"This is another situation where you are connecting things that are not connected, then making false and misleading statements on your blog about your bogus findings.
MGO invoices have sections, such as "General", "Special Education", "Lagoons", etc. Each section of the billing shows a total charge for that section. At the end of the invoice, there is a total for all sections. It is like an invoice with an invoice.
The figure of $2810.04 I mentioned was the amount of fees charged for the "special Education General" section of the 3/5/2013 invoice. The 3/5/2013 invoice was $4,159.54, which included the $2810.04 charge for "Special Education General" plus $1,394.50 for "General".
The payment of $2813.00 for February 2013 included $1,984.50 for "General" plus $375.00 for "Special Education General" plus $453.50 for "Special Education" cases, for a total of $2813.00.
There is absolutely no correlation between the $2810.04 and the $2813.00. One number is for a section total of the invoice in March 2013 and the other for the invoice total for February 2013."
Mr. Brazeal has been extremely helpful to the Fox C-6 community in uncovering the fraud, waste and abuse that occurred in our district under our former superintendent. He is working to ensure that our district follows our policies. Policies weren't always followed in the past. Not knowing them was part of the problem.
Mr. Brazeal was instrumental in providing me with the credit card statements so they could be made public. I had asked for the credit card statements in February 2014 but was deterred from obtaining them by being asked to pay $170 to locate and copy them.
In no way were my observations of "Doctoring Invoices?" with hand written comments implying that Fox's new CFO Mr. Brazeal was involved with those hand written comments. He has been doing an excellent job of researching what occurred in the past and analyzing and documenting what he has found.
I strive for accuracy in all of my reporting of data. My incorrect connection of things that weren't connected was based on the information that was originally provided to me at the bottom of this article on January 8, 2013. I was unaware of the other details that were on the March 5 and March 20 invoices.
I have not been provided with any invoices for legal fees from my Sunshine requests to date. Having copies of those invoices would certainly make reporting on them much easier. They public record and taxpayer dollars are paying for our district's legal fees.
In fact, Fox C-6's Board of Education (BOE) approved payments of $55,891.28 at the August 2012 BOE meeting and another $48,002.01 at the September 2012 BOE meeting in legal fees to Fox's former law firm Mickes Goldman O'Toole (MGO) according to the August and September 2012 board meeting packets. I doubt that Fox's BOE ever saw or reviewed the invoices presented at the August and September 2012 BOE meeting since it wasn't common practice to do so.
Not only do I think that former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow's decision to send out "cease and desist" letters to district patrons was wrong, I also think that spending $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months to be an "unusual amount of professional legal service" for our school district.
So, why did Fox C-6 spend $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months?
That's something that I've been trying to document for years. I know that the district has spent an "unusual amount" in legal fees responding to non-compliance issues with both ED OCR and USDA OCR as well as putting two different families in our district through Due Process Hearings. From what I could determine from board packet payments, the district spent at least $125,000 in legal fees related to the Due Process Hearing that we were forced into back in 2010.
I would venture to say that district administrators don't want to freely share copies of invoices for legal services with the public when they spend taxpayer money sending out "cease and desist" letters to patrons who are critical of the district or when they spend taxpayer money related to non-compliance issues with the Office for Civil Rights.
Sunshine law allows government bodies to charge reasonable fees to obtain documents such as invoices for legal services.
Sunshine law also states that the Custodian of Records may waive the fee if it is determined that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the school district and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
Charging fees to obtain documents is one way that Sunshine law can be abused in order to hide the activities of a school district. Most citizens aren't willing to pay hundreds of dollars of their own money in order to expose questionable behavior and spending in their school district.
I asked the district to waive the $170 fee they wanted to charge me to obtain the district credit card statements in April 2014 and the district (Dianne Critchlow) refused. The public knows now why Dianne Critchlow didn't want district credit card statements made public.
The same thing has gone on for years related to the amount of money that the district's been spending on legal fees related to non-compliance issues with the Office for Civil Rights. Dianne Critchlow doesn't want the public to know how much money has been wasted on legal fees simply to avoid doing what it was obligated to do by law. The amount of legal fees spent in trying to get around the law is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding as to why our district and many others don't want to write 504 plans. That's why I asked the district to waive the fees.
The media can afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Sunshine Requests. However, the media hasn't tackled the big issue as to why our district fought so hard to avoid writing a 504 plan and fulfill their Resolution Agreement with ED OCR and avoid a District Wide Compliance Review from the Office for Civil Rights. Taxpayer dollars have been used to pay the attorneys to keep ED OCR and USDA OCR at bay for years. Just how much money was spent is only an estimate at this point since I don't have copies of the invoices. But, that amount is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
District Policy 0360 documents the use of a School Attorney. The question is whether or not former superintendent Dianne Critchlow advised the board when the district spent $103,893.29 in legal fees in just 3 months in 2012. Would you consider that an unusual amount of professional legal services?
District Policy 0360 - School Attorney
The Board recognizes that the increasing complexity of School District operations frequently requires procurement of professional legal services. Consequently, the Board may employ an attorney and/or law firm for purposed of systematically securing such services. The Board shall prescribe the duties, compensation and term of service for the attorney and/or law firm. It shall be the duty of the council to advise the Board and to make recommendations concerning specific legal problems submitted.
A decision to seek legal counsel or advice on behalf of the School District shall normally be made by the superintendent or by persons specifically authorized by the superintendent.It may also take place as a consequence of formal Board direction.
Many types of legal assistance to the district may be considered routine, and may not require specific Board approval or prior notice. However, when the administration concludes that unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required, the Board directs the administration to so advise it, and to expeditiously seek either initial or continuing authorization for such service.
Now that you're aware of board policy and why I've been asking for copies of invoices from Fox's former law firm dating back to 2008 brings me back to the Sunshine request I made more than 3 months ago. My Sunshine requests and information from this blog have led to many other Sunshine requests from the media and others which takes up district time. If district administrators had followed the Character Traits they so heavily touted, perhaps there wouldn't have been a need for people to make Sunshine requests.
I'm glad that Mr. Brazeal decided to do some research into the legal fees related to the "cease and desist" letters. The costs related to the "cease and desist" letters is minimal compared to the cost of Due Process Hearings and filing appeals with the ED OCR and USDA OCR and responding to monitoring letters year after year.
Mr. Brazeal stated the following in his response:
The events related to the “cease and desist” letters were troublesome.Mr. Brazeal pointed out in his response to me that board meeting minutes documented that I mentioned the "cease and desist" letters during my Public Comments at the March 19, 2013 board meeting. I explained to him in a response to his January 8 email that my "cease and desist" letter was sent out in August 2012 and that he would need to review invoices from 2012 to find the cost of my "cease and desist" letter and that my comment at the March 2013 board meeting was a general comment concerning the use of "cease and desist" letters.
Below is a portion of what I told Fox's Board of Education during my Public Comment at the March 19, 2013 board meeting regarding the Cease and Desist Letters:
I think it is very important for the community to know that using taxpayer dollars to send out cease and desist letters to individuals in the community who voice their concerns at board meetings and in the community is unacceptable. It is also very unacceptable for individuals who are very well in the know of actions being taken by our administration prior to them even being public to be making slanderous comments about individuals in online forums anonymously. Well, actually they use a variety of different names all within minutes of each other but spreading the same message. This type of conduct will eventually lead to the dismissal of educators within our district if proven to be who everyone now believes to be the person or persons posting these messages.It's definitely interesting to see what I had to say back then knowing what we know now.
I highly recommend reading my March 19, 2013 Fox C-6 board meeting report article. That article contains the full text of my Public Comments made at that meeting.
What's interesting is the fact that Mr. Brazeal's research found an invoice dated March 5, 2013 for $2,810.04 with the following 3 entries:
- 2/5/2013 EGT-Correspondence from Dr. Dianne Critchlow regarding proposed correspondence to District patron
- 2/5/2013 EGT-Review/revise proposed correspondence to District patron
- 2/26/2013 EGT-Correspondence from R. Herman, attorney, regarding cease and desist correspondence
It appears that my comment at the March 19 meeting must have caused concern about using taxpayer dollars to send out cease and desist letters because MGO sent Fox an invoice the very next day on March 20, 2013 as noted by Mr. Brazeal listing the same 3 entries from above regarding proposed correspondence to District patron with a "star" by each of the entries and a note at the end of the invoice stating "changed to No Charge".
And, in order for the public to believe that the district wasn't charged for the Cease and Desist letters an article appeared in the Post Dispatch on March 23, 2013 with the following remark:
"The letters did not cost the district anything extra beyond its regular contract with the firm.”So it appears that, the "cease and desist" letters DID cost the district $2,810.04 until I expressed my concerns at the March 19, 2013 board meeting about using taxpayer dollars to send out "cease and desist" letters to silence district critics.
It was certainly strange how an updated invoice appeared the very next day?
Another interesting quote from the March 23, 2013 Post Dispatch article was the following from former Fox C-6 Superintendent Dianne Critchlow.
“You don’t have the right to make up lies and defame someone’s character,” Critchlow said.It was certainly an interesting comment for Dianne Critchlow to make considering the content of the online comments that were traced back to her home during that time period. Her comment is a true statement. However, I think she was hoping that everyone would think that the lies and defamatory statements were coming from her critics and not from district administrators.
Everything Has To Be Verified
For years I've had to verify everything I was told by some of Fox's administrators because many times the information was false.
A "cease and desist" letter sent to another patron on February 12, 2013 but was noted in the information that I was provided surrounding the "cease and desist" letters. There's no mention of it on the March 5, 2013 invoice.
2012-2013 Check Payments to MGO
Below are the payments made to MGO for the 2012-2013 school year gathered from Fox's board meeting packets. As you can tell, Fox C-6 spent a lot in legal fees during the 2012-2013 school year: $145,064.80
12/13/2012 - $3,762.00
12/20/2012 - $5,840.00
02/14/2013 - $2,813.00
04/09/2013 - $3,480.50
06/11/2013 - $3,838.50
How much did it cost the district to send out a Cease and Desist letter to me in August 2012 when the district spent $103,893.29 in legal fees between July and September 2012?
It's going to take some time to discover just how much money was wasted in legal fees by Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her assistants.
Brazeal's Legal Fees Research
The events related to the “cease and desist” letters were troublesome. I spent some time today reviewing those events. I have the following observations in date order:
1. A MGO invoice dated March 5, 2013 includes the following entries:
a. 2/5/2013 EGT-Correspondence from Dr. Dianne Critchlow regarding proposed correspondence to District patron
b. 2/5/2013 EGT-Review/revise proposed correspondence to District patron
c. 2/26/2013 EGT-Correspondence from R. Herman, attorney, regarding cease and desist correspondence
2. MGO apparently billed the District on an hourly basis, however, their invoices do not include any time on task data nor any hourly rate for services data. In any event, the March 5, 2013 MGO invoices shows a fee of $2,810.04 for professional services rendered, which includes the three items shown in Item 1 above. The $2,810.04 fee was paid in full. MGO receipted the payment on 3/18/2013.
3. The minutes of the March 19, 2013 BOE meeting indicate you made a statement about the “cease and desist” letters.
4. A MGO invoice dated March 20, 2013 was issued with the identical listing of professional services as the March 5, 2013 invoice. The three entries enumerated in Item 1 above remain listed on the March 20, 2013 reissue of the invoice. Beside each of the three entries there is a hand-written “star”. On the last page of the invoice there is more handwriting consisting of a “star” followed by the words “changed to No Charge”. The invoice amount is reduced to $2,535.04. Since the 3/5/2013 invoice was already paid, the payment of $2,810.04 (receipted on 3/18/2013) is recorded, thereby creating a $275.00 credit balance on the 3/20/2013 invoice.
5. A March 23, 2013 Post Dispatch article authored by Leah Thorsen outlines the letters well, and includes this text: “The letters did not cost the district anything extra beyond its regular contract with the firm.”
Just an FYI…...