Sunday, October 5, 2014

Quote From 2013 - "We're Not Hiding Anything!"

While searching for information from some of my older articles, I ran into the following article from March 2013. This was during the scandal of hiring former board member and board president at the time, Linda Nash's daughter in law, as Fox's Food Nutrition Director. Amongst all of that fiasco, Fox finally started posting the board packets on the district website for the community to download and review. This hadn't been done in the past even though I had been asking for them for almost 2 years. The board packets contained the bill payments that were approved by the board each month.

The first time I attended a school board meeting was in December 2010. As I watched the meeting unfold, I wondered how the school board was able to approve the bill payments without having any time to look at the bills. Especially if they just received some of the bill payments in their Late Materials at the board meeting that night.

I found out later that typically the board packets were sent to the board members the Friday before the board meeting for them to review. It included the bill payments for the month that they were going to vote to approve at the meeting the following Tuesday. However, not all of the bill payments are sent to them before the meeting. Typically there would be another round of bill payments that are presented to the board when they arrive at the meeting that night. There's really no time to for board members to review all of those payments right there at the start of the meeting. Therefore, the board is having to approve payments blindly because the information is provided to them just before the meeting.

Depending on what checks are slated in the early bill payment presented ahead of time verses what's presented at the meeting makes it pretty easy to pass off expenses that someone may not want the board to scrutinize as much. This is especially a concern after when your superintendent tells you "We're Not Hiding Anything!". That's what prompted the article I wrote in March 2013. You have to read the article to see what I'm talking about with regards to the bill payments.

Board member John Laughlin began going to the school to review bill payments after I brought up this issue a couple of years ago when I was getting charged for board packets. John also made sure that I no longer got charged for obtaining the board packets after he found out I was getting charged.

It's easy for everyone to criticize the board as a whole. But, there were 7 old school board members until John Laughlin was elected in 2011. There's no telling what Critchlow told the the newest "outside" member of the board that things were great and there's no need to question things. I'm sure that my questioning of things was easily dismissed by Critchlow. She had been doing that for years at board meetings during my Public Comments and in her email responses to myself and the board. As she recently was quoted, "Trust me".

Board Packets Posted Online - NO Bill Payments
Finally after nearly two years, the district started posting board packets on the district website but they left the bill payments out of the packets. Why did they leave out the bill payments? That was the whole point of posting the board packets in the first place. I had to pay obtain the board packets per my Sunshine requests prior to the district posting them online for free. However, the district only provided me with the board packets dating back to April 2010. The district wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars to go and research and copy the board packets prior to that date. Charging lots of money for documents is an easy way to deter someone from obtaining the information and should always throw up red flags.

Critchlow wanted to charge me $170 for the credit card statements for the 2013-2014 school year. This was her way of keeping the statements from the public. The same thing was done for the board packets prior to April 2010. Since then I even asked several times for those prior board packets to be posted to the district website and Critchlow refused. I think the community should press to get those documents posted on the district website knowing what we know now.

Prior to the April 2010 date there was most likely quite a bit spent on attorney fees with all of the time and money the district put into preparing for a Due Process Hearing that was held in May 2010. I've made a recent Sunshine request for copies of all of the invoices from the former law firm dating back to 2008. When I first requested this information a couple of years ago it was going to cost several hundred dollars to obtain. Just remember that Critchlow wasn't trying to hide anything.

Check out the article below and read the response from former board member Ruth Ann Newman as to why the district didn't publish the bill payments when the district first published the board packets on the district website in 2013. I have the exchange of emails with the board and the responses I received.

It's hard to believe Dianne Critchlow's statement of "We're Not Hiding Anything!". It's especially hard to believe after reviewing the credit card statements and finding out that she had district purchased property at her home and had to be asked to return it.

Critchlow never openly provided the credit card statements to the school board. She just asked the board to approve the charges as a whole each month by asking the board to approve the bill payments that included checks to the credit card companies. The board shouldn't have had to ask to obtain the credit card statements. Critchlow as the superintendent should have been providing them to the board each month per school board policy like they do in many other school districts.

On the flip side, our school board should have asked to see the credit card statements since many of the statements totaled between $50,000 and $300,000 or more each month. The words Due Diligence comes to mind.

It's going to take quite a while for the auditors and the district to dig through all of the charges and receipts to find out what was purchased and paid for by the district that the district might not have in it's possession. More things might still be at Critchlow's house. It was something that was easily done.

I certainly hope that the district and the state audit reviews all of the charges dating back to 2005 when Critchlow started as superintendent. We need to recover as much taxpayer money as possible.

Read the article from 2013 by clicking on the link below to see if you think former superintendent Dianne Critchlow wasn't trying to hide anything back then.

Fox C-6 Superintendent Says: "We're Not Hiding Anything!"