Two Seattle school board members were warned in late 2008 that a contractor hired by Silas Potter was unlicensed, paying below-market wages and not following safety rules on construction sites at two elementary schools, according to e-mails between the school board and union officials
The contractor, Solar West Office Solutions, was investigated by the state Department of Labor and Industries, which ordered the company to pay $57,000 in back wages. However, the school district wound up footing the bill because Solar West's owner, Keith Battle, could not be located and failed to respond to state officials, according to an L&I spokeswoman.
So that's another $57k the district is out but that doesn't count the money to redo the work that the unlicensed, non-union workers performed. One of the most serious allegations is that background checks were NOT performed on these workers and they did work while children were at the schools (Van Asselt and North Beach).
"The board is attempting to act like they didn't know about this until 2010 and that's just not accurate," said Dan Hutzenbiler, an attorney with the Seattle-King County Building and Construction Trades Council, who provided seattlepi.com with copies of e-mails between school board members and union officials.
Union officials contacted board President Steve Sundquist and board member Harium Martin-Morris about possible labor and safety violations due to mismanagement of the school district's small works roster under Potter.The district ended up paying because Solar West,the company involved, couldn't be found. There should have been a retainage fee held back to cover such issues but the district paid in full.
So Harium and Steve were contacted (and not just verbally but in e-mails). This one incident does not mean that they could have known that the program was mostly a fraud but you would have thought it would raise their interest. Companies ripping off the district is not something that happens all the time.
Peter Maier admitted he had received a copy of the Sutor Group report at an Operations Committee meeting. He said Stephens promised him to watch over Potter and the program. He also said that when he saw a notice in the Superintendent's Friday update about the news article in the Daily Journal of Commerce about the Sutor report that:
That left me with the understanding that she was aware of the problems and would see to it that they were fixed," he said. "I now know that we were deceived."
C'mon guys! No follow-up or follow-thru? You'll note Peter didn't say he followed-up when he saw that notice - he just assumed the oversight was happening. This is pretty much what happened with Olchefske - we had a Board (with one exception who believed everything they were told).
In the end, I hope the Board gets this message about trust. It is not just about the public trusting staff and the Board. Staff at John Stanford headquarters have regain the trust of the Board AND until they do, the Board should take everything they are told with a big grain of salt.
Trust....but verify should be their new phrase going forward. Take nothing at face value.
And, as voters, if we see more of the same from these three, they should be voted out.