Friday, November 09, 2007

Minions of the Light: The good news is that the back-room-Star-Chamber policy making has moved on to the public podium during board nights. That's what the last board meeting proved. It was a show that exposed the Minions of Darkness in all their sooty tints.

Griffin and Valdes have broken through the veil of secrecy that has covered up the board and administration's back-room dirty deals in contracting and in hiring. On the horizon may be payoffs and graft. That was the scenario at HCC when I was union president there.

We union members negotiated the contract and countered administration moves against members ourselves. That's what CTA should do in the schools. Teachers should kick out the overpaid CTA staff that works for Ms. Elia, not teachers, and appoint committees to do the union's work: teachers working for teachers.

The lawyer, Mr. Gonzalez, weighed in on the side of status quo. He volunteered his comment as I recall. He just jumped in.(On reviewing the tape, I see I am mistaken: Ms. Cathy Valdes invited the attorney to comment before all the board members weighed in. His comments were after those of the board members and hence strategically effective because of the last-to-speak position. The attorney was distinctly in favor of the status quo, emphasizing the diffiulties of changing to a bid system. I thought his comments came down too hard on how difficult it would be to bid instead of the current system of naming people whom the administration or board knows or to whom they have some connection.)

I have asked for public records to see what Mr. Gonzalez's remuneration is, whether he got his appointment via good-ol-girl-boy influence (see previous post), and what he got paid for presiding over the trial and appeal in the crucifixion of Doug Erwin. I want to know why lawyers, accountants, and realtors are not liable to bids.

I want to nail down whether Le Gonzalez enjoyed the no-bid situation he endorsed so spiritedly on the podium because he got his job and keeps it by giving legal backup to the status quo of the administration's crooked bid deals and hiring with the board's rubberstamp. A Florida Bar ethics query may be necessary.

I find strange that while Edgecomb, Olson, Kurdell, Lamb, and the attorney all sang the praises of spending tax money blindly on no-bid contracts and--by extension--no-advertising administrative jobs with bloated salaries from the public kitty, the same board--including Susan Valdes and Griffin, their education's not yet being then complete, alas--endorsed Elia's plea for budget crisis when she piled another class on teachers when the board allowed her to savage teachers in her sneak attack. There is no budget crisis when paying for no-bid contracts for buddies and bloated salaries for administrators who owe their slots to cronyism.

Two teachers showed up to complain about the burdens they bore. They both sounded dispirited. I think the board except for Valdes-Griffin is immune to such teachers' pleas. Candy says teachers are lazy. Ms. Edgecombe is protecting her administrator-daughter's future administrative climb to the top of ROSSAC is my guess about her determinedly innocuous performance as a board member. Kurdell is dormant until election time, when she wakes up to vote as Elia directs and to accuse people who don't agree with her of distrusting the staff. Ditto for Lamb. We have here board potted-plant zombies sunk into the corruption of the cronyism that marks the status quo. The only answer is to replace them.

I believe Faliera pulled a psychosomatic syncope and escaped via ambulance to the hospital to avoid voting on hiring Cathy Valdes's acquaintance choice (see what La Gaceta uncovered about him below) for a $158,000 contract without the bids that Griffin and Valdes demanded. Faliera's personal and professional life is a mess--not to mention her keeping U-Haul in business with her peregrinations between districts in the dead of night.

I am going to look at Cathy Valdes's personnel file. I bet her bona fides are slender; Elia hired her with no advertising is my understanding.
Here's what La Gaceta printed yesterday:

Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2007 19:11:59 -0800 (PST)
From:"lee decesare" View Contact Details  View Contact Details Add Mobile Alert
Subject: press somnolence,,, "Howard" ,,,,,
Mr. Tash, get that little twerp who devoted a column to mooning over Jennifer Faliera (Hooper?) to check out this "consultant" situation; have the rascal find out what connection Cathy Valdes has with him. Does the school administration have to become a full-fledged racket before the "mainstream" press wakes up?

Has the mainstream press surrendered its duty to keep citizens informed? No wonder the blogs will bury the old stream press. lee drury de cesare

From La Gaceta:
Optimum Facilities isn't listed in the phone book, doesn't appear to have a commercial location, has no website, doesn't answer its phone during business hours and its phone message doesn't mention the name of the company, personnel or hours. We left a message to ask if this was the firm's first job but received no return phone call. To us, it appears that it is the firm's first job. It looks like Blackwell's friends at the district are helping him start up his business with this contract. Well, isn't that nice, especially since Mr. Blackwell was never that nice to contractors who tried to do business with the district. He would have never allowed a startup company with no track record to have a no bid contract.

lee drury de cesare

The Wall seems to be hibernating, but the TB blog ( is going great guns. Here are some excerpts of the comment section:

As a school teacher, I see plenty of waste in the school district, both at the school level and the administrative level. If each school, and the district staff create a committee of teachers and such to see where expenses can be cut. At my school, for instance, we have two non classroom teachers that make in excess of $50,000 that are basically glorified secretaries. Why? Also, why do we need to buy technology and classroom supplies from only a selected group of vender's when their products are so much more expensive. For instance, if we wanted to buy markers for the classroom, we can go to target and buy them much cheaper (50 cents at the start of the school year), but we can't! We must buy them from Office Depot at a much more expensive price!

I can go on for a while on this subject! Don't get me started on the waste of electricity at the schools and downtown offices!

The following is from

I see more bad news with this sentence:

"The district even could offer financial rewards for good ideas."

This reminds me of the stereotypical wife after a shopping spree where she spent more than the budget allows on "sales" and then says to her husband "But look how much money I saved". And then she complains that her husband doesn’t bring home enough money and that is why there is a budget problem.

Perhaps the Board could show the way. It appears that some Board members see their role as simply rubberstampingfont> recommendations that are presented to them. Unless a member’s comments are accolades of what a good job the recommendernt> did, any hint of discussion is interpreted as untrustingnt>. It would be great if each member made a comment that demonstrated their comprehension of the money they are spending. If they can’t, then why bother to have approval power. Just let the recommender> do it and move on.

What is the purpose of a Board meeting? Is it to discuss the business of the school system? Is it to discuss education? Is it to make a public display of how grand everything is?

well they might start by getting rid of all the useless deputy, assistant, associate superintendents, district directors, teachers on special assignment, former over the hill administrators with consulting contracts (all of whom play little to no roll in the education of students).

Believe me, these large school districts have plenty of bacon to be cut.
What's fantastic is, they're caught in a tightening vise which keeps squeezing.
As the state budget continues to tank and the legislature is forced to cut more spending, the class size amendment restrictions keep phasing in.

Add to that the likely passage of the January 29thnt> tax cut referendum and you've got a real problem if you're a school district fatcat>.

What's a bloated bureaucracy to do?

The beauty of the situation is the district is forced to cut administration because they can't touch the classroom.

You guys didn't really think they would spend the excess money on the kids did you?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

School Board Meeting November 6th

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Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2007 09:40:10 -0800 (PST)
From:"lee decesare" View Contact Details  View Contact Details Add Mobile Alert
Subject: Re: public information
To:"Linda Cobbe",,,,,,,,,,,,,

Ms. Cobbe: I don't think so. I have the compensation of a city attorney down the beach in a town accused of tolerating sexual harassment listed in my files, but I don't find Mr. Gonzalez's. However, your efficiency in these matters exceeds mine, and I stand ready to be corrected.

I also want to see the Gonzalez contract with the schools. I assume it outlines his duties to the board. You have that don't you? If so, if it is not too long, could you duplicate it, send it to me, and bill me?

Is there any reference you know of in which I can discover the professional duties and ethical parameters of a school-board attorney in the state of Florida? Give me that too, pray. Also, I want to see the file containing the firms' applications that applied for the school-attorney job in competition with Mr. Gonzalez. That must be around still in storage.

I want to discover if Mr. Gonzalez benefit-ted from the system he defended at the board meeting last evening.
If Mr. Gonzalez's were the customary school-board-administration-acquaintance-relative- buddy-sycophant referral, is there a record of who in the school administration or on the board made the referral? Additionally, do you know what position in the schools' system the guy getting the contract without a bid for $157,000 from Ms. Valdez's office held before retiring?

This contract passed 4 to 2 last night, the pro side's getting a spirited quasi-legal advocacy from the board attorney for continuing the system of handing out contracts to buddies, acquaintances, sycophants, and hangers-on instead of bidding out contracts.

The attorney volunteered comment at the end of the board discussion as I recall. He eshewed the blandishments of lowest bidder in the hallowed system of school-board-buddy-acquaintance-sycophant awards; he pooh-poohed taxpayer-money economy with a hey nonny nonny, giving the heft of his legal gravitas to continuation of the incestuous auld-ange-syne status quo of what Ms. Edgecombe invokes as venerable "institutional memory."

The attorney frightened everyone. People are scared of attorneys. They fear they are revving up to sue them, and they usually are. Anybody who doubts this should read Dickens Bleak House and Pickwick Papers. These are not so much literature as indictments of the ethics of the legal profession.

Mr. Gonzalez is possessed of other intimidating attributes besides his lethal attorney status. The guy's big. I would not engage in the rhetorical barbarity of saying he is as big as an ox. But I will say that he is not much smaller. Mr. Gonzalez also has a stentorian Clarence-Darrow voice in which to deliver his animadversions with cadences of echoing inevitability that would put Demosthenes in the shade.

In short, Mr. Gonzalez is a man to whom one should give wide berth. I know I do. I shake in my Manolos every time I step into a room with him. I stutter like a child when speaking in his presence despite my senior vintage.

But enough of fear and trembling.

On the next board meeting date, I will come in before the meeting to review Ms. Valdez's employment file. Did Ms. Elia hire her? Was her job advertised? If so, I request to see the applicant finalist file. Thank you for your help with these public records. lee

Linda Cobbe <> wrote:
Lee - Didn't I send you the compensation information?

Linda Cobbe
External Communications Manager
Office of Communications
Hillsborough County Public Schools
901 E. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33602

813-272-4510 FAX

Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications (including e-mail) to or from public employees are public records available to anyone who asks. Your e-mail communications and your e-mail address may therefore be subject to public disclosure.

lee decesare <> writes:
Mr. Gonzalez:

I asked Ms. Cobbe for your firm's remuneration last year. She said she didn't have information but that you did.

Could you tell me how many people are on your legal team for the schools at the firm. What is the total remuneration your firm received from the board work last year?

You handled the Erwin case, I infer. What was your firm's total remuneration from the case including the appeal work?

Everybody on the board keeps saying "make a motion." Can't you tell them that one moves something and does not "make a motion"?

lee drury de cesare

lee drury de cesare

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday Epistle to Board Member and Potted Plant in Good Standing as Elia's Board Girlfriend Candy Olson

Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2007 12:08:43 -0800 (PST)
From:"lee decesare" View Contact Details  View Contact Details Add Mobile Alert
Subject: school board monkey biz as usual,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

From Marilyn Brown column, Tampa Tribune: “Veteran board member Candy Olson said, ‘I think you have to balance how much time you want to spend with the potential competitive and potential savings are. I think we have a lot more important things to do.’"

Ms. Olson:

The above excerpt comes from
Marilyn Brown's story on the bizarre bid process that allowed Ms. Luney to hire a buddy for the cushy wellness job on the taxpayer’s dime, for Ms. Elia to approve it post facto, for the board to rubberstamp it on Ms. Elia’s orders as usual--all despite the plethora of wellness factotums already on board. The public-affairs office says the job got no advertising.

I infer La Luney’s onomatopoeic surname coincides with her brain power. Her quotes were some of the looniest I have heard come out of the administrative playground. It seems she makes $130,000 tax dollars a year to engage in such fun-and-games larking at taxpayer expense and has been doing so for a long, smooth administrative career as a principal until Dr. Lennard recruited her—no advertising of the position, of course—to whatever she does now in the administrative funny farm of incompetent administrative dimwits.

I believe La Luney’s behavior models the “institutional memory” lore about which Ms. Edgecombe caterwauls without knowing what the term means. Such administrative skullduggery endorsed by the potted-plant board comprises the schools’ institutional memory as far as I can tell.

Pray at the next board meeting when the wellness mess comes up explain to the public what things are "a lot more important" than exploring a corrupt hiring system, the subsidizing of a dumb administrator for $130,000 a year, and, to top things off, an expensive-to-the-taxpayers featherbedding buddy job added to the pay roll in an area in which a plethora of personnel now exists.

I would also like to know what instructions Ms. Elia condescended to give you board potted plants on the wellness-hire vote in her zeig-heil debriefing that precedes each board meeting at which the superintendent hands down to board members their marching orders on how to vote on the podium and whether they can chew gum.

Did any board member rouse him- or herself from Stockholming coma to ask whether the district needs yet another wellness factotum or whether the job were advertised? Did any board member invoke the rights of taxpayers to more board scrutiny of such cockamamie proposals as is this wellness-consultant scam?

This whole mess-up would not have not gotten one question from the board had an alert reporter not done the board’s homework and put her research in the paper. Then, board members feared they looked bad, incumbency arose in their consciousness, and they issued muffled disclaimers or tardy indignation.

I also comment on your perpetual name-dropping of
South Tampa.

One would think that area was the only section of the county you represent. When I looked at the board-member map, I was surprised to see you represent as well some of the poorest areas of the county. Why don't you ever mention them, and why don't you spend some of the time you consume on the podium in your frequent unconscious-train-of-thought-ramble-of-chit-chat-
on-the-Meaning-of-Life-and-other-odds-and-ends of important stuff that bore people out their minds to talk about the needs of the poor areas in your district?

Do you consider any show of concern for other than South Tampa MacMansion dwellers as slumming?

One supposes so. One infers you want to be on record—and frequent record at that-- as having only connection to or concern for people in your district likely to receive an invitation to join the pirates-and-rapists celebrants of Ye Mystique Krewe, who march down Bay Shore liquored-up in bespangled pirate droopy drawers that bag low and contain nothing. The Mystiques present the tackiest strutting of faux social superiority to ever come down the pike, with members' being but two generations away from sharecropping and pellagra.

Lee Drury De Cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708.