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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Financial Scandal Update

More info on the crisis. This from the Seattle PI online:

"We're not passing judgment on vendors," said Mindy Chambers, a spokeswoman for the state Auditor's Office. "These are places where the district didn't have systems in place to look at what people are being billed for. Whether people were correctly charging for their time or overcharging, will be up to the district to sort out."

Good reporting over at The Stranger Slog. Reporter Riya Bhattacharjee asked the Auditor's office for a list of vendors who received money from SPS for little work. It's a troubling list. From Riya's piece:

1. The district paid Port of Seattle's former director of social responsibility Elaine Ko, community activist and business leader Eddie Rye (know for spurring King County into changing its logo from a crown to the image of Martin Luther King Jr.), former state legislator Velma Veloria, and former state chair of the Washington State Democratic Party Charles Rolland for meetings with state legislators and testifying on legislation. The audit says that these vendors were unaware that Potter was not authorized to contract with such services.

2. The district paid consultants Rye, Rolland, former executive director of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs Tony Orange, and Ginny Noble to attend weekly meetings at the district's administrative offices. Although these meetings lasted 1.5 hours, the four consultants billed the district two to three hours for these meetings, the audit found.

3. Some vendors charged an hourly rate, yet billed the district for the same amount each month, according to the audit. These vendors "divided the total contract amount into equal segments, regardless of whether services were provided on dates for which they billed": Ralph Ibarra, Contractors Resource Center, and Platinum Group.

4. The district paid Banner Cross $74,780 to develop training materials, but the audit found that most of these materials were copied from other sources.

5. The district paid Banner Cross $7,213 for providing food during classroom trainings to participants who were not district employees, with charges ranging anywhere between $737 to $1,652 per month. The audit says that district records do not "show the public purpose" of providing free meals to the public.

6. The district paid Charles Rolland at least $6,000 to create and maintain a database for the small business program’s apprenticeship program. Although Rolland charged for at least 120 hours to develop the database, district staff said in the audit that it was not functional when they received it. When the auditor's office examined the Washington State Auditor’s Office database, they noticed it only contained a list of student names and other identifying information.

7. The audit says the district paid Tony Orange for attending three-hour meetings up to its entirety, but found that Orange rarely attended the meetings, and when he did, barely stayed for 30 minutes. The audit also said that Orange billed excessively for an apprenticeship program—nearly $60,000—that recruited only 150 people.

8. The district paid community-based non-profit Urban League $25,000 for a software subscription fee for a database designed to match small business owners with general contractors. Urban League told the state auditor's office that this database was not functional and district employees said they never used the database. Additionally, the audit found that Urban League charged the district for indirect costs which sometimes exceeded direct costs by three times.

6 comments:

kprugman said...

Excellent work reporting great news - belated, but these are fruits nevertheless. They'll need more than one shovel to dig up the rest of this mess. It'll take years to unravel problems that are truly endemic. Vunderbar...

joanna said...

Is the Elaine Ko the same Elaine Ko who was included int the minutes posted earlier that listed the organizing board? Was she paid after the private company was formed? Of those listed it would seem like she was the most likely to know the the status of the organization

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3923020/SilasPotter/March2010MinutesOrganizingPrivateComany001.pdf

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Elaine Ko's former employer cut a check to the "non-profit" also.

grumpy

Anonymous said...

This just proves again that Don Kennedy was over his head from Day One with the business of SPS.

It's just been a matter of time for all of this to come crashing down on his head.

Charlie Mas said...

The Times has another article today (Friday, 2/25).

This one includes these statements:

"Disclosures about the school-district program have put Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's job at risk in what has become the most serious public corruption investigation in years."

and

"Goodloe-Johnson, who joined the district in 2007, has not been implicated in any wrongdoing. Still, board members are weighing whether she should be held responsible for a breakdown in internal oversight."

and this:

"The School Board will meet in executive session Tuesday to discuss the audit, as well as a report from its own investigation, done by a private attorney, into what Goodloe-Johnson or other top administrators knew about the problem, or if they should have been aware of it."

and, finally, this:

"Board President Steve Sundquist wouldn't confirm whether the superintendent's job is on the line, but said members will talk about how to restore public trust in Seattle Public Schools."

Notice he didn't reject the idea?

Sandy Blight said...

Time to get rid of Duggan Harman, Eric Sonnet & Kathy Technow and Lloyd Wallace.
These people have perfectly good knowledge of the accounting complacency at Seattle Schools and they should follow Don Kennedy out the door.
There is a looming scandle that Lloyd Wallace misapproprated district assets and computers and that there was an internal audit report that was never reported to the board.
It is time for REAL CHANGE in Seattle Schools.