Update: I got it wrong about Noel Treat being on the selection committee. The selection committee was made up of Don Kennedy, Ron English, Holly Ferguson and Chanin Kelly-Rae (public member). Mr. Treat only attended the August 2010 meeting with MGJ at the request of Ron English (and this was right after Mr. Treat was hired).
New Update: Yoo hoo, Seattle Times? Are you there? There is nothing at their website on this story. I have searched and I found nothing. What an odd thing (especially since it clears the district). Maybe they are worried about what this looks like to voters in terms of the School Board incumbents.
The lobbyist's name is Clifford Traisman (it is unclear to me if he is still the SPS lobbyist). Michael DeBell was the president of the Board at that time. Legislators who got involved were Senator Adam Kline, Rep. Frank Chopp, Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos, and Rep. Eric Pettigrew.
There were six questions they considered including issues around:
- the involvement/influence of former Director of Facilities, Fred Stephens
- was the appraisal properly conducted
- did the sale price meet state law requirements
- what was the process the district used to determine the winning bidder
- was the funding from the Department of Commerce for this purchase "a gift of public funds"?
The report does say:
The former Executive Director of Facilities stated his supervisor, the former CFOO, asked him to not be involved with anything regarding the sale. Despite that, he still received emails regarding the sale from District staff, including the Board office staff and the former Superintendent. He said he also received emails about the sale that were sent to a distribution list of persons interested in District property sales. We found this distribution list included 154 to 179 separate email addresses, including email addresses for each of the bidders.
You have to wonder why former CFOO, Don Kennedy, did not remove Mr. Stephens from the e-mail list on this particular issue.
The district's posted summary pages of appraisal of the property did meet state law. From the report:
An appraisal was done in January 2009 and was updated in September 2010. The January 2009 appraisal showed the property value at $2,565,000. The summary pages the District posted on its property management website at the time of the request for proposals to purchase the property were taken from that appraisal. The September 2010 update valued the property at $2,410,000.
However, the report states that the Auditor's office does not have the authority to state whether the appraisal was properly conducted but that the district did use a certified appraiser who is licensed in Washington State.
In speaking about the process, the Auditor lays out the entire timeline and reasoning given by the district for their actions. It is a valuable piece of institutional documentation of an issue.
It shows that the selection committee - composed of the CFOO, the district's property manager (Ron English at the time), and Deputy General Counsel (Noel Treat at the time) , the Director of Policy and Government Relations (Holly Ferguson) and a member of the public who had been involved with the process (but who is not named here) - had recommended the sale of the property to the Bush School.
However this is what happened:
Between November 6 and November 20, the selection committee members met in the CFOO’s office to discuss the sale. The citizen member of the selection committee we interviewed stated the CFOO stressed the District needed to take a closer look at "special consideration" because of possible benefits stemming from selling to a community group. The selection committee member stated the CFOO said he did not want the recommendation to be solely based on money and wanted to look at the proposals again through the lens of "special consideration". An email dated November 18, 2009, from the Property Manager to the other members of the selection committee states that the Finance Committee asked staff to “go back to the various proposers and get them to modify their proposals.” He stated the Finance Committee was not dismissing the proposal from the Bush School, but wanted staff to try harder to “get actual community use at the site.”
So basically, the district seemed to not want to sell to Bush and was trying to get a community group to have a better bid in order to maximize community use.
But then some of our state legislators (not named but I'm pretty sure it was Sharon Tomiko-Santos and a couple of others) got involved. (bold mine)
On December 11, 2009, the District’s lobbyist in Olympia sent an email to the Superintendent, the Board president, the Director of Policy and Government Relations, the Property Manager, and the CFOO. The email stated that the lobbyist met with legislators who wanted the property to be used to benefit the community at large. The lobbyist stated another option would be to hold off on selling the property for another year or two. The District had concerns about this option because the building had been vacant for two years and that postponing the sale could affect the re-occupancy of the building. The lobbyist responded by saying, in part, “We cannot go Bush, at least not now. Also, 4 years, 6 years, what's the diff?" The Director of Policy and Government Relations stated that this would most likely be cost prohibitive for any community group and wouldn't allow them to meet requirements for reduced rates. The lobbyist responded that the City can allow anything it wants, especially if Legislators, the Mayor, City Council and the District all worked together.
I don't know who our lobbyist was at the time but who was he/she working for? The State legislators or the district?
They went through another round of proposals and both First AME and CCC @MLK group had not qualified for the discount available to groups who demonstrated that more than 50% of the building would be used to support youth education activities. But
The former Board president stated the Board decided to give the two community groups one last opportunity to submit proposals that meet "special consideration" requirements.
The report states that between Jan 2010 and May 2010, the process for selling the property came to a halt. But our Olympia legislators were still working on finding money to allow a community group to buy the property. The district supported these efforts.
In April 2010, the Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for acquisition of the school property in addition to the $1 million appropriated in the 2008 state capital budget. The total set aside for the purchase was now $2.5 million.
However, the Legislature did not seem to be wanting to acknowledge that they had done this in order to allow a new round of proposals. The district was just going to re-open the RFP process as if nothing had changed. This did not sit well with Ron English and Holly Ferguson (both lawyers).
He recommended that all this information be presented to the Board for their consideration “given (the Legislature’s) failure to follow through and the ambiguity of where we are at.” The Director of Policy and Government Relations responded to this email saying that she agreed with the Property Manager “100%.” The lobbyist responded to her saying “what are u talking about? We got exactly what we wanted.”
Ron English did the following:
He sent an email to the District's lobbyist and the Director of Policy and Government Relations saying that no one has identified any flaws in the RFP process they started in August 2009, yet they are being “told to reopen that process to allow a late bidder in”, and that they need to explain why they are doing this to the other bidders who already submitted proposals. The lobbyist responded saying that the District Board chair and the Superintendent had said they would be very happy to re-open the RFP
process should the Legislature provide additional funds. He suggested telling the other bidders that the process is being reopened due to the availability of additional state funding. The Property Manager responded to this email, but only included the Director of Policy and Government Relations and the former CFOO in the reply, saying that it is “disingenuous” to suggest that the additional funding is “something new and unexpected.”
So they reopened the RFP in June 2010. One new group, the CADA, a neighborhood group joined the other three bidders. However:
On June 9, 2010 the CCC@MLK group sent a letter to the District stating it objected to the former Executive Director of Facilities being included on the distribution list for the memorandum, and
Addendum 5. The group asked that the letter be treated as a protest.
The district said the protest was late and had been denied.
In August 2010, the selection committee again convened. Ron English's recommendation to the Superintendent was to sell to the highest bidder, the Bush School. This is what Noel Treat says happened as well. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson rejected that recommendation. She wanted to sell to First AME Church. She stated to the Auditor that she does not remember what her recommendation was at that meeting.
Going along with MGJ, Ron English presented the staff recommendation to the A&F Committee to sell to First AME Church.
The Property Manager told us that he did not read the recommendation out loud because he believed the District should sell the property to the Bush School. The committee agreed with the staff
recommendation and moved the vote to the full Board.
On October 20, 2010, the Board approved (5-2) a motion to authorize the Superintendent to execute a contract for the sale of the school property to First AME Church.
The final sentence under the history section:
Although it accepted the lowest bid for the property, the District complied with state law and District policy.
We recommend the District establish a process by which its employees can document an official recusal for themselves whenever the possibility of a conflict of interest arises, whether that conflict is in-fact or appearance.
If you read the entire report, it is difficult to not see that there were people who wanted, well basically, what they wanted. And, that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was able to override the entire selection committee because of what she thought best. That it sounds like Mr. English practically had to hold his nose while he announced the "staff" recommendation to the A&F Committee is not a good sign.
One more in the chain of judgments made by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson that will live on. I think that all the groups involved were not well-served in the process by the machinations of the state legislators and MGJ. And, in the end, given how slowly First AME is moving on their programs, that youth are not going to be well-served by this sale and the district (and the public) lost out on valuable dollars this district could have used.