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There is a in search of a new pope, and a few slighlty more important “religious” considerations post today at goodmorningfloridakeys.com.
Meanwhile, Larry Murray replied to the schools part of yesterday’s rumbles in Key West – school district and new pope selection post …
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2013 12:51:48 -0800
Subject: Re: SD rumbles
Richard Nixon had his “Saturday Night Massacre”. I guess Mark Porter has his Friday Night equivalent.
While I’m as interested and surprised as everyone that Porter has finally taken some decisive action, I am equally interested in “Plan B”. That is, it is very easy to fire someone, technically “nonrenewal”, but how do you run a business with lame ducks? When I was in management, I never let anyone go in a key position unless I had the replacement in the wings.
Of course, I would never try to run an operation with lame ducks. When you are fired, you are fired. Clean out your desk and go. Were I Porter, I would have done what FKCC did with Jill Landesburg-Boyle when they decided her time was up. They sent her home with full pay and said that they would call her if they needed her. Unhappy, if not disgruntled, employees can be very dangerous. The price of paying their salaries to do nothing pales when compared to the damage they can wreak.
I can’t wait to hear Porter’s plan for replacement, particularly Gentile. Is his last day April 15 or June 30? Were it I, I would bring on someone immediately, someone with school district financial experience, a retiree perhaps, on a 90-120-150 day contract to maintain smooth operations. Additionally, someone needs to do the response to the Auditor General, correct the problems identified by the AG and begin budget preparations, not to mention maintaining day to day operations.
I do not envy a new Finance Director, short or long term. Whoever comes in will still be at the mercy of the staff, none of whom have demonstrated particularly high skill levels. If a new Finance Director expects to be successful, like Porter, he/she will have to clean house. That will take some intestinal fortitude. The alternative is more of the same and thus guaranteed failure for the new person.
This is but the first shoe to drop in a school district that resembles Imelda Marcos’ closet.
PS: Cheryl Allen is the longtime Director of Human Resources. Why she was included with Gentile and Kinneer, I do not know. As you note, Andy Griffiths called for Gentile and Kinneer’s heads at the Finnegan’s Wake forum, but made no mention of Allen. I think we all know why Gentile and Kinneer are being made to walk the plank, but I think Porter owes the public some explanation for including Allen among the “dead men walking”.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
Hi, Larry -
I agree, lame duck employees should be avoided. But that’s what we have in the wake of Mark Porter’s Friday evening announcement. Otherwise, I figured you would be jumping for joy, given your longstanding calls for firing Ken Gentile and Michael Kinneer. Maybe Cheryl Allen was too close to Gentile and Kinneer, and she became a casualty by association. Maybe Porter knows something about Allen he is not saying. As CEO, he doesn’t need to state his reasons for not renewing management employees’ contracts. I don’t see he needs the School Boards approval, either. Not renewing contracts is a lot cleaner than firing, and makes it harder for the dismissed to prevail in lawsuits for breach of contract, civil rights violations.
I hope Porter has replacements waiting in the wings. If I were him, I would have tried to get Kathy Reitzel to come back. I would have offered her back pay and a BIG APOLOGY, and a good salary. She was the School District’s Finance Director. She knows the terrain. She knows the people. Hiring her back would go a long way toward encouraging School District employees to come forward when they know something is amiss in the School District. I imagine that would be far more effective than having an “internal auditor”, which is what Gentile was hired by the School Board to be. Perhaps Kathy could replace Gentile and Kinneer? Certainly, she knew more about the District’s finances when she was fired, than Gentile and Kinneer knew when they were hired.
On the Horace O’Bryant K-9 cost over runs, unauthorized change orders, contractor’s bonuses, in yesterday’s Keynoter:
Board convening panel to prove school construction
By SEAN KINNEY
Posted – Saturday, March 02, 2013 10:15 AM EST
With the $36 million reconstruction of Horace O’Bryant Middle School in Key West bogged down in Monroe County School Board criticism of contract change orders and cost hikes, Chairman Andy Griffiths on Tuesday called for an all-day fact-finding session.
Griffiths said the closed-door session would include board member Ed Davidson, Audit and Finance Committee member Stuart Kessler, Superintendent Mark Porter, Director of Operations Michael Kinneer, HOB Principal Mike Henriquez, contract construction manager Bill Sprague and representatives from general contractor Coastal Construction.
Might be a good idea to have a representative from the teachers union there, don’t you think? And, a representative from, hmmm, the State Attorney’s Office, and, hmmm, the Keynoter and The Key West Citizen?
The board is in the process of retroactively approving change orders that were authorized without their OK. That violates board policy that requires amendments costing more than $25,000 be considered at a public meeting.
Also under scrutiny is a 60 percent-40 percent contractual arrangement between the district and Coastal respectively, splitting “savings” on project costs.
Davidson has questioned whether the more than $600,000 in the contract deemed savings represents a decrease in costs for material and labor, or simply omissions.
“The exact reason to have such a committee is do this kind of detail work and then report back to the School Board on the findings,” Griffiths said.
He’s shooting to have the committee meet sometime between the March 12 and April 9 board meetings, and defended his decision to have the meeting out of the public eye:
“I have to consider all the alternatives to do the public’s work,” Griffiths said. “My opinion … is that sometimes you have to let people let their hair down and let the fur fly. That sausage-making is ugly. I don’t think there’s anything sinister going on.”
I bet Ed Davidson ain’t convinced there’s nothing sinister going on.
Davidson said his likely process is “interviewing people involved in the change order mis-processing, then analysis and follow-up interviews, then reporting out findings with documentation when the investigation is complete.”
He said that would avoid “half-baked results that might impugn someone’s integrity in the press…. It is quite likely that there will still be plenty of documented and substantiated impugning in due course, and with due process.”
Schools critic Larry Murray has derided board members via e-mail over the meeting being closed to the public.
“To conduct such an investigation in the dark as opposed to the sunshine is, at best, a very bad idea,” he wrote. “While the board may have received advice from counsel that to do so is legal, that does not make it either right or a good idea.”
School District attorney Dirk Smits said he will attend “to ensure compliance” with state laws regarding public meetings. “It must be fact-finding only. We are to learn only and then bring what we learn to the public.”
To conduct this inquiry in the dark, guys, is like winking at your sister; you and she know what is going on, but the public doesn’t and assumes the worst.