Latest Times Article Uses Some Harsh Language
The Times has another story this morning with the words "financial abuse" in the headline.
It follows with:
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.
The release of the documents — the most comprehensive look yet at the allegations — comes as prosecutors conduct a secret criminal investigation of the financial dealings and the School Board considers whether to force out Goodloe-Johnson, sources familiar with the matter have told The Seattle Times.
State Auditor Brian Sonntag on Thursday called it one of the most egregious cases he has seen in 18 years on the job.
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.
That's very fair of the Times to say "they should have been aware of it" about top administrators because I would ask that same question of the Board especially Audit & Finance. No one looked down and said, "Hey, what's this $1M for teaching classes?"
At the center is, of course, Silas Potter. Now I never heard much about him - not on my radar until the last year of so but boy, say his name to almost anyone at headquarters and watch their face. Apparently it is hard to have a poker face about him. From the article:
Investigators have not been able to locate Potter, who some district employees viewed as a "con artist," the documents said.
Potter, 59, operated with virtually free rein for years. And when co-workers — including a district lawyer — questioned Potter's practices, they were told by higher-ups not to worry, or were met — by Potter and others — with threats and accusations of racism, auditors said.
Amid an "atmosphere of fear, intimidation and reprisal," the audit documents say, higher-ups failed to act.
This next part of the article is deeply troubling because it borders on "I was just following orders":
Ron English, an attorney for the district, told auditors he complained to Fred Stephens, Potter's boss, and Gary Ikeda, the district's then-general counsel, about misleading and false numbers Potter gave to the School Board about the small-business program.
Stephens replied, "Yeah, but we need to make the program look good," English told auditors. And Ikeda later told English: "You told your client, that's all you can do."So Mr. English, despite his doubts, did not go to the Superintendent or the Board, just Gary Ikeda.
The so-called internal auditor:
Even the district's own watchdog, its internal auditor, engaged in what state auditors called a blatant conflict of interest: He was on the payroll of a similar small-business enterprise Potter set up on the side.
So who benefited?
The Urban League, for example, received $595,000 from the school district over four years to help prepare minority contractors for government work — more than any other vendor. Two school employees and a former consultant told auditors that Urban League services "did not benefit" the school district. The problem with many of the Urban League's bills was vagueness.
In a little over a year, the League billed the schools for $297,000. But the invoices consisted of a single page with little detail, auditors said. The League also charged up to $15,000 a month for "general overhead and administration."
Auditors contended the League was using this money to support one of its own departments, the Contractor Development & Competitiveness Center (CDCC).
"In our judgment," auditors wrote, the league billed the school district "excessive amounts in order to fund their own department."
Another person who benefited was former head of CPPS, Charles Rolland. He talked to the Times in an article yesterday but during the auditor's investigation refused to speak to them without a subponea.
After he read all the details, School Board Vice President Michael DeBell said his first feeling was shock followed by a deep sense of outrage.
"Honestly, we were almost incredulous," he said. "It just didn't seem that this kind of thing would happen."But it has happened and things must change in a deep and meaningful way. The whole headquarters needs an overhaul. Bring in Moss-Adams again.