Spinelli Resigns Receives up to 180% Raise

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On September 20, 2012, Dr. Wardynski announced that with the board’s unanimous approval of the Human Resources report, Mr. Frank Spinelli had resigned as the CSFO for the district. He would be leaving the district immediately due to family situations in New York City. There was some speculation, much of it started by Dr. Wardynski himself, about why Mr. Spinelli would resign after just 13 months on the job. Now we know.

Spinelli Receives a 180% Hourly Raise for Four Years

Mr. Spinelli resigned on September 20th, at least in part so that his company, Cadre Consulting, Inc., could be hired on September 21, 2012. Assuming that Mr. Spinelli is the one offering the consulting to the system, he could earn up to $175.00 per hour offering advice to Mr. Jason Taylor, the district’s Finance Director and acting CSFO upon Mr. Spinelli’s departure on the 20th. That hourly rate represents a 180% raise over his hourly rate of $62.5 while he was the district’s number three employee in terms of salary.

Here’s a copy of page two of the Temporary Agreements that were unanimously approved on September 20th, by the board without discussion.

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As you can see, line 13 shows that a consulting service, here spelled, Cadri Consultant would “provide consulting services to the Chief School Financial Officer beginning on September 21st and running for the next four years. These services would be paid for out of the General Fund at a rate of up to $175.00 per hour, and this company would report to the Superintendent.

At first, this seems innocuous enough. Just one more consultant group hired by the Superintendent to do the work of district employees. It seemed fairly typical until I reviewed what Dr. Wardynski had to say about Mr. Spinelli when he was praising his incredibly short tenure as CSFO.

Here is a transcript of what Dr. Wardynski had to say:

When I arrived in this school system, we were 19 million dollars in deficit. And uh, today we are 9 million dollars in surplus. The majority of that distance that has been covered is due to our chief financial officer Mr. Frank Spinelli. Uh, tonight the board as accepted his resignation. Uh, in June, Mr. Spinelli notified me that he would need to be spending a considerable amount of time away from Huntsville City Schools due to situations involving family members in situations in New York. And I asked him to help us get through the remainder of the summer. And to bring on a new leader, which is here before me, Jason Taylor, whose run finances, uh chief of finances since June. Frank, uh, spent several days each month back here helping us. Burned up a lot of leave and came back and helped us, uh, get the folks trained, to do the budget, and get ready for end of year. And so Frank will be missed as well. He’ll be at Mr. Taylor’s disposal going forward. So as of yesterday we announced the position of Chief Financial Officer. And in the interim, Mr. Taylor will be our chief of finance. Of course if he seeks to stay in that position he’ll be chief of finance if he seeks to compete for chief financial officer, uh, he’s welcome to do that as well. So two losses to our district. Two people who made us stronger, but two people who importantly laid a foundation. And when you’re a leader, you see yourself as a transitory person. And your job is to prepare the way for the next set of leaders. And both of these individuals have done that. So they’ve laid a foundation so that we don’t go back. We build on that, and we go forward.

Two points caught my attention in Dr. Wardynski’s comments: first, he claimed that Mr. Spinelli “burned up” a lot of leave from June until September traveling back and forth between Huntsville and New York City.

Burning Through A Lot of Leave

Assuming that his leave package is similar to other education administrators in the state, at the most he would have earned approximately one day a month of sick leave and up to five days per year of personal leave. Thus he shouldn’t have had more than 13-18 days of sick leave (5 days of personal leave would have converted to sick leave on his anniversary, and an additional 5 days of personal leave. Being out regularly from June to September would have burnt through a lot of leave considering he would have likely accumulated just 23 days in the 13 months he was employed. But the second point was more interesting.

Spinelli to be at Taylor’s “Disposal Going Forward”

Wait a second. If Spinelli has resigned, how exactly is he supposed to be “at Mr. Taylor’s disposal going forward?” That seemed, at the time, an extremely strange comment to have made. Surely if Mr. Spinelli is leaving due to family concerns as Dr. Wardynski claimed, he wouldn’t want to be at Mr. Taylor’s beck and call “going forward.”

But when I saw the Temporary Agreements report from that night, and noticed the four-year contract offered for Consulting Services for the CSFO, I began to wonder.

Spinelli Currently Consultant with Cadre Consulting

Here’s a screen capture of Mr. Spinelli’s LinkedIn Wall from October 2nd. As you can see, he’s recently updated his employment information to show that he was previously employed by Huntsville City Schools, and that he is currently employed by Cadre Consulting, and (interestingly enough) United Cerebral Palsy of Huntsville & Tennessee Valley, Inc.

UPDATE: For the record, he is listed as a Board Member for UCP of Huntsville rather than an employee as it is listed on his LinkedIn page.

UPDATE: I have received the following information Tracy Cleniewicz, the Development Director of UCP who writes: 

Mr. Frank Spinelli was an unpaid, volunteer member of the Board of Directors for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Huntsville & Tennessee Valley, Inc. Mr. Spinelli requested a temporary hiatus from his board duties in June for personal reasons and, as a result, became a non-voting member and was not required to attend bi-monthly board meetings. Mr. Spinelli submitted his official resignation from the board in early September, which was reviewed and approved by the UCP Board of Directors at the Sept. 24 meeting.

I wish to clearly state that it was my intention to neither be critical of UCP or Mr. Spinelli for his involvement in UCP. I was merely pointing out that according to his LinkedIn page he was still affiliated with this local organization. As that has been shown to be incorrect, I will remove any reference to his being currently affiliated with UCP of Huntsville from the post. I believe that Dr. Wardynski’s statement that he would be available to the future CSFO is sufficient to demonstrate that he is the representative of Cadre Consulting for the district at a rate ranging from $85-$175/hour in either case.

[By the way, one of the better definitions of Cadre is: “a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party.” So, Spinelli is moving from one Cadre, to another, and then back again. Apt, isn’t it?]

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That’s strange. Mr. Spinelli, who needed to “burn through his leave time” traveling to New York City over the summer to handle a “family situation” was evidently going to have enough time to continue his work as a board member with the HCP of Huntsville & Tennessee Valley.

And then I noticed it.

Cadri Consultant/Cadre Consulting: Separated At Birth?

Mr. Spinelli is a “Consultant” with Cadre Consulting, and for some unusual reason he has been since 2009 – Present (3 years).

Really, you’ve got to wait a second. I thought that Mr. Spinelli was an employee of Huntsville City Schools for at least 13 months of those three years? Was he moonlighting? Did he have the Superintendent’s permission to continue his employment with an outside consulting firm while working for the district?

And what about that name? Cadre Consulting is remarkably similar to Cadri Consultant, isn’t it? And since Dr. Wardynski clearly stated during his remarks on the 20th that Mr. Spinelli would be at Mr. Taylor’s “disposal going forward,” and since Mr. Spinelli is still on a board of directors here in Huntsville, well then it seems reasonable to assume that the spelling issue on the Temporary Agreements for September 20th is just a typo, right?

An Honest Mistake

Surely that wasn’t an attempt to hide the fact that Mr. Spinelli is still being paid by the district despite his resignation, and not only still being paid, but at a minimum he (or someone in his company) is receiving a 36% increase in hourly salary. At the most, that hourly salary increase jumps to 180%.

And it would further seem that the “going forward” part of that deal is expected to last for four years.

Oh yeah, Mr. Spinelli’s original contract with the district was for three years. In other words, not only is he receiving a raise, but he’s also receiving a two-year contract extension.

So now our district, which supposedly cannot afford to even consider reinstating our teachers’ STEP raises that have been frozen since 2011, can suddenly afford not one but two CSFOs.

Friends Of Casey

It truly is good to be friends with Dr. Wardynski, isn’t it. He’s quite generous with taxpayer monies where his friends and supporters are concerned.

It’s a shame that he doesn’t consider teachers and students who are struggling in ever increasing class sizes because “we just cannot afford to pay for teachers” to be his friends.

Please keep this in mind the next time someone tells you that we just simply cannot afford to give our teachers even a 1% raise every four years. Our district can certainly afford to give raises; they’re just picky about who they give them to.

And teachers don’t count.

I wonder if Spinelli went ahead and factored his new raise into the district’s 2013 budget that the board approved on September 4th? I wouldn’t bet against it.

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

22 Comments

  1. There’s lots of smoke here and a lot of insinuations, but I would like to see some more meat on this story before I get my blood pressure up about it.

    As for Spinelli’s “raise,” consultants regularly charge high hourly fees because they (or the consulting firm they work for) have to cover the costs of their benefits. If you add in the cost of Spinelli’s benefits package with HCS — health insurance, personal & sick leave, etc. — it is likely that his net pay as a consultant will be no higher than what he was making as a direct employee.

    The question then becomes: How many hours will he be putting in for HCS once the new CFO is hired? If Spinelli is essentially working fulltime for HCS while the system is also paying a salary for a CFO, that is a legitimate problem. Why would we pay for two CFOs? If, on the other hand, his advice is only occasionally needed for specific issues, that’s not such a big deal. Defense contractors do this all the time: A top engineer retires, goes to work as a consultant, and is brought in by his old company from time to time to work on specific technical issues.

    Again, I want to know more about this before I get worked-up about it.

    1. Thanks Ben. If you don’t think there’s a problem and if you don’t wish to get worked up over this, that’s fine. I’m a firm believer that everyone should make up their own minds about a subject.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      Yes, consultants make more than employees. Yes, defense contractors do this all the time. Yes, the number of hours that the consultant works will matter. I have no problem granting any of that to you.

      But for me, this still smells (and I think it smells when defense contractors do it, too, but that’s not my issue). And so I wrote about it.

      If it doesn’t smell to you, you’re more than welcome to disagree with me.

      I want to know more too. I believe that more will come to light over time.

      1. I didn’t say it doesn’t smell, only that there isn’t enough known yet for me to come to that conclusion. I would prefer to reserve my outrage for known issues, not just suspected ones. One very reasonable possible explanation for most of the facts you have reported is that Spinelli has legit family issues in New York he needs to attend to, but the school system didn’t want to lose his expertise and institutional knowledge (as in my defense contractor example). So HCS gives him a consulting contract to ensure the system can call on him when required to ensure a seamless transition to the new CFO. Makes sense to me, if that is what is actually going on.

        I’m quite sure you will be on top of this issue and will dig deeper to get more info. If and when you come up with evidence that something underhanded is going on, then I’ll react accordingly.

  2. “Here’s a copy of page two of the Temporary Agreements that were unanimously approved on September 20th, by the board without discussion.”

    This is why there is a lot of “smoke and insinuations”. This is what happens when there is no transparency and taxpayers have to depend on non paid bloggers for information.

  3. Russell, thanks for all of your hardwork in bringing forth the truth and uncovering smoke screens. YOU are appreciated!

  4. Oh, and one more thing: Thank you for digging into this. Holding public officials accountable is a good thing, and goodness knows the local media isn’t interested in reporting this stuff. I do wish you would dial the outrage meter back a bit so that you could be more effective, but that’s your business. Regardless, I appreciate the fact that you are bringing this stuff to light. Even if it turns out to be nothing, at least Wardynski will know that someone is looking over his shoulder.

    1. Thanks Ben.

      I really do appreciate your point of view on this. Yes, it could easily be nothing. I don’t think so, but it could be. And that needed to be said.

      So thank you for saying it. 🙂

      r

    2. I’ll see what I can do about the outrage Ben.

      I do try to incorporate a little sarcasm occasionally . . . and I did take out the “What the F.O.C?” line concerning Friends of Casey . . .

  5. Mr. Frank Spinelli was an unpaid, volunteer member of the Board of Directors for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Huntsville & Tennessee Valley, Inc. Mr. Spinelli requested a temporary hiatus from his board duties in June for personal reasons and, as a result, became a non-voting member and was not required to attend bi-monthly board meetings. Mr. Spinelli submitted his official resignation from the board in early September, which was reviewed and approved by the UCP Board of Directors at the Sept. 24 meeting.

  6. Most citizens know most nonprofit board appointments are non-paid positions with the appointees’ goal of working to help obtain donations for the organization. With that said we should be mindful of our appointee we select to serve. There are many upstanding persons that are grounded in this communtiy willing to serve and not serve themselves. While setting the record straight understand there are donors and potential donors on this page and it is donation season.

  7. I believe just about all of us are in agreement with you Smiley. I also carefully read the update/correction early yesterday morning spelling out “board membership.”

    1. Indeed. Mike Culbreath has earned my thanks and respect. (It’s hard to believe I can write those words about a school board member elect, but after this, I can.)

      I couldn’t believe that McCaulley had then nerve to claim that others on the board had questions about the deal.

      There was not one single question raised publicly about this four year contract when they voted on it. Not one.

      It would be truly wonderful to have a board filled with people who actually ask questions rather than claim that they ask them after the fact.

      1. From the al.com article:

        “McCaulley said she also had questions about the contract, and she met with Culbreath who told her he wanted to make sure everything was above board when he was sworn in on Nov. 5. He told her he had consulted the Ethics Commission. “As an individual he has that right. He’s not a board member yet,” she said.”

        Look at those last two sentences. Is she REALLY saying that once Culbreath becomes a board member he WON’T have the RIGHT to consult the Ethics Commission??????

        1. This is what jumped out at me from the al.com article

          End result: “We severed all ties,” said board President Laurie McCaulley “Even the days (Spinelli) worked, he said he wouldn’t bill the system for it.”

          So the questions are, did they sever all ties then give him a contract, or, did they give him a contract then sever all ties? Either way sounds fishy to me.

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