No Documents Responsive to Your Request

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Yes, I am a something of a broken record, asking the same questions over and over. But occasionally the Huntsville City School’s district leaders say something new that changes the playing field.

On March 22, Frank Spinelli, the CSFO of Huntsville City Schools, and Dr. Wardynski’s personal friend whom he brought with him from Aurora, Colorado last August, finally decided to respond to a request that I had been making since March 7th.

Specifically, I was requesting from him a copy of the initial LEAN Frog contract for an audit that was conducted from October 2011 through February 2012. This was the audit that Wardynski claimed proved that he was a strong leader and everyone who opposed his ideas were just whiners.

This was the audit that was supposed to change everything.

Except, all it really did was allow Wardynski to redirect attention away from himself and his decision and point the finger at others.

Case in point.

You would think that asking for a copy of a contract would be a simple thing to do. After all, the second contract with LEAN Frog that was approved on February 25th is readily available online. In case you don’t want to download it, that contract was for $152,761 and is scheduled to be completed by September 25th.

A third contract with LEAN Frog was approved tonight to revamp the Human Resources department. I suspect that that contract will be posted on the district eBoards site tomorrow. We’ll have to wait until then to find out how much that contract was for, though, since there was no discussion of the costs of any of the approved contracts during the board meeting tonight.

Nope, the only person who discussed money tonight was me in reference to the first LEAN Frog agreement that covered services from October 2011 through February 2012.

According to the District’s Check Registers, the district paid Mr. Headrick of LEAN Frog a total of $28,790.00 during those five months.

Here’s a listing of the checks if you wish to look for yourself:

  • November 2011: ;$2,890.00 (Pg. 20)
  • December 2011: $5,760.00 (Pg. 25)
  • January 2012: $5,760.00 (Pg. 3)
  • January 2012: $5,380.00 (Pg. 9)
  • January 2012: $6,480.00 (Pg. 16)
  • February 2012: $2,520.00 (Pg. 10)

Since this is about 5 times less than the contract they’ve already published, you would think that they would be happy to share it with the public as required by Board Policy 102-1 Access to Information.

But no.

Spinelli decided instead to stonewall. It wasn’t until I sent my request concerning this contract to both him and the entire board of education that he decided to respond.

Here’s the text of an email that I received from Mr. Spinelli on March 22, 2012 at 6:23pm. This email was sent from Frank Spinelli (frank.spinelli@hsv-k12.org) to myself, every member of the board of education, Dr. Wardynski and J. R. Brooks, the school board attorney.

Mr. Spinelli wrote:

Mr. Winn, the district does not have any documents responsive to your request.

Also, the district had been advised by the school board’s attorney that Alabama bid law does not require bids in this type of contract, Ala. Code Sec. 16-13B-2(a)(2).

Frank

That’s right. Mr. Spinelli was telling me that the very audit that unearthed all the “incompetence” that Dr. Wardynski liked to nearly brag about, was paid for without a contract of any kind.

And evidently, there were no “documents responsive to your request” to be had covering the writing of nearly $30,000 of district checks.

Surely this is a mistake, right? Surely Mr. Spinelli is not saying that he wrote six district checks over a period of four months without a contract approving the expenditures of those funds, right?

Now, the second part of Mr. Spinelli’s email concerning Alabama’s bid law was in reference to my request to receive evidence that the bid law was followed in this contract. Unfortunately the Alabama State Code that Mr. Spinelli referenced in his response to me does not exist.

There is no code section 16-13B-2(a)(2). This is, however, an Alabama code section 16-13B-2(b)(2) which states:

Purchases made by individual schools of the county or municipal public school systems from moneys other than those raised by taxation or received through appropriations from state or county sources.

Thus, Mr. Spinelli seems to be trying to tell me that the funds that were used to pay for the first LEAN Frog audit were not actually public funds. (I don’t know this for certain because Spinelli is refusing to answer my questions yet again.)

He does not say where the money came from to pay Mr. Headrick, but I have an idea about that. Back in July 2011, Dr. Wardynski told a group of Special Education parents that he would be “getting an audit” that he would use to evaluate the special education department with. The implication was that this audit would be paid for by The Board Foundation that had “trained” him in how to be a superintendent.

I am convinced that The Broad Foundation paid for the LEAN Frog audit, and if that does indeed turn out to be the case, the “findings” of that audit should be examined quite closely. For as seen during the give and take between Wardynski and Bryon Headrick on February 16th, the LEAN Frog report was couched in such a way to make Wardynski look as good as possible as a “strong leader.”

Doing so would certainly be worth $28,790 to a man like Eli Broad who is worth hundreds of millions, wouldn’t it?

So with all this in mind, I decided to ask the board about these things tonight:

On February 25th, I began asking Dr. Robinson for a copy of the contract for the services that Mr. Headrick of LEAN Frog offered to the district from October 2011 through February 2012. Since his audit was ushering in, in Dr. Robinson’s words, the removal of “business practices that permitted fraud and negligence,” I was curious how much this new culture was costing us.

In accordance with Huntsville City School Board Policy 102-1 Access to Information, I wrote Mr. Marc Seldon to ask for a copy of the contract with LEAN Frog that allowed the district to pay him $28,790.00 from October 2011 to February 2012.

Mr. Seldon, before being placed on administrative leave, directed me to Mr. Spinelli.

On March 7th, I wrote Mr. Spinelli asking for a copy of the October to February LEAN Frog contract.

Mr. Spinelli finally responded on March 22nd to say, and I quote:

“The district does not have any documents responsive to your request.”

I wrote back to ask him how the district was able to write checks totaling $28,790 to LEAN Frog without producing “any documents responsive to my request?”

He has not responded to my questions.

And so, I’m here tonight to ask the board as I have already asked in emails that have been sent to you, how can nearly $30,000 in checks be written on the district’s checking account to a vendor without a contract?

How does this total absence of checks and balances insure, Dr. Robinson, that we are indeed changing our “business practices that permitted fraud and negligence?”

Did the funding for the October – February LEAN Frog contract come from the Broad Foundation?

As Sue Peters of Seattle asks, Why should Mr. Eli Broad have more say in my children’s schools than I do?

And finally, per Dr. Robinson’s suggestion for the kinds of questions she thinks I should be asking, “What is the impact these actions are going to have on the education of our children?”

Having a district that spends nearly $30,000 without any documentation seems to be bad for our children, don’t you think?

I, of course, received no response to these questions.

That’s right. There were no cries of outrage that I would make such ridiculous accusations. There was no denial. There was no explanation offered of any kind other than Dr. Robinson’s frustrated stares. I guess that she didn’t really want me to ask “what impact these actions are going to have on the education of our children,” after all.

What exactly is Wardynski and the board trying to hide? What could they be afraid of? Why aren’t they required to follow their own policies regarding releasing public information to the public?

It would be nice if some of the news organizations who were present tonight could ask this question. Wardynski and the board have taken to ignoring me of late.

Maybe someday we’ll get the truth.

 
Russell
"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.

8 Comments

  1. Last night a principal was hired for a High School that was later to be determined, I looked up his name and found this.

    Teachers, principals caught in fraud case
    By: Leah Fabel and Scott McCabe
    Washington Examiner
    October 18, 2009 Fairfax educators sue over alleged land scam

    Two Fairfax County public school principals and dozens of teachers they recruited into a North Carolina land deal have been caught up in what could be the largest mortgage fraud case in state history, according to court documents.

    A federal grand jury in North Carolina has been probing the massive fraud case. Teachers were left with worthless land and gaping holes in their bank accounts, according to lawsuits growing out of the case.

    Daniel Meier, principal at Fairfax’s Robinson Secondary School, and his brother Thomas Meier, principal at McLean’s Langley High School, worked with a former student, Mark Dain, to motivate investors to pay artificially inflated prices for land in coastal North Carolina at the height of the housing boom, according to a lawsuit brought by the investors. Dain was a co-founder of the now defunct Total Realty Management, based out of Woodbridge.

    The company purchased subdivisions worth approximately $150,000 before turning around and selling them for double and sometimes triple that figure, according to the complaint. The Meier brothers allegedly offered
    A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the FBI had begun a criminal probe into the deals. FBI spokespersons in D.C. and North Carolina could not confirm whether the case has expanded to TRM.

    Both Meiers are still administrators in Fairfax schools. Daniel Meier was named in the original lawsuit brought by the teachers. Thomas Meier was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but was depicted as involved in recruiting teachers.

    The company allegedly
    Daniel Meier denied all charges in a response to the complaint filed in March.

    Both Meier brothers recently filed for bankruptcy in federal court. Daniel Meier listed more than $100 million in liabilities on account of the lawsuits pending against him.

    Jill Pisner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said her clients have stopped pursuing claims against Daniel Meier.

    Both Pisner and Daniel Meier’s lawyer, Alan Shachter, said the FBI was likely not investigating Meier.

    Calls and e-mails to the Meier brothers were not returned. Teachers referred questions to Pisner.

    Dain could not be reached for comment. The teachers are still pursuing his company, TRM.

    The case has garnered huge headlines in North Carolina as a federal grand jury investigated various allegations including whether former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley got a sweetheart deal on waterfront property and helped green-light permits for the project.

  2. So im trying to understand how things are doing any different with DOUBLE STANDARDS being used and set as STANDARD PROCEDURE!…Spinelli wont come straight with REAL CONCRETE answers and makes up ARBITRARY COEDS to justify actions. WHAT THE WHAT ? Is this the Huntsville City Schools version of the Da Vinci Code / National Treasure ? COME ON GIMME A BREAK !
    And i did as “Not Impressed” did and looked up this NEW HIRE and BEHOLD …same results…..whats going on here yall????????????? Why cant the news people (as russell pointed out) say or report on something….this is as simple as typing a name into Google….and the BOARD is just waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond help now i see……. ALL THE HUNTSVILLE CITY SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE BASICALLY GONNA GET SCREWED OVER YET AGAIN !!

      1. I think the charges were dismissed. But this does call into question the board’s inability to vet the superintendent’s recommendations.

  3. ok further reading says that Meir is no longer a defendant *shrug* guess he gotta get outta jail free card from somewhere………Guess that proves its good to KNOW PEOPLE in higher places (and im not talkin God right now)

  4. Meier was dropped from the civil case after filing bankruptcy, something also missing from the report to the board.

    As for fake Alabama law and a complete lack of compliance with board policy, I highly encourage Russell to file an ethics charge against Spinelli.

  5. You have ZERO idea what you’re talking about. If you knew anything about Mark Dain you would know he never set out to hurt ANYBODY and most of the time people came to HIM begging to invest. I think it’s awful that everyone LOVED him when they were making tons of money, but let’s blame HIM that the real estate market tanked. Do you really think he’d sell those properties to his own MOTHER (who at the time had stage 3 cancer), SISTER, and FATHER if he knew what was going to happen????? Every person that is blaming Mark needs to man up and take RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR greediness! You are weak people that just want to put the blame on someone else….WOW!!!!

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