How Did This Get Started?
This started with an idea from former School Board member Mary Bass. It became a policy (but again, I don't have the policy number or date in front of me). What I understood it to be was merely a way to say to those smaller companies, "Here is a staff person you can call with questions. He/She can help guide you through the process." In addition, I think they were probably going to make a small brochure with tips and maybe have a couple of classes a year on doing business with SPS.This work would be part of one person's job in capital.
That's it. No roster of classes, no roster of instructors, no personal service contracts so that prominent people in the community could do outreach. Just a way to broaden the base of vendors and show that SPS was trying to offer business on capital projects to companies big and small.
But it got away from upper management (or not) and morphed into the behemoth that Silas Potter created.
There are great questions like:
- why did this program have its own website away from SPS?
- why did the Port of Seattle, Tacoma Public Schools, etc. - why didn't any of these governmental entities ask, "Why would SPS be doing this and not, say, the Chamber of Commerce? Would would SPS give classes on doing work for entities not affiliated with SPS projects?"
- why, after the program was dissolved, did the district absorb the 3 staff members working on back into Capital? If the program was gone, so were their jobs. Why keep them when we are a district lacking funds?
- why were some payments to vendors funneled through either the Urban League or other vendors like QuickSource?
Also, Phyllis Fletcher of KUOW did some interesting pieces about some of the community members who got paid for their "work." Here's one that was on the news and here's her segment from today's The Conversation.
She got some great quotes from Eddie Rye, a long-time activist in the African-American community.
Rye: "I tell you what. I almost lived this. I've been working for 40 years and never got paid because I believed in the program and I saw what it was doing for these small businesses. I gave far beyond what I billed for."
Fletcher: "Some people might hear that and think, 'well, just because that's something you have a passion for, does that mean that I have to pay for that?'"
Rye: "No, but I had a contract to do that. You know, it's almost like the vendors are the villains. Everything we did was approved by the Seattle School District."From The Conversation piece:
Fletcher asked Mr. Rye about the Superintendent saying that Potter's program was too far down the chain of command for her to know about the problems.
Rye: (low chuckle) "Boy oh boy oh boy, that's a doozy there. The school district knew all about it. Maybe the Superintendent didn't know about it, there's a lot of things she don't know about, apparently."
Also, Charles Rolland has declined to talk to the Auditor except through a subpeona but he managed to open his mouth when the Times came calling. He declined to speak with Fletcher.
Also in the Conversation story, Phyllis points out what the Auditor also pointed out. Not only was Silas Potter going to Olympia and doing lobbying but the district paid former legislator, Velma Veloria, to do that as well. The district's legal counsel made it clear that no one had authorization to do this and that lobbying for the district is restricted. She says she was a victim of Silas Potter.
She said the County Prosecutor is investigating and that she wondered if the feds could become involved as the other entities who were sponsors of the program may have used federal funds to do so.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is in South Carolina with her ailing mother. No word on when she will return.
Lawyers help me, wouldn't Mr. Potter have to be charged with something (and arrested in Florida) before he could be extradited? You can extradite someone just to question them, right? Silas is the key (but also the Nderu, the recently forced out Internal Auditor) to unraveling the whole story (if he were to tell the whole truth). It might be interesting what he might say if he knew he could get off if he outed everyone involved.