So, let’s recap the maintenance brouhaha. Some of the projects identified before the 2005 maintenance referendum have not been done. Others were. Communications on this issue were bad, to the point of nearly non-existent, as the administration did not explain what maintenance projects it was choosing to do and why. There’s no evidence of malfeasance that I am aware of. A District list of completed 2009 maintenance projects inaccurately or misleadingly included tuck-pointing at East. Lots of maintenance needs remain for district schools, and likely always will.
Enter Vicki McKenna. For those who don’t know, she has a radio show on WIBA-am in the late afternoon, from a generally right-wing perspective (I guess, I don’t listen enough to have formed a complex analysis of her politics.). She seems to talk excitedly a lot, and doesn’t seem very interested in letting her guests talk much, beyond expressing their agreement with her. She occasionally talks about the schools on her show, most often with Don Severson, a long-time observer of the School District who also tends to approach issues from the right (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
McKenna addressed Susan Troller’s article during her show on Thursday. I listened to a replay that was tagged on Jim Zellmer’s SIS blog. McKenna started out by generously praising Troller’s article and saying how much she liked the “wonderful gothic building” that is East high school. The show then gradually deteriorated into a cavalcade of misinformation. Don Severson was McKenna’s guest, and he talked about his suspicions that the Rainwater administration kept two sets of accounting books, one for the Board and public and one for themselves, which certainly implies fraud and seems to me to be a very serious charge. No biggy though, because very serious charges of wrongdoing were flying fast and furious on McKenna’s show.
McKenna threw out a suggestion that someone must be skimming some dough. Some caller passed along some second- or third-hand information and it was henceforth taken as fact that a school district employee received some big fat bonus (news to me) while, it was implied, our neglected school buildings are crumbling all around our students. McKenna said that the state Department of Justice should be looking into this. Brian Schimming, who often appears on McKenna’s show, chimed in his outrage that the $23 million in referendum-approved maintenance spending is apparently gone and we have nothing to show for it. The general tenor was that heads should roll.
There must be people who listen to this show and believe what they hear, which is a real shame. Just to be clear, there is no evidence of misappropriation of funds. The district can certainly say where the $23 million went, though with apparently little detail at this time about the individual projects that were funded. There was poor communication and records have been kept in a way (or ways) that don’t appear to be very useful and are certainly not user-friendly, but I am aware of no evidence of malfeasance or fraud or breach of whatever fiduciary obligation McKenna was referring to on her show.
If there is an accounting firm that wants to come in and audit the district’s books, as Don Severson, I think, suggested, that would be a wonderful thing so long as it is at no cost to the district. I’m all for it. As far as an investigation by the Department of Justice? Please. Get a grip. And I say that with all due respect as a former assistant attorney general in the state Department of Justice (and a former trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice as well).