I had hoped that some of the vendors named in both the Board investigation and audit would be there but no, unfortunately, it was under-attended. I would have liked to ask them some questions. (However, there had been 3 of them on the speakers list for the Board meeting but they were waitlisted and did not speak. They all had put down Small Business Works as their topic. That would have been interesting. One other speaker on the list did state that the district needs to do more to include black-owned businesses in their outreach.)
Initially, Mr. Satterberg was speaking on the John T. Williams shooting (the Native American woodcarver gunned down by a SPD officer).
The update on Pottergate is that Mr. Satterberg stated the following information:
- The Board came to him in December and asked for help. A SPD detective was assigned to the case.
- They have subpoenaed hundreds of records from banks in an effort to see exactly where money went*. After the meeting, one of Mr. Satterberg's aides told me that banks aren't exactly quick on these kinds of requests and that the forensic audit would be tedious.
- Mr. Satterberg stated he thought they might have some answers in 6 months.
I asked him to explain how he would make the case between an issue that belongs in civil court versus in the criminal courts. Meaning, the district had contracts with these vendors. It is not against the law to do poor quality work (except for safety issues). If the district felt that a vendor has not fulfilled their contract, that would be up to the district to sue them in civil court. (I personally feel that this won't happen as it would cost too much in legal fees to make it worth it.)
Mr. Satterberg agreed and said what would make it a criminal case is if both sides had conspired to created a contract based on little work or no work and yet get paid. Proving that might be very hard to do without witnesses or evidence (like e-mails). What is also troubling to me is that perhaps some of the vendors perceived that Silas didn't actually care a lot about the quality of work (but he cared about handing out a lot of contracts) and that the vendors may have thought "Easy money. I'm not going to do much here." But if there was no collusion, it is unlikely anyone could be criminally prosecuted.
Same for Fred Stephens. He may have been lousy in his oversight of Potter but unless there is evidence that he and Potter colluded to create a way to funnel money to these vendors for little or no work, there's no prosecuting Stephens.
That leave Potter holding the bag. He did do at least two illegal things (taking the district's money from the check from Tacoma public schools and trying to put it in his own account and misrepresenting himself as working for the district when he was working for himself). He did give the check back (under pressure) but I'm not sure that doing that legally gets him off the hook. At any rate, not a lot to charge him with doing.
*I suddenly realized that I need to go back and look at the audit report. I'm not sure anyone has done a forensic audit of the Small Business Works and accounted for where all the money went from 2008-2010. That's the timeframe when SBW morphed into the big spending monster it was. The spending went way up in those years and I wonder if all of it has been accounted for so that the district at least knows where it all went (at least on paper but maybe not in actuality).