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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

KUOW Pottergate Backstory, Part II

Part two of KUOW's series on the Pottergate backstory aired this morning.  Again, just riveting.   And again, you can read the transcript but the audio is better.

More backstory in case you missed it is that one of the central early warnings was not just the Sutor Report but that the Daily Journal of Commerce, two years ago, was courted by the district itself to do a story on the Small Business Works.  In doing work for the story, the reporter had found out about the Sutor Report.  That, of course, changed the story.

In the story, Lee Newgent, the Executive Secretary of the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, raised several issues among them:
"Giving out work to construction firms that didn't have construction licenses, wage violations, not doing any criminal background checks [or] fingerprinting of their employees while working with children."  

He also stated that somewhere down the line "there are going to be criminal indictments."

Mr. Newgent gave KUOW documents that back his story.

What is key to this story the Board is saying about not seeing the Sutor Report is this item that appeared at the bottom of the Superintendent's regular Friday updates to the Board:

The Daily Journal of Commerce has a copy of the Small Works Review by The Sutor
Group, and we expect an article to be published soon.  The reporter’s questions relate to
our responses and actions to each of the observations noted in the report.  If you receive
any follow-up media calls, please refer them to the Communications Department.


Okay, you're a Board member and you see this.  Wouldn't you wonder what the Small Works Review was?  Wouldn't you wonder about "observations" in the report?"  Wouldn't you most of all wonder why a news organization was running a story about it and why would there be follow-up media calls if this was a story of a PR nature?"
 
Nope, apparently didn't ring a bell to any Board member, not even Peter Maier who admits to having seen the report and believing Fred Stephens when he said that he would watch over Silas (and Stephen did - something akin to two foxes watching the henhouse).

What is more infuriating is that Peter said, at the last Board meeting,
We also did not know that the program had engaged in unauthorized lobbying in Olympia."

But the KUOW report shows that the Board certainly did know...because Silas Potter admitted to them at a Board meeting.  Apparently no one took note of this at the time.  So Peter should be saying we didn't remember that we had been told there had been unauthorized lobbying in Olympia.

What does Newgent say?
"It's a false statement that they did not know what the involvement was. I think there's a lot of, uh, stretching of the imagination."

I think it certainly will be an easier job running for School Board against any of the incumbents .  The current members, with the exception of Kay and Betty, have a lot to answer for.   (What is interesting is that both Kay and Betty voted against extending the Superintendent's contract.  Kay wanted a "wait and see" year and Betty seems to have just not wanted MGJ to be superintendent any longer.)

11 comments:

Po3 said...

Really glad KUOW is sticking with this story.

Braessae said...

Me too. I just wish that they -- or someone -- would look further into the story of how the District ended up recommending the worst (lowest price, least community involvement) sale of the ML King school to FAME -- instead of either the Madison Valley community group or Bush (highest bidder). The ("over" in my opinion) involvement of Ron English and (maybe?) Fred Stephens in this transaction sure seems like a conflict of interest to me!

Stu said...

I bit off topic -- don't want to hijack the thread -- but is the MLK Sale a done deal? If they wanted to, COULD they revisit it or have papers been signed?

I was always amazed that a district, with such financial woes, would sell to the lowest bidder.

stu

Melissa Westbrook said...

Stu, I don't think it is quite a done deal. See my new thread about this but I think if the State Auditor finds something wrong, then it would be misuse of public funds.

The contract has no ability to be severed but I think a smart lawyer could figure something out.

Anonymous said...

On a related topic, I hope a news organization looks at how Seattle Housing Authority and the Port of Seattle etc. carried on similar programs with, once again, GC-CM contractors (namely Absher) handing out subcontracts to Leajak Construction etc. Absher's gotten alot of GC-CM work and kowtowing may have been part of the reason.

grumpy

someone said...

Wouldn't you most of all wonder why a news organization was running a story about it and why would there be follow-up media calls if this was a story of a PR nature?"
Well, perhaps they did and they don't want to admit to having been snowed by poor information from "staff" - If I were up for re-election within a year, I'm not sure I'd want to admit I was naive enough to believe someone who told me, in this kind of situation, that there was nothing to worry about. But then, I am suspicious by nature and will always always do my own fact checking.
And if you link up the time commitments outlined in the Board retreat thread - perhaps they just let something that "seemed" minor slide only to have it return and bite them, and are reluctant to admit that now.
I'd have more respect for them if they did admit a lack of attention, but I won't hold my breath...

WenD said...

Stu, Mel: In a previous thread, someone posted that FAME had the keys to the building and completed a quit claim, last month if I recall correctly. Not sure what this means for legal challenges.

Anonymous said...

Stu, WenD and Mel -
Check out the assessors office website. I posted the recording numbers recently(don't remember which thread), but the short story is that MLK is now in the possession of the nonprofit that FAME apparently put together to run the show. Ron English signed the deed over from the district to FAME (mid February this year), and the pastor of FAME signed a quit claim deed over to the nonprofit(within a couple of days after FAME obtained the property).

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

As I said (or meant to say) whether it's a done deal is not as important to me as whether it was done properly. The district, at the very least, should take better measures to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

That the issue has many of the same players as Pottergate is interesting/troubling. Ron English, Fred Stephens, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, all these people appear to have a hand in this deal.

I think the Auditor may likely review the deal.

Anonymous said...

I posted on the MLK thread, but I do believe that the question about why state money was added to the pot, and who in the 37th should take credit for that now. In the beginning all the 37th District Legislators took credit or mentioned as something good they did for the community. ugh joanna

Anonymous said...

Braessae said, yes, I agree that Ron English did not present himself as an innocent lawyer just doing his job during any of the process of leasing or selling schools. He presented himself as a player.
edited correct:
I posted on the MLK thread, but I do believe that the question about why state money was added to the pot, and who in the 37th should take credit for that now are all necessary questions. In the beginning all the 37th District Legislators took credit or mentioned as something good they did for the community. ugh joanna