The Times has a revealing article about Fred Stephens, former head of Facilities and Silas Potter's enabler/friend/supporter. I was wondering when someone in the mainstream media might want to examine his record. The Times does a fairly good job but does miss/leave out a few parts.
For me, it jogs my memory back to several Board meetings. (I keep most of the Board agenda's at meetings where I have spoken and so I can recall testimony from other speakers.) The article starts off with African-American activists wanting more access/opportunities to bid on SPS construction contracts.
I have been wondering if Mr. Stephens left because he wanted a new job or because he knew the walls were closing in. Probably both. It probably helped that he knew Gary Locke and could lobby for a job at the Department of Commerce.
One huge issue that most don't know is that in early 2008, his son was murdered. Stephens eventually took leave for 3-weeks to attend the murder trial. All of us can completely understand how you might go into shock and then blank/numb/distracted over this situation at your job.
There are still a number of people who could shed some light on this story. One of them is former Board member, Mary Bass. I have reached out to Mary with whom I had cordial relations but she has remained silent.
Another is Ron English, the legal counsel at the district who oversees facilities' legal issues. He certainly worked extensively with Stephens and Potter. He certainly cooperated with both investigations. He seems to have not been involved with Potter's relocation plans (although he was made aware of them when Potter was trying to get an office in Bellevue remodeled on the district's dime). It would seem to me that he, of all people, had no fear of retribution and yet did not go to the Board or the Superintendent with his doubts. (He did express them to Stephens.)
Stephens probably, in some way, thought he was doing good for the African-American community. (He received an award in 2007 from a business group for economic development in public contracting). Apparently, there was this feeling from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson as well. There is a series of e-mails between Stephens, Potter and Goodloe-Johnson that refer to an event sponsored by an African-American business group where they are mutually complementary with each other and it is pointed out that other African-Americans need to remember that Goodloe-Johnson is a "sister."
Fred told people he trusted Potter. Apparently that is his nature:
When Stephens was with King County, his secretary stole about $24,000, court records show. Carol Stevenson forged her name on county-issued checks, ran up a county credit card and gave herself an unauthorized $10-an-hour raise. She was convicted of theft and reimbursed the county. Stephens told the court he had given her "total access to every operation.
The end, as I have heard from several sources, was a loud argument in the SPS headquarters' parking lot between Stephens and Potter when Potter came to return the $35k. Potter wanted Stephens to take it and Stephens insisted Potter take it into Security.
Stephens works as the Department of Commerce's deputy assistant secretary for administration with duties including oversight of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization making $155,000 per year.
I have spoken with a couple of people at Commerce (they are aware of this situation) but they feel Stephens has done his part in the investigation. I have to say that if there are legal proceedings, Stephens will not be able to dodge a subpoena and will have to take the stand and tell the truth.
I used to think that Fred was one of the good guys. He was always quiet, dapper and completely the opposite of Potter in terms of need for attention. He was always polite to me. Whether he is worried about blowback to himself, whether Potter was his friend or whether he thought he was doing good, the bottom line is he continues to hurt the district by not being completely forthcoming.