Well, tonight was an eventful night of political payback at the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education meeting.
AMEX Payments “More than Any Other School System”
First, they heard a presentation from American Express thanking them for using the district’s AMEX card so much. Robert McManus stated, “You guys process more payments than any other school system in the U.S. that I’ve been able to find.”
In fact, we use the American Express to pay for vendors so much that AMEX has paid the district $35,000 in incentives based on last year’s transactions.
This seems wonderful, a good way to save money, until you realize that by using the AMEX card rather than simply writing a check to a vendor, it makes it much, much easier for the superintendent to hide what we’re paying to certain vendors.
You see, the district is required to publish their check registry for every month. You can go look on the website right now and look through the check registry for yourself without asking anyone to be allowed to do so.
However, there is no requirement that the district publish the monthly itemized report on the website for what they pay for using the American Express card. Thus, it makes it much, much easier for the district to hide payments to venders.
Now this wouldn’t be an issue except for, “you guys process more payments than any other school system in the U.S.”
So as you can see from the picture of the July 2014, we’ve written American Express 8 checks in the month of July for “Accounts Payable.” (We’ve written one additional check in July on a separate sheet in the amount of $5,345.84 for “Out of State Travel.”)
Those 13 checks come to a total of $614,584.66 for the month of July alone.
And the only way you can find out to whom that money was paid is to request a report from the Finance department and hope that they consider you worthy.
This is just one more way for the superintendent to hide the amount of money he’s paying to “vendors” every month. But hey, at least we got paid $35,000 to give up transparency.
If you would like an example of how much easier it is for the district to hide financial information, take a look at the difficulty that even Elisa Ferrell has had with getting information concerning the amount we’ve paid T&W Operations. As of this morning (Friday, October 3rd), even Ms. Ferrell has not received an accurate accounting of how much money we’ve paid T&W Operations.
If you’d like to try for yourself, you may contact Mr. Jason Taylor, CSFO, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 256.428.6851. I have, in the past, received reports and information from Mr. Taylor. However, as we see above with the data he gave Ms. Ferrell, verifying that information is difficult even for a potential board member/Wardynski supporter.
UPDATE Two: (10/3/2014)
The Check Register for August has now been posted. For the month of August, we have made 7 “Accounts Payable” payments for a total of $1,823,795.10. Anyone else think we have a problem here?
Blair and Robinson, as Lame Ducks, have decided that they know better than anyone, including the newly elected school board members, what’s best for the district. And what’s best for the district is to expand Dr. Wardynski’s contract for one year to June 30, 2017, and to make this new contract “auto-renewing” or “evergreen” as Robinson called it.
An auto-renewing contract means that the board will never again have to vote to extend the superintendent’s contract. From this point forward, the board will never have to extend the superintendent’s contract again. It will automatically renew unless the board votes to not renew.
She and Blair both claimed that doing this was “common” and that many other districts have such a contract, but of course they offered zero evidence for this. Robinson again claimed that they are doing this “to simplify the work of the board.”
That’s right. We need to make the board’s work simpler.
Birney alone questioned this proposal stating that the “lame duck” board members should allow the newly elected board members to make this decision. But Blair response that the new board members will take a while to get up to speed, and that “we know best.”
This new contract will be voted on in two weeks with no opportunity for public comment on the issue before the board votes (because they limit citizens’ comments to three minutes after the board has completed its work, once a month). If you wish to have your voice heard, you should, according to Blair, contact your board member privately.
That way, your board member can completely ignore your opinion without consequence.
Citizens’ Comments to be Limited to Huntsville Residents Only
Again, Blair and Robinson were busy tonight telling the city that they just do not give a damn what anyone thinks, they’re going to do whatever they want. And what they, and Wardynski, want is to shut up Terri Michal, a resident of Madison, Alabama who has expressed concern about the direction of education in this town.
Tonight the board voted to alter their Standing Rules so that a non-Huntsville resident cannot speak at the Huntsville City School board meetings. They will, of course, make exceptions for pretty much anyone that they want to make an exception for. Topper Birney was completely alone in his opposition to this decision. Both McCaulley and Culbreath voted along with Robinson in favor of this solution in need of a problem.
As justification for silencing public opinion, Blair and Robinson had this to say:
Here’s a transcript:
Blair: You know. We try to be as liberal as possible about letting citizens’ comments without it, uh, interfering with the business of the board.
Robinson: And that’s the key piece. This is, this is a public meeting, but it is not a meeting of the public. We have business to take care of and there was a point where our citizens’ comments were interfering with our ability to do the business that we needed to do.
Mr. Blair, you have, in your time as president and vice president done everything you can to eliminate the voice of the public. You have even berated the press for paying attention. It would seem that you are in desperate need of a dictionary so you can look up the meaning of the word liberal.
And Dr. Robinson, bless her heart, is claiming that she is so easily distracted, she is so easily interfered with, that she just cannot abide having a citizen stand and speak for three minutes (and yes, they will cut you off), at the end of one typically three plus hour Board Meeting, once a month.
Speaking for three minutes interferes with Robinson’s ability to do her business.
Hey look, Dr. Robinson!
Yes, this woman has the nerve to claim that a three minute comment, once a month, that has always happened after the board meetings are over, is interfering with her ability to do her work as a board member.
And now she wants to be a city council member.
Hopeless. Utterly hopeless.
Why Are They Doing This?
Well the answer to that question is crystal clear. Mr. Blair and Dr. Robinson feel compelled to give Wardynski a parting gift before they leave the board behind forever. So they decided to
- Make it harder for anyone, including board members, to see how he’s spending the district’s money;
- Make his contract “auto-renewing” because they want “to simplify the work of the board; and
- Silence the public from speaking out against Wardynski even more.
I suppose that they felt they owed him some payback for his help with their current and future campaigns. The opinion of the public on these matters be damned.
Lame Duck #hsvboe just gave W their parting gifts of the keys to do whatever the hell he wants, whenever he wants.
— Russell Winn (@russwinn) October 3, 2014
Please remember that Robinson is running in a run-off election on Tuesday, October 7, 2014. She wants to take this same disregard for the city and the public to our City Council. Please tell her it’s time for her to go home.