshops may focus on one or two areas per workshop but may have information on all topics. This calendar will be updated as the work moves forward. Those work sessions are:

Tuesday, November 30, 4:00-8:00pm (Student assignment, academic assurances, and program placement)
Wednesday, December 1, 4:00-8:00pm (Student assignment transition, budget)
-------------------------

Despite "Student Assignment" being listed (above) for both dates, on the linked Power Point, neither "Capacity Management" nor "NSAP Transition Plan for 2011-12" will be covered?

mirmac1 said...

A fraud report has been filed with the State Auditor's Office citing MGJ with using district resources in the course of serving on the NWEA Board. this would include using district staff and photocopiers. Furthermore, she misrepresented her activities on the board to auditors by stating no "business activities" were performed. Reviewing and approving officer salaries and voting on business strategies and budgets would qualify as "business activities" in my book. Finally, counsel Gary Ikeda likewise misrepresented to auditors the timing of her disclosures.

Central Mom said...

To recap my past notes on this blog re: The Alliance issue:

In the past, the Alliance was a civic booster of the District and largely a "philosophically neutral" fundraiser and money-passthrough to the District.

With this set up it was not unreasonable that the superintendent and school board president sat on the A4E board. It is common throughout the U.S.

However, with a change in A4E leadership at the end of last year, the group has a different direction...one that advocates for some very specific policies and tactics within our District. The public introduction of this new direction was the NCTQ rollout and it was followed by lobbying for specific issues during teacher contract negotiations. Much of these items fall under the Ed Reform umbrella. In addition, the prioritization of these issues are being driven by leadership's allegiance to national Ed Reform priorities, vs. the past state of affairs, in which our own District's priorities took center stage.

Pragmatically, because A4E has both money and readily available "helping hands" its influence within the JSCEE can fairly be noted to be far more extensive than other Ed not-for-profits and advocacy groups in town including many teacher and parent voices. (The Gates Foundation, which appears to have a similar amount of influence, is a different thread, and in any case, does not have the superintendent or Board Pres on its Foundation board.)

So the net of the issue is that with A4E now having an "agenda", its ability to shape District direction, supply personnel directly -- or grants for personnel -- and to put its time and resources toward only those items it deems correct from its view of the world, is troublesome for those of us without such access.

This change in the old status quo has been fast (1 year). Fast enough that I give the superintendent the benefit of the doubt that she hasn't followed the implications for her membership on the A4E board. (If she saw nothing amiss with NWEA, she almost certainly wouldn't be critically thinking about this membership.)

DeBell has publicly commented that he has wrestled with whether it is now appropriate for a School Board president to sit on A4E. But, at least publicly, nothing has happened. Probably because to have the Board President resign from A4E will set up the kind of Downtown Business consternation that many of our Board members so studiously avoid. Resignation means a political mess.

A4E has every right to chart its own course. But to my mind, taking a position of advocacy means that the superintendent and Board Pres should indeed step down, gracefully, from the A4E board.

In my Opinion of One, this is an issue that absolutely needs daylighting and discussion in our community.

Anonymous said...

Not surprised. Mr. Treat isn't investigating complaints, he is defending against complaints. Probably at quiet the cost. Charlie, did the message say who the special ethics counsel is? If it is someone who really does ethics work (there are some SU professors and local attorneys who specialize in this), that is one thing, but if it is just one of the district's usual outside attorneys like Larry Ransom, then it is a sham.

Skeptical in Seattle

dan dempsey said...

Is the alliance a 501c3?

Political activities and a 501c3 do not go appropriately together or do they?

That is my question.
-----------------
As to benefit of the doubt.... Is this MGJ's first legal violation? No it is NOT.... she gets a lot of benefits ... when does the public get accountability?

dan dempsey said...

How does one become one "of the preferred outside legal contractors"?

My guess is not my holding the Superintendent accountable for her actions.

Nice punt Mr. Treat......

The question is now did you kick the ball to an official or just another member of the District's team.

=======

My My pretty warm out for December 1 and likely to get hotter.

anjoye said...

I am thinking that someone needs to file an ethics complaint about how Mr. Treat got to be general counsel. As far as I can tell, he has no school law experience, and bounced through several jobs after an undistinguished ten years with the county. Hmmm, wait, his wife?

Meg said...

I'm torn on whether there's an ethics violation with the Alliance for Education. It IS weird that the Superintendent hasn't simply disclosed her position - particularly given two issues 1) the NWEA board fiasco and 2) the state auditor's office recommended that the district disclose the extent of its financial relationship with A4E; I would think that district leadership disclosing positions within A4E would go part and parcel with a financial disclosure. But as Central Mom has pointed out, the Alliance's role has changed quite a bit, and much of that change seems to have happened during the current Superintendent's tenure.

It may be that there are enough ethics complaints that SPS's legal department needs to engage outside counsel just to deal with the complaints.

I filed an ethics complaint about the Superintendent's position on the NWEA board, as I feel that is a clear conflict of interest, and the arguments I've heard for why the position wasn't disclosed have been offensively disingenuous. To be honest, if there had been an honest, candid admittance of a screw-up, I wouldn't have filed a complaint.

I would guess that I'm far from the only person who filed about NWEA.

I supposed I could file a public records request to find this out, but it's hard not to speculate whether or not the number of official complaints and lawsuits are higher for this Superintendent's tenure than for previous Superintendents.

Dorothy Neville said...

Seattle Parent, I agree that that is frustrating, the change in the agenda. I am stuck however between appreciating the change and being angry at the last minute nature of it. Evidently so are the board members who were not part of the planning.

I do have to say that this makes more sense from a strong board perspective. I suspect the change was made at the behest of board members who want their work to be more meaningful, to have more impact. After all, creating and enforcing policy can ONLY be done through what gets budgeted.

We need to talk about that though. And FYI, the one board member who was ticked off from a public engagement view point is Steve Sundquist. (I know, his new ability to speak up is a little too late, but at least he is paying attention and doing it now.)

Anyway, here's a gem to add to this ethics complaint, Charlie. One of the data sets the board asked for is a list of all contracts. We got a list of FY10 contracts totaling 6 million dollars. There are a couple issues with it, including Meg is convinced it is not complete. Another issue is that some items are deceptive because they are pass throughs from money coming into the district. Don is going to augment the list with such details (weather and holiday delayed this).

One particular contract worth paying attention to is a contract TO Alliance for Education for $130,048 for Community Partnership management servs

reminara said...

Didn't the Alliance pay Carol Rava-Treat's salary for at least part of the time she was at the district?

Dorothy Neville said...

Even though it is slightly OT to this particular ethics complaint, can I also share that last FY the district paid Caprice Hollins $3K for "culturally relevant profess. Dev."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Talked to Mr. Treat. Yes, it is going to outside counsel because it is about the Superintendent and he won't be handling any complaints about her.

He hopes for a decision in a couple of weeks (he said it seemed straightforward).

Good job, Central Area Mom. A good recap.

The Alliance paid for all of Carol Rava Treat's salary for the 2 years she was at SPS.

I have a public disclosure request in for all non-governmental grants. Let's see what that turns up.

ParentofThree said...

"...it is going to outside counsel because it is about the Superintendent and he won't be handling any complaints about her."

Sounds like he won't have much to do, other than shuffle complaints from his desk onto another desk, at great cost to us, of course.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Treat is also the general counsel for the district, replacing Gary Ikeda.

I definitely see why the public might have concerns about how Mr. Treat got his job (ie his wife having worked for the district). In his favor I will say that a city council member whom I deeply respect absolutely raved about him. He has a rep for being open, kind, smart, and thoughtful.

I am wondering if we can keep a communal open mind about him and check back in a few months?

Thanks,

GT

Charlie Mas said...

The special counsel was named in the email. I'm supposed to expect a contact in the coming weeks.

Just to be clear, I think these could be violations of the policy because the state auditor suggested that there was an ethics policy violation with the NWEA contract and I believe that the Alliance for Education is exactly analogous with the NWEA.

Maureen said...

Melissa says, I have a public disclosure request in for all non-governmental grants.

I wonder if this is where all of the professional development coaches have disappeared to? Peter Maier is showing around a document that says SPS only employs 6.8 coaches now.

Anonymous said...

There's at least 2 coaches for ICS kindergarten alone... and probably even more. And, there's a "technical assistance team", comprised of people who aren't coaches, though it seems like coaching. A rose by any other name. That's probably more than the 6.8 right there.

--sped parent

Meg said...

Peter may have neglected to mention that those are the coaches paid for with baseline funds. The rest are grant-funded (which could mean they're paid with Title or LAP money, or a grant like the Nesholm -sp?- foundation grant that I think pays for some science coaches). There are at least 83 (ish) in total.

And I have not confirmed this, so take it for the unsubstantiated rumor it is, but I have heard that the MAP data coaches are being paid for with capital funds (which... how is that justifiable, exactly? I'm both skeptical that it's in the rules and willing to see the info on why it is allowed).

My skepticism on the list of contractors is because Education First, a consulting company that I understand regularly works for SPS, isn't on the list (and overall, there aren't many education consultants on there). And the drop-off from large sums to small is weirdly rapid. So there may be some other designation - not a contracted worked, not an SPS employee, but...? I don't know. The list provided is only stuff from baseline funds? My imagination fails me right now. I can't guarantee that the list is incomplete, but it doesn't smell right. To me, anyway. Maybe it smells like roses to someone less suspicious.

Charlie Mas said...

If Director Maier actually believes that there are only 6.8 FTE coaches in the District, then he isn't reading the school reports because they are all about the coaches.

Michael said...

@meg: How was your request for a contracts list worded? Maybe they are being literal in their response.

dan dempsey said...

Hey I am all for giving Mr. Treat the benefit of any doubts at this time.

Just because he replaces Ikeda hardly indicates he will act like Ikeda.

I realize that many of us have been mislead by SPS administrators.

I watched Brad Bernetek do the cherry-picking to help Santorno mislead the Board into adopting Everyday math. Now we have the 17% fiasco authored by Brad.

So when Eric M. Anderson was hired in the position of Gates Data Fellow ........ I was plenty skeptical. So far I have found his reports very informative.

Except of course for the Anderson "draft memo" that MGJ fraudulently claimed to be the "memo sent to the school board" on which she and Susan Enfield based the construction of the 3-12-2010 NTN action report.

Dr. Anderson's final NTN report contained some inaccuracies. This seemed partially the fault of others than entirely on him.
I think Dr. Anderson is a quality guy ... the fact he wound up in the SPS working for MGJ is not his fault.

So as for Mr. Treat .. let us give him some time.

If we can sack the "Supe" Mr. Treat may be quite a guy ... without crazy guidance from above.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Treat was quite kind in sending me an e-mail saying he was glad to meet me and to let him know if I have any questions. I am quite willing to give him any benefit of the doubt with the caveat of who he works for.

Charlie Mas said...

I had an email from the outside counsel and may get a phone call today.

Charlie Mas said...

For the curious, read RCW 42.23

You will learn the state law on conflicts of interest for municipal employees.

There wouldn't be any trouble with the superintendent's position on the NWEA or the Alliance so long as she discloses the position and recuses herself from the transactions.

She can document her disclosure of her position on the NWEA board and credibly claim to have recused herself.

But she did not disclose her position with the Alliance or refrain from recommending those deals.

The law says that contracts made with conflicts of interest are void.