Sunday, September 12, 2010

A break from humor to address major issues at the Central School District

An Open Letter to the Central School Board:

Several years ago when the bond measure was voted on in this school district, it passed with 54%. This is democracy. Majority rules, and those who opposed paying additional taxes for this measure will dutifully pay for this bond right alongside those who supported it.

54% is a slim margin, and this was BEFORE the recession started. If the election were held one year later, it is unlikely that the measure would have passed.

These are tough times. We have entrusted you, the school board, with our children AND our money – the most sacred things we have. I do not believe you have lived up to that trust.

At the open house of the new Central High School building the other day, Mr. Hunter said that the project was completed “under budget”. This struck me as odd.

It is odd to call this under budget, because the new computer lab has no computers.

It is odd because in the beautiful auditorium, there is a giant alcove backstage for storing a concert shell. This shell doesn’t exist. Its ceiling panels are there, but the concert towers aren’t there and the rumor is they weren’t in the contract that was given to the theatrical rigging company.

It’s odd to call this project under budget when it is using money from other sources than the original bond. $300K has been allocated in the 2010 general fund budget to do resurface the track and buy the property the vision clinic was on. These items were in the scope of the original bond, and should have been paid for without affecting this year’s budget in an amount that could have paid for FOUR teachers.

And finally, it’s odd to call this project under budget given that an additional loan of $500K has been taken to upgrade HVAC systems in the existing schools. This also was part of the scope of the original project.

A local blog, the Central Advocate, states:

Given the savings realized by building during an economic slump (estimated to be several million dollars), the district should have had plenty of money to complete all of the elements promised in the bond. Instead, they have shifted some of those costs into this year's operating budget. This does not strike me as good bond management. Yet the bond manager has been rehired for next year with a new job title and a 12.5% raise. And we are laying off teachers.
And now we come to Mr. Maloney.

Mike Maloney has been the bond manager during this project expanding the high school. He has been rehired and given a twelve percent raise, to administer the half-million dollar loan for HVAC upgrades. His total compensation over two years will amount to two thirds the value of the loan he is administering, and could have been used to hire two teachers. This is an unconscionable waste of money in the economic downturn we are experiencing. Capable people in the community could be called upon to do the work which may average out to only a couple of hours per week on a part-time or volunteer basis. But we are paying an annual salary of over $110 thousand. All for a project that was in the scope of the original bond.

What about Mr. Maloney’s performance administering this bond gives the idea that spending over 300K more dollars for his services over the next two years will bring $300K worth of value to our students, our classrooms, and our taxpayers?

And before his recent work here at Central, what about his performance in prior positions made him the obvious choice to administer this bond?

With the assistance of Google and the World Wide Web, I was able to find, in about one hour’s time, some information on Mike Maloney which would not only discourage me from hiring him, but would make me question the judgment – or honesty – of any person who did.

In Education Week, January 11, 2005, it states facilities and transportation associate superintendent Michael C. Maloney, was indicted for alleged mishandling of at least $627,000 in school construction and consulting contracts. (Fee Required)

This was in Houston Texas.

At this same time, he was charged and convicted of a misdemeanor crime of lying on a government document: His Resume. He claimed baccalaureate and masters degrees from a university that doesn’t exist. According to the blog “Education Wonks”: “Maloney only got caught when his subordinates became concerned at his obvious lack of expertise in supervising the letting of contracts.”

The Mail Tribune of Southern Oregon, reported in 2007 that Mike Maloney was hired and fired from a position there. He was fired specifically because he was not forthcoming about his previous conviction. But they also had concerns with his construction management experience. It says:

A month after Maloney first met with the committee in April 2005 and began touring schools to help identify needs for repairs and construction, former Medford district facilities manager Sam Digati did an Internet search under Maloney's name and found out about the conviction.

[They were ] suspicious of Maloney because he asked questions that indicated he knew less about construction than he had claimed.
Right there at our fingertips was the background of this man who made an impression in two different districts that 1) he had an insufficient knowledge of construction and supervising of contracts, 2) he had a criminal conviction for misrepresenting himself, and 3) he was implicated in the mishandling of public money.

It appears his next stop was here, in wonderful, friendly, trusting, Central school district. In Southern Oregon they got suspicious within a month! But here we put him in charge of a 37 million dollar bond over two years, with a disappointing result that should have been predicted by Mr. Hunter and you on the School Board. More money was spent than the voters specifically approved for the project – some of it coming from the general fund which could have paid for teachers - and some components listed in the “2008 Bond Scope of Work” have not been delivered. In a time when budgets are tight everywhere, especially in Oregon, it seems we followed the approach, “Do Less With More”.

And the superintendant can state publicly that it was finished under budget? Something is definitely wrong here.

As taxpayers and parents, we expect you, the Board, to carefully oversee the wise use of our money and the operation of our district to the benefit of our students and our community.

I call on this school board to have an outside, independent audit of ALL bond expenditures, immediately. Account for EVERY penny and be prepared to justify EVERY expense.

Trust is a good thing, but it has to be earned.


At the meeting last night, Kathy Zehner said that there is some misinformation out there that they will work to correct.  I have been pondering this post and my shorter statements at the board meeting, and I feel to correct one thing.  Maloney's compensation may not be two thirds of the project he will be administering.  I assumed that the $500K HVAC project was his only responsibility, when in fact I have no knowlege what his responsibilities will be.  Therefore, while I am still critical that he was hired, and that he got a raise in tough economic times, I do not have enough information to comment on the ratio of his compensation to the value of the projects he is administering.


MamaJo said...

My jaw is dropped onto the floor! What an interesting position to be in...Gooooo, John!

Julie Rupp and Don Bevins said...

Accountability starts on the local level then moves up towards our national government level. Thank you John for bringing this to our attention. Now make them explain themselves

Wendy said...

You are amazing! Go get them dear! It's about time government was countable to the people who elect them

Mike Fisk said...

Nice John! I want to know what the board meeting was like tonight!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this information. I have heard rumors about these items, but wasn't sure of the facts ... and here they are! Thank you ... please, please, please keep us informed. I would love to sign a petition to begin seeing things move within our district!!!

Anonymous said...

I'd love for you to keep digging into this and continue to publish your findings. I believe you may find a link and or friendship between two officials at Central that blossomed in Beaverton or earlier.

Anonymous said...

A member of the Spring Branch School Board was recently contacted to confirm the events regarding Mr. Maloney. He said that he could not comment on specifics of Mr. Maloney's leaving because it was a personnel issue. The board member did say that all reports in the Houston Chronicle (check their archives and search Mike Maloney") were completely accurate. He went on to describe that period as "one of the darkest for the district" and said that "the flow of information in the school district almost came to a standstill." Sounds too familiar. This issue has never, to anyone's knowledge, been in any way addressed by the Central School Board. Many presently on the board were not members at the time of Maloney's hiring. This issue has been partly responsible the lack of trust for the superintendant. Many in the district are aware of the situation and it has become the "elephant in the room" which obscures vision and blocks communication. Where and in what way can this be addressed?

Anonymous said...

WOW! Between the reporting on this blog and the other one it seems like we have some really serious problems in our district. How can we help fix this?

Anonymous said...

You leave out some critical information about that bond passing. 54% of people all registered voters passed the bond, not 54% of those who voted. Remember, if you don't vote, than your vote counts as a no vote. So that means far more than 54% of people who cared enough to vote, voted yes. That is not a slim margin.

Also, you are writing some revisionist history here. The recession may not have been officially announced until December of that year, but when it was, it was announced that the country had been in a recession for a full year by that point. Something most of us knew, certainly anyone, like myself, who was a business owner.

Please do not downplay the community support of that bond.

Anonymous said...

Dear person who commented before me. I called the County Clerk's office to fully understand how the votes were counted for this bond measure. The Polk County Clerk, Valerie Unger, was kind enough to explain to me that the votes for this particular bond measure did not require a 50% turn out and therefore only counted those people who actually voted. It is not true that 54% of all registered voters passed this bond. Only that 54% of those who chose to vote. Further conversation with the County Clerk led me to believe that is correct to say that this bond passed by a slim majority. I can't say that the community is not behind the school of Monmouth and Independence, but I do believe that many of the people of our community do not support bond measure waste. The kids in our community deserve smaller classrooms, text books to learn from and a safe environment to learn in. Our hard working teacher deserve classes of managable size, text books to teach from and a work environment free from intimidation. Our kids don't need golf dates, lunch dates, and further waste that we can see has been reported as use of our school budget dollar. If our discrtict made these real learning priority we might just have a chance of accomplishing State mandates.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough regarding slim majority. We do have a number of people on fixed incomes who will vote no every time. It would be interesting, although impossible to find, the percentage of registered voters with children in the district who happily voted yes.

That doesn't change the fact that this did pass during a recession. We were will into it at that point (and sadly still are but that's another topic). Imagine how it would have done a year earlier?

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