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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

District Knew Potter Was a Problem as Far Back as 2009

More updates from the Seattle Times including:

  • The program's former manager, Silas Potter Jr., was stripped of his ability to award small construction contracts in response to the warnings in January of that year. But the district allowed him to continue to award personal-service contracts and approve payments to small businesses that included minority- and women-owned companies, according to a recently completed state audit.

    Despite a reprimand and directives to improve his performance, Potter continued to flaunt rules with little oversight, the audit found.

  • Evidence has emerged that some district employees informed superiors about irregularities with the program but were brushed aside, said a source familiar with the matter.
  • Other employees had concerns but did not raise them because of "fears of reprisal," according to the state audit.

    "We found that many District employees were unaware of the District's whistle-blower and anti-retaliation policies, or did not trust the policies," the audit said.

  • "The reprimand also included an admonishment for testifying and lobbying in Olympia on behalf of the District on two occasions without approval of the District's Government Relations Department," the audit stated. Despite the reprimand, Potter contracted with consultants to meet with state legislators and testify in favor of legislation although he didn't have the authority to do so, according to the audit.
  • In a 2009 story on the consultant's report, the Daily Journal of Commerce in Seattle quoted Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Seattle-King County Building & Construction Trades Council, as saying some construction firms the district used weren't licensed and didn't do background checks on workers, including some who worked near children.

    Newgent also told the newspaper some firms were doing work for which they weren't qualified and predicted criminal indictments "somewhere down the line."

The Board expects to have their own investigation done by Friday (according to some reports).

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why do I think that the board's report is going to be weak and laughable?

Oh that's right, because they have been all along, as long as I have been a part of this system.

The Real Arnold said...

Fred Stephens' bio:

http://www.osec.doc.gov/cfo/stephens_bio.html

Check out what he says about his time at Seattle schools:

"Prior to joining the Commerce Department, Stephens served as executive director of facilities and construction for Seattle Public Schools, where he built a reputation for his rigorous approach to environmental health and safety issues, real property management, maintenance programming and capital projects, including approximately $800 million in capital outlays."

Blah, blah, blah...

Anonymous said...

"where he built a reputation for his rigorous approach to environmental health".

That is such baloney. If he was so concerned about "environmental health" he would have raised the flag about how many of our schools are still in dire straits in terms of seismic safety, the initial reason why I got involved with SPS matters.

And now I will remind parents one more time, many of your schools are not safe. If there were an earthquake tomorrow, at least 12 schools would come tumbling down including my daughter's building.

Our school board did not want to deal with this knowledge but maybe parents will at some point.

For many of you, your children's safety is at risk.

I am an architect and I speak from an educated and experienced background that this is the case.

If you have questions about your particular school, please e-mail me at dora.taylor@gmail.com.

Stephens, whoever he was, didn't care two hoots about our children.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of questions.

Did Potter personally gain from this fake agency he ran, meaning did he deposit funds into his personal account?

Where did he go after leaving Seattle?

And is it true that he cannot be located currently?

Was MGJ in town to give that statement, then left? Or was the statement given from a remote location.

What I find so interesting is MGJs statement of outrage and the audits finding that employees are afraid to speak up. Not very creditable.


Anyway, I appreciate the information.


Po3

Bird said...

The Seattle Weekly asks a good question.

How can the district spend 3 million on a small business program in the midst of a financial crises that included the RIF'ing of teachers, and not notice that money was being spent on the wrong things?

Nevermind the criminality. Never mind the paying $100K and $7000 there for things that were never delivered. There are thieves in the world.

I won't blame the district for that, but not being able to know or not caring about huge non-essential spending is gross mismanagement that really can't be excused.

It's of a magnitude that really calls for a top to bottom house cleaning.

dirt digger said...

On Friday, March 26, 2010 Potter sent an email to Stephens with the subject heading:

"SBOP transition to RSBOP"

The email states:

"Attached is the transition plan for Seattle Public Schools' Small Business Development Program to the Regional Small Business Development Program. If you like, we can go over it sometime next week after you had time to review it over the weekend.

Thank you, Silas"

http://www.scribd.com/doc/49445040/Transition-Outsourcing-001

This appears to be the moment that Potter changed over from managing the SPS "Small Business Development Program" to the "Regional Small Business Development Program." The latter is his private firm.

This thing is much bigger than 1.8 million dollars. Stephens knew what was going on based on the above mentioned email and proposal. But, there is more. I started investigating the contractors...can you say nefarious? One appears to have some big trouble with CPS.

Allow me to speculate for a moment (I have no facts to base any claims), but I believe that this is a possibility. This whole fiasco looks a lot like a contracting kick-back scandal in the making. Many of these contrators and service firms (on the SPS list) are very marginal players in the Seattle construction/business scene.

This could get very big folks. Keep digging.

A.Samuelsen said...

Let's not forget the sale of MLK school to First AME Church for $2.4 million, a majority of which came from the State of Wash. (where--exactly?) who apparently has money to help some organizations buy abandoned school properties. Is that church and state mixing, or what!? $2.4 million is a screaming good real estate deal for that land alone--and MLK as a school is in a prime location to serve students. TT Minor is actually in a better spot considering the population increase of young children in the Central Area. This closing/selling/or re-opening of buildings has a bad smell to it.

Anonymous said...

First AME Church deal = Ron English, member of AME congregation and lawyer/head honcho at facilities at the time pushing for it.

Might have been legally OK. Didn't look good at all.

Still want to know extent, if any, of English's involvement in Pottergate.

-skeptical-

TechyMom said...

AME came in at the last minute, and surprised the two groups who had been competing for the space for years: The Bush School and a neighborhood group who wanted to make a community center. The whole thing smelled funny, with staff people sitting with and making pitches for the AME.

Dorothy Neville said...

Ron English? um, no. Fred Stephens is part of First AME Church. And he sat in the audience at the board meetings during the intro and action of the sale. The speculation is that he knew how to coach the church leaders in purchasing the property and getting the state to pay for it. But not Ron English.

Anonymous said...

Oh OK. I had the wrong name and apologize re: English. But now I say double hmmmmmmmmmmm to the Stephens involvement.

-skeptical-

Dorothy Neville said...

Yup, skeptical, don't lose that skepticism! Double Hmmmm is definitely called for.

And... so there's talk that the Seattle Times sat on details of this story for months, that they wrote what they had to in a passive boring voice. Well, Charlie accused them of not speaking out because it would hurt the levy or that it would hurt their darling Maria. I am guessing that some folks are Hugely relieved that this stayed quiet until after the sale of MLK. But what did they know and when did they know it?

mirmac1 said...

Bird,

How can they do that? Easy. When their true aim is pushing an agenda, enriching their friends, pulling power plays. When they could give a sh*t about children, teachers, learning, and "closing the achievement gap".

Kathy said...

Will the sale of MLK to AME be investigated?

joanna said...

No, Ron English was not a member of the AME Church. He, however, was one who received the email dated Jan. 12, 2009 from the Sutor Group and then later the same year is listed as an instructor in the Small Business Training September 2009-December2009.

He is a lawyer and was very close to Fred Stephens in facilities and all land use and facility decisions. Who would understand better than he?