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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Charges to be Filed Against Silas Potter and Two Other Individuals

Just got back from the press conference with Dan Satterberg, KC Prosecutor, Dr. Enfield and Director DeBell.   I'll write a longer thread but here are the highlights:
  • Silas Potter is to be charged with 9 counts of Theft in the First Degree
  • David Anthony Johnson is to be charged with 9 counts of Theft in the First Degree
  • Lorrie Kay Sorenson is to be charged with 4 counts of Theft in the First Degree
I do not recognize Ms. Sorenson's name but Mr. Johnson had been mentioned in the State Auditor's report.

The accused funneled about $250k through two corporations - one, a non-profit called Grace of Mercy and the other, a for-profit, called Emerald City cleaning.  Mr. Potter operated on cash with several large cash withdrawals in his name.   Potter turned over about $21k to his accompliances and kept the rest. 

There is no evidence that anyone further up the food chain had knowledge of or benefited from these actions.

If convicted as charged, Potter and Johnson could serve between 33-43 months in prison with Ms. Sorenson in the 6-12 month range in jail.  They have been served summons and will be arraigned on November 8th at the KC Courthouse.

Mr. Satterberg stated that most of the contractors contacted had been cooperative as had Mr. Potter.  Two would not speak with the prosecutor without immunity which the prosecutor's office declined to give.  Those two are Tony Orange and Leon "Skip" Rowlands.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tony Orange is also involved in the MLK sale. He wrote a glowing recommendation letter for First AME. He is one of the usual cast of characters that would show up to school board meetings and protest, but he was unusually silent on this, and wrote a recommendation instead.

jaded

dan dempsey said...

The Seattle Schools had far too many balls in the air. The question that needs to be asked is why?

There were a profusion of poorly researched and hastily adopted programs begun. NWEA/MAP testing was just one.

Inadequate supervision was rampant as pointed out in the SAO report of July 6, 2010.

The fact that this Silas Potter led program even existed is an embarrassment.

This criminal action gets the headlines as the achievement of American Indian / Alaska Native students seriously declines under chaotic leadership.

The pushing of "Business" trumps instituting and maintaining sound academic programs. ... Few Vendors are Left Behind but as for AIAN kids many get left behind.

====
The incumbent directors seeking reelection have incorrectly if not fraudulently claimed that "A careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps" has taken place by their TFA action report approvals.

Big concern over the mismanagement of money ... Virtually no concern for educationally disadvantaged learners.

Po3 said...

Any of the news organizations going to report that Direcotor Maier was given information about this criminal activity and failed to 1)report or 2)follow up.

He just filed it away.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't just Peter that received notice. Harium also got a complaint from the union about business practices in this program. He didn't follow up and he has let Peter bear the heat from the press and the anger of the taxpayers.

At least Peter apologized publicly. I've been watching closely. Harium has said nothing.

NE Parent

mirmac1 said...

Hoo Boy! The Times Editorialists wasted no time on this one.

"The gossip, innuendos and established scandals in the district have provided some critics with their raison d'etre for years. This is the air they breath"

dan dempsey said...

Po3...

Before Mr. Maier filed it away .... prior to filing it away we saw this....

On March 2, 2011 while buying out the Central Admin incompetent duo for $363,000 ... Peter did say this =>

Youtube video=>
http://youtu.be/VvYfgLrIxXU

I was personally mislead. To be totally transparent in this matter.......
In January 2009 Fred Stevens gave me a copy of the Sutter Report.

The report recommended that the Small Works program be taken away from Silas Potter. .....

A few weeks later the Superintendent mentioned the report in her Friday update to the Board.

Which left me with the understanding that the Superintendent was aware of the problem. ....

I now know that the Board and the Public and I were deceived.

==============
So Mr. Maier read the report and from actions by the Superintendent believed her to have been aware of the problem .... and just decided it would be easier to have a $363,000 BuyOut (on 22 hours notice) rather than a firing with cause.

Po3, I agree with you ... This should be a newsworthy item.

dan dempsey said...

mirmac1,

Thanks for the link. WOW Lynne Varner has actually entered the comment discussion.

That article is a typical Lynne Varner piece.

You really need to see my 2:18 pm comment which only mentioned the continuing failure by the Board to supervise..... Lynne then responded by attacking me about math (???) (Say What ??)

She mentioned supervision in her article ... I commented about supervision ... and she came back with an attack on me about math... huh??? {{Maybe Attention Deficit problems}}

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Times editorial is just ridiculous. But I smell the whiff of desperation so I understand their worry.

dan dempsey said...

MW,

No kidding there is a lot for the Times to be desperate about. The incumbents have been hit by a perfect storm of news events. .... Hooray!! They deserve it.

So can slick brochures and robo-calls fool the voters?

We shall find out around the morning of Nov 9.

Anonymous said...

From last night's article,

"The role of district officials at Tuesday's media event was to outline changes the district has made in the past year to prevent such abuses in the future.

Among the reforms, the district has increased its internal auditing staff from one to three, set up an ethics hotline for employees to report potential problems and contracted with the city of Seattle's ethics office to work together on investigations, DeBell said.

The district also has added more oversight to its contracting policies and scheduled quarterly oversight sessions in which board members examine various district departments.

"It adds up to a pretty big change," DeBell said after the news conference. "I hope that people understand that we've made a pretty sincere and long-term effort to make proactive changes so this can't happen again."

Maybe the biggest change has been in personnel. In addition to the Goodloe-Johnson and Kennedy firings, many managers in the facilities and capital-projects departments have left the district. They have been replaced by a mix of new faces and internal replacements."

I believe those are the right moves. What else are people expecting? Is the above moves not enough? Why not?

A friend of Seattle

mirmac1 said...

Actually, in Dec 2010 the district made very poor moves with regards to its procurement procedures, actually relaxing oversight in certain areas. Solid procurement procedures would have averted the Potter shenanigans. SPS STILL indulges in personal service contracts, lacks expertise in contract management (look at their GC CM contracts). The ethics policy remains wimpy, tied only to "financial interests", NOT the appearance of impropriety (note the TFA last minute grant disclosure).

So all in all there's still room for improvement.

cascade said...

My biggest observation is that Enfield has not replaced a single person on the academic side of the house downtown. So I expect no changes from the weak administrators there.

Further, Martin-Morris remains at the helm of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee which has sat on its collective a$$ under his leadership. Seriously, all that committee does is stonewall.

Do I think business has changed for kids in the classrooms? Absolutely not.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Friend, they are good moves. Here's the problem, some of the same people are watching the store.

We HAD an internal auditor (which the Board likes to conveniently forget and act as though they created this office). He was - how to say it - in league with Silas. He was not particularly good at his job. And yet, his work, too, got overlooked until it was too late.

The Board had many opportunities to do something and did nothing.

What I am expecting is for the Board to be honest about their role instead of acting like they are white knights. They are not. Apologies don't change what happened.

I think they have done many things but they waited until a crisis to do them. Remember MGJ saying there were "no systems in place?" There were but no one, no one was enforcing them. Not MGJ, not the Board and they got us to this time and place and it isn't over.

Charlie Mas said...

@ A friend of Seattle,

Wow! Thanks for such a great set of questions.

"I believe those are the right moves. What else are people expecting? Is the above moves not enough? Why not?"

First, yes, there were a right of lot moves made. Many of the people who failed in their duty to oversee are gone including Mr. Stephens, Mr. Nduru, Mr. Kennedy, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. There are four more people who had a duty to oversee who need to go: Mr. Maier, Mr. Sundquist, Mr. Martin-Morris and Ms Carr. So the moves are not yet enough, but may be soon.

Further evidence that the moves were not enough comes with the contract the District made with the Urban League in the Fall of 2010. While this scandal was raging, the District entered into a personal services contract with The Urban League to mentor at-risk students in Southeast Seattle. The District once again paid the Urban League on invoices that were vaguely worded and were, suspiciously, for the exact same number of billable hours every month. That also indicates to me that these moves were not enough.

I have to wonder what made Michael Tolley (who, like Mr. Kennedy, came from North Carolina with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson) choose the Urban League for this job.

To their credit, the Board is moving forward with a policy that will allow the District to debar providers. They may be able to keep anyone in the District from hiring the Urban League for a while.

We can't know for sure what else may turn up, so we can't say that all needed steps have been taken. What remains clear, however, is that it doesn't matter how good the procedures and policies are if the people don't follow them. We need to cultivate a culture of compliance. We cannot create that culture, however, if the Board members neglect compliance. Since the current board has not interest in enforcing policy, they have to go. We need a Board that will put meaning behind the words.

Anonymous said...

I would throw out Fall of 2010 because MGJ and Kennedy were still at the helm. Instead, I look at what has transpired since March 2011. Better yet, let’s revisit where we came from.

Any historians out there?

We are a far cry better from the Stanford days wherein a well-intended but naive superintendent was allowed by the then existing board to give full autonomy to schools without providing the necessary supports to schools. The District back then didn't implement everything that they were trying to copy from a Canadian district. The result of that experiment is a generation of kids and families who had to experience inequity in school offerings throughout the city, a dysfunctional central office and inconsistent K-12 programs. The next Superintendent didn’t do any better. Crook! I will give the next two Superintendents along with their board members credit for laying out the ground work for where we are today. Were they perfect? No! However, programs and policies are not changed overnight but instead are incrementally made better or worse over time. The “Utopia” world would have you believe that it can be done overnight. I’ve worked in large organizations and change occurs over time, with patience and persistence. If change does happen overnight, the likelihood is that community engagement was compromised.

The foundation for community schools has been laid before us. There is progress in performance evaluations. Compliance is on the agenda items of the Board and I would assume the Superintendent. I can’t imagine that in this environment, any employee would be so foolish to not heed the warnings of the public and the fear of becoming front page news on the Times or this blog! Pupil transportation is adjusting (painfully). I just learned that Seattle provides way more busing service than what the state funds the District. The District is being squeezed from all sides but I believe they are better today than from where they came from.
Is there room for improvement in program offerings, compliance, capacity management, transportation? Absolutely! However, I believe Seattle is at a better place and the foundation has been laid out for the next generation to improve on.

One can yank the rug from underneath the momentum that is building. That is really what this November election is about. If you don’t agree with the direction of the District and are interested in sacrificing several grades of kids from the lost momentum, then feel free to replace the incumbents which would probably replace Dr. Enfield and a host of her leadership staff along with the bodies of work currently in play. Let middle management once again languish and further reinforce the notion that “this too shall pass”. Perhaps taking the “half glass full” perspective, one can say that changing the Board members, Superintendent and Leadership team will have an overnight positive effect on academic programming, accountability, capacity management, operation efficiency, transparency and community engagement. I doubt it! What I do think is that if there is a change in direction this year, the public will be back in the next Board elections crying for change! The ironic thing is the people crying for change in the future maybe the same or perhaps a different group of people.

We have been for the most part discussing the symptom of the problem. The root of the problem however, I believe, can be found in our family units, our state unable to sustain K-12 along with all the other programs we the citizens have come to expect, and our progressing societal values away from education. When do we take the time and make the space to discuss the root of the issue? Or is it hard to talk about because we can’t pin point who to pull the rug from underneath without looking in the mirror.

A friend of Seattle

Christina said...

It gets funnier: "One of three people charged with bilking $250,000 from Seattle Public Schools previously ran Seattle escort services that engaged in prostitution, according to court documents."

Charlie Mas said...

Wow! Once again, A Friend in Seattle, you have put forward a really compelling and challenging idea.

Does the District have some sort of momentum in a positive direction and would this momentum be broken off by replacing the current Board with a new Board that would - one supposes - select a new superintendent? That's a really intriguing question.

There are, however, a lot of moving parts to that question.

A. Does the District have some momentum in a positive direction?

B. Would the current Board confirm Dr. Enfield in the permanent superintendent role?

C. Would a new Board replace her?

D. Would replacing the superintendent end any momentum?

First, I'm not sure that we have some positive momentum, but I do believe that we have blocked a lot of the negative momentum that we used to have. I'm a fan of Ms McEvoy and what she is doing in Operations, and I agree that we have some positive momentum there which can be extended (assuming a new superintendent doesn't replace her). Mr. Bouche is an interim CFO, so it's hard to say that we can sustain any momentum from him when the permanent CFO is hired, but I absolutely credit him with stopping the negative momentum we had. In Teaching and Learning, however, I actually think that we're laboring under a negative movement right now and I do not want that momentum to roll on.

I think that the current Board, if re-elected, would, in fact, confirm Dr. Enfield as the permanent superintendent. They could surprise me, but I think they like her work and don't see much opportunity for improvement from looking outside. They would probably also buy the momentum story.

I'm much less sure if a new Board - and I mean anywhere from one to four new Board Directors - would necessarily chose to replace Dr. Enfield. While they might choose to take the District in a slightly different direction, there's no reason to believe that Dr. Enfield couldn't steer the district along that course as well as she has steered it for the current Board. That TFA crap will have to stop, but I'm pretty sure she would clip them off like a hangnail if directed to do so.

Finally, I don't think that a new superintendent would block the progress in operations or finance, and I do think that a new superintendent would make some positive changes in academics - changes that Dr. Enfield has not shown any interest in making.

Dr. Enfield has done a truly admirable job of reforming every department in the District... except her own. Maybe she's not the right person to make the needed progress there.

Charlie Mas said...

This is probably as good a place to bury this statement as anywhere:

I think Dr. Enfield is doing a pretty good job. As I have said many times before she has brought revolutionary positive change to the District's culture in every Department... except her own.

If Dr. Enfield is 80% of what we want in a superintendent - and I think she is - then going outside and looking for another doesn't offer a lot of upside. It does, however, offer a lot of potential downside and great deal of uncertainty. On the whole, it doesn't strike me as a good bet.

A better bet would be to replace the Board and for the new Board to give her a different direction for academics folks in the headquarters - less focus on standardization, but more focus on quality control.

I think she has what it takes to run a real 21st century education organization - she just has to break free of the outdated industrial model.

Charlie Mas said...

Boy! I just read A Friend in Seattle's comment again and I freakin' loved it.

I am so glad you are here.

The root causes referenced: the breakdown of the family unit, anemic state funding of K-12 education, and our culture's discomfort with academics, do need to be explored. It's right to ask if any kind of broad success is possible in the environment.

I think it is, but only if some very targeted and intentional work is done. It's going to require a different model for how we support struggling students and - with funding the way it is - it could call for big discrepancies in class sizes. To spend the money that we would have to spend in the southeast we might have to make some pretty deep cuts in other neighborhoods. Could this city tolerate a class size of 17 at Wing Luke and a class size of 37 at Wedgwood?

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

I understand the rationale behind your “bet”; however, I am not so confident that Enfield and her team will survive intact if there is a sweep in the election. Although, this point is likely moot since I don’t believe that there will be a sweep.

I agree with you and Cascade that Enfield has not replaced anyone from the central academics leadership team. Should she? Perhaps. I think a better question which you already allude to is whether the district’s approach to educate our kids and close the achievement gap is working? In reviewing Mr Teoh’s report, my conclusion is no: yes, we are doing better than the state average, however, I don’t think we are serving our kids as best as we can. Besides, I don’t think the state average provides a high goal to begin with. So the next questions are: What should the approach be? How do we identify and arrive at the “new” approach? Which leads to the question, who can lead us in identifying the new approach? Then a necessary but often glossed over question, who can then lead us in executing the new approach. Identifying and executing are two different tasks which require different knowledge and skill sets. The "is the approach working..." and "what's the new approach" questions whould be answered through a collaborative process involving district staff and community members and the results communicated out to the public. As to the "who" questions, that should be left to the district to answer.

I propose the above sequenced approach because the District cannot afford to isolate anyone by threatening their livelihood. If after going through the above sequence and someone has to be let go or replaced, then so be it. I believe people for the most part are professionals and should be treated in such a manner. Accountability is an easy word to recklessly throw around. Leading would require a more thoughtful, respectful and deliberate way which unfortunately takes time.

How will Enfield harness everyone’s good and “not so good” thinking to ultimately arrive at identifying and executing the new approach? Is that not the ultimate outcome that we want which will increase academic results and close the achievement gap? I included “not so good thinking” because there are lessons learned from having different perspectives which is why I enjoy this blog and the fact that you clearly see the chess board from above and not just from within.

A friend of Seattle