Friday, April 25, 2008
Continuation of the Erwin Legal Files
The auditorium at Durant filled with water and we ended up with what was almost equivalent to a swimming pooi in the auditorium that had to be corrected.
Specifications called for solid doors, instead we got hollow doors throughout Durant. It was a tremendous cost and maintenance problem to change those. I was told by Maintenance East that in a short period of time we had over 2000 maintenance request for that facility. I understand that we did get a little bit of money to cover some of that but just recently a million dollars was allocated to attempt to fix the air conditioning.
Mother situation is right after that building was built, at Sickles 115, the same incident occurred with the doors. It was discovered after the fact, I learned in staff today, which is October 23, 2000. That issue was discussed. Mr. Blackwell said that nobody would hold the
contractor responsible simply because he may go bankrupt if we did this. I’ve heard this story too often.
Similar story exists at Walker Middle School where we received a terrible construction project that was late and needs painting and has all kinds of problems. I guess I’ve covered about as much as I can at this particular time Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t know why we have the construction problems we have but it’s just obvious to me there are problems.
I’m tired of sitting in staff and trying to find creative ways to present the problem or in my terminology, I sometimes call it finding creative ways to just to present the real truth. I think the entire situation needs to be looked at and if nothing else, changing the way we do business.
I have told the Superintendent and others I don’t ever want to go to a selection process if I’m going to be told that it doesn’t make any difference - that other factors based on who people know and who they’ve supported politically will get the work - then continue to see some of the poor products that we’re getting.
A good source of this information to look at the products that we have gotten is my Air Conditioning and Special Projects Departments. Clay Ward in Special Projects, just today, sat in staff (October 23, 2000) and talked about problems associated with Wharton HS.
As I said, these problems have not gone away. I hope with the risk I’m taking in revealing some of these conversations that appropriate action will be taken.
Doug Erwin, General Director of Operations
> Hemy Ballard:
Dr. Edwards hired Henry as Supervisor of C & E. Dr. Edwards shared with me what a disaster C& E had been and the problems Henry caused.
He also stated that a promotion to Construction Inspector had to be given to Henry to get him out because of Henry’s
close relationship with Ms. Barrington and Mrs. Reddick. Henry had problems in his new position and Dr. Edwards then asked that I try to find ajob for Mr. Ballard in
I was unsuccessful in my attempt. Henry created problems throughout Maintenance Operations. Dr. Hamilton became Assistant Superintendent of Operations and moved
Henry back as Supervisor of C & B. Dr. Hamilton said that he didn’t expect that Mr. Barrington or Mrs. Reddick would run for re-election and Henry could then be dealt with.
Mr. Barrington and Mrs. Reddick have now been re-elected. Jack Davis is now Asst. Superintendent of Operations and also feels nothing can be done because of Mr. Ballard’s political connections.
Henry’s tenure in C & F has in met expectatopms. It is my
understanding now that Henry is going to be given a substantial raise and moved again.
> Joe Deese:
Joe was reported as smoking crack cocaine in a maintenance truck miles from his designated work site. He tested positive for cocaine. Joe is now an Air Conditioning Trades helper at Benito Middle School.
> John Werner, Jr.:
John had a problem at the bus garage. He was transferred to our Grounds Department by Human Resources.
> Leonard Limehouse:
Very bad work record in Sites & Utilities (See attachment). Transferred to Grounds.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The team tha...":
Carol Kurdell and Candy Olson were both school board members when Erwin made these allegations. Why didn't they read these reports and investigate them? What were they doing? Do those two want children to get hurt if a school colllapses? How can those two live with themselves allowing this to go on in the school district and then allowing this man attempting to expose the criminal behavior get the shaft? Both Kurdell and Olson should resign. They must be horrible human beings to let such a thing happen when people's children will be taking classes in shoddily built schools!
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Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 5:29 PM
C:board members Doretha.ethridge; candy.olson;april griffin;Jennifer Faliera; jack lamb; Susan Valdes, carol Kurdell
Subject: What about the administrators and school boards?
If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.
-- "A Nation at Risk" (1983)
Education Lessons We Left Behind
George Will Washington Post April 24, 2008
Your column displays obtuse customary kick at teachers’ unions as major cause of what’s wrong with education.
It’s clear that you nor other pundits who deliver this same old argument about teacher unions’ demanding higher teacher salaries as major cause of failing education have done no recent research.
What about administration salaries and administration greed and mediocrity?
In Hillsborough County, the superintendent got her job through politics as the inside candidate who would continue the gravy train for administration insiders and board incumbents. She bamboozled a somnolent, complicit board, but its members cooperated in hiring her not because they thought that she demonstrated concern for education or that she was an exemplar of it but that she was an advocate of administrative greed and power hunger.
The board lowered the Ph.D. requirement to Ms. Elia’s master’s from an undistinguished institution so that she could take the job away from Ph.D.s who applied from first-rate universities with distinguished careers of varied experience and publishing.
Besides not being able to punctuate and write beyond junior-high level, Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia is greedy and power mad.
She makes $300,000 a year despite her deficiencies, the highest superintendent salary I can find on the Internet. She augments her salary by taking a “performance bonus” for the work teachers do to raise student scores to bloat her salary even more.
The teacher’s union that you cite as the major problem to excellence in education eked out only $34,000 starting salary for teachers while the part-time school board voted itself over $40,000.
When I objected to this circumstance at a political meeting, Board Member Dr. Jack Lamb screamed at me that he didn’t want to hear from me ever again. This outburst came after he had taken an oath to defend a citizen’s Constitutional right to approach public officials for redress of grievances.
With board collusion, Ms. Elia hires sycophantic, highly plaid administrators with early childhood degrees to fill slots that should have professionals in them. She does not advertise these crony bloated-pay jobs with the board’s acquiescence, equal opportunity and academic excellence bedamned.
When these crony administrators can’t do their jobs, the board rushes in pricey tax-paid consultants to teach them what they don’t know, which is mostly everything.
None of the administrators are interested in education. They are interested in their pocket books and how to raise their salaries even higher. They use their boss as role model for this yen.
The bullying superintendent imposes decrees onto teachers without consulting them while the board pares its cuticles. She forced teachers to accept a grade-inflation scheme so that her performance would look better; she has most recently bought a gim-crack education do-dad for over three million dollars a year that abandons text books for the faux learning of an industrially-produced Skinner-box thing-a-ma-jig that makes money for producers, leaves students bereft, and gives Ms. Elia another bonus for student recruitment.
This Spring fraud on education has proven in other places to be a bust. The board, of course, sat by and didn’t ask if Ms. Elia had consulted teachers on this Spring gimcrack revolution teachers must carry out in the classroom. Only after the local Tampa Tribune editorialized against the state of affairs did one board member make the tardy suggestion for a workshop, which was closing the barn door after the critter had escaped. Ms. Elia has already signed the deal while the board snoozed.
This too-late “workshop” will be a fraud for show to propitiate the press with hope it looks elsewhere so that the board, Ms. Elia, and her early-childhood-degreed myrmidons can get back to managing the schools so the students get the worst education possible and so that Ms. Elia and her administrator crew get as much money as possible leeched from the taxpayers.
Ms. Elia and her myrmidons never consult teachers. They treat them with contempt if they dare come to the board to let the board and administration know their views. Ms. Elia considers teachers not professional educators but her class-room field hands whose existence makes possible her control over a lot of state money to bloat her salary and to buy the intoxication of abuse of power which her psyche requires.
To solve her problems at the beginning of this school year, Ms. Elia sprang an extra class on high-school teachers that takes away their planning time and latitude to sponsor student clubs among other things.
This extra class has produced a lot of tired-out teachers who can’t do their best by students because of fatigue and low morale. These teachers are the heart of the school system that never get an invitation from the board to come and share their insights and never get a say in how Ms. Elia runs the schools because Ms. Elia is Captain Queeg.
If a teacher gets out of line to the point of criticizing Ms. Elia’s tyranny, the Professional Standards office steps forward with a manufactured case against the teacher to terrorize him or her with the threat of job loss.
The school board, supposed to be Ms. Elia’s boss, is her puppet. Its members pose as ceremonial potted plants on the board dais when not lollygagging around Tampa attending community functions so that they can preen as benefactors of education. They don’t visit schools. They don’t even deign to respond to parent pleas for meetings.
One board member, Dr. Lamb, refused to meet with parents in his district to discuss a boundary change but never misses Chamber- of-Commerce breakfasts to chat up how powerful he is with the other piney-woods mandarins of the town. Dr. Lamb’s conduct shows that board members have little interest in education but a lot of interest in amour propre.
The elected board signs off on every one of Ms. Elia’s outrages and salary boosts while the graduation rate and the minority students’ performance plummet. Yet the board Web site touts its allegiance to “excellence in education.”
The single black board member, one Ms. Edgecomb, is an Aunt Tom who never mentions black children’s dilemma in the schools. As Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in An American Dilemma, Ms. Edgecomb is just glad to have made it out of the Black ghetto into whitey’s world. She participates with enthusiasm in the state’s double dipping of pension- and-salary largesse, making over $90,000 a year of tax money in a system in which children come to school ill fed, ill clothed, and too poor to buy supplies they need to participate in class projects.
The next time you do an education column, Mr. Will, don’t report stale research. Expand your research into how the hordes of featherbedding, concupiscent, minimally-educated, greedy administrative parasites injure education.
Come down to the Bay Area to do your research on the Hillsborough County board and administration.
Travel to some of the Florida school administrative bureaucracy’s back-to-back conferences staged at posh hotels and paid for by unsuspecting taxpayers. You will find there throngs of C-student minds with “PhDs” from diploma mills like NOVA, which allows its matriculants to escape with advanced degrees after letting slide theses packed with grammar-punctuation errors, not to mention risible writing and logic.
Concentrate on the supine, complicit elected boards such as those in Hillsborough County, which lie to the taxpayers about candidates’ devotion to education to get elected but in office continue this evil system that betrays students. It is one that rots from the top and prevents children from getting a good education so that they can compete in the world they will face when they exit the auditorium with their often worthless diplomas.
Lee Drury De Cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
Sentence from your essay today:
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada.
Those commas, a retired teacher and once president of the faculty union explains, are redundant. The “measured” past participial phrase is restrictive. It modifies “determinant,” which is the cited standardized-tests measure, not that of some other metric.
You need some new research, Mr. Will. Your analysis is dated. Come on down!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Debra: I was sorry to find this paper below lying on my research desk when I walked into the public-affairs office this afternoon. I hoped the court would accept your case.
Is it too too grand a case that frightened the court? I don't know anything about the law here, butcouldn't your attorney submit a more modest but less philosophical case by hitting the administration in its attempt to take a way your teacher's license and thus depriving you of the ability to make a living?
APR—21—2008 14:02 T.S.& S. P.002
Supreme Court of the United States
Office of the Clerk
Washington, DC 20543-0001
William IC. Sutor
Clerk of the Court
April 14, 2008 (292) 47930h1
Mr. Thomas M. Gonzalez
Thompson Sizemore & Gonzalez
One Tampa City Center
201 North Franklin Street, Suite 1600
Tampa, FL 33601
Re: Debra A. Satchel
v. School Board of Hilisboro County No. 07-8841
Dear Mr. Gonzalez:
The Court today entered the following order in the above-entitled case:
The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.
William K. Sitter, Clerk
Meeting is at 4:30 p.m. at Bart Birdsall's house--Bart of the infamous trashing by Kipley egged on by Elia, the guy who fought back and who lived to tell the tale. Join us. Everyone is welcome.
home (813) 258-8817
cell (813) 362-7937
Continuation of the legal files of the Doug Erwin case:
There are also other problems that we’ve experienced in new construction. The roofs have consistently been problems on both old and new buildings. In order to solve these problems, it was recommended by an outside group (one of the people on that committee was Bill Shields who talked to me several times about some of the mistakes he feels we are making in roofing.) that we hire a roofing consultant to monitor our roofs while they are being built.
That position was given to Mr. Blackwell to fill. Mr. Blackwell did not fill the position. We continue to experience roof problems and I requested that the position be transferred to me and I’d be given permission to hire a person. Again that was based more than anything else, on a conversation with Mr. Shields urging that we do this. I thought that I was going to be able to hire for that position and advertised then was told by Mr. Biackwell that he may need that position. We still have many roof problems. We still don’t have a consultant or expert to monitor roofing projects.
The wall strictures have been serious problems. We still have excessive amounts of cracks and water intrusion through the walk A few examples of schools that were really bad when I first cn in - Hunter’s Green and Mlntz Elememtary. At Mintz there was water intrusion in more than 90 percent of the classrooms. Hunter’s Green was not much better, Valrico, - I could name school after school that has water intrusion problems.
Paint failures thoughout the district. Walden Lake has been painted four times now and needs to be painted again. I see new schools that we’ve occupied this fall, and I have already been asked to go look and see that it needs painting - Davidsen Middle School, for exainple. We have paint failure at Wharton and Sickles, wrestling with both of those at this time; also wrestling with water intrusion in those places We’ve had excessive problems with fire alarms and other mechanical devices in our new facilities. I don’t think we could name anything that there hasn’t been more problems than there should be. I understand that there will always be problems. But I don’t understand the number of problems we experience and the continuation of these. I understand value engineering but when you value engineer, then you expect price to possibly come down significantly - I have not seen that. I have seen quality decline, If we are doing everything we are doing and making the mistakes we are making, in the name of economics, we need to reevaluate and provide a facility that is safer and longer lasting and provide better quality for our youngsters.
I’ve heard other discussions, or been part of them in Operations Staff meetings, and I’ll give a couple of examples of those. Blake 115 — we kept looking for ways to hold down costs (Grounds would do work, we did the community planting, and other things) still, in spite of that, I heard constant conversation of the excessive cost of that building. All parts of the building: the grounds, athletic facilities, auditorium, gymnasium, stadium mall costs combined were extravagant. A plan was developed by Mr. Blackwell and was presented to the board in order for it to look better publicly the cost of the building was figured on a square footage per student space; however, Mr. Tom Blackwell admitted in staff that he figured things that the state did not allow.
He counted buildings other than classroom space and space other than what was allowable to make it look better than what it was in terms of cost per square foot. When questioned by Dr. Hamilton: why this had been done, Tom Blackwell made a statement that concerns me greatly. Mr. Blackwell stated, “Well boss, you’ve always said if the Superintendent’s fired, we’re all gone. If the public ever finds out the total truth about the cost of this building and what is going on there, we could all lose our jobs.”
We were paying more but it didn’t seem to me, that we were getting a better facility. As an example, the building looks great with the brick, but according to Mr. Harry Howard, who confirmed what I had already been told by our safety office, the building only meets minimum wind resistance because there is no block in it. It’s a brick structure but it does not have an interior block wall, which weakens the entire structure. There are other problems we have experienced within that building, particularly with the fire alarm. The issue is why would Mr. Blackwell make that statement? Why would we not supply honest information to the board, honest information to the public?
Had a similar situation at Riverview MS where we had substituted the cement pillars for H-beams. It was my understanding by the conversation between Mr. Blackwell and Dr. Hamilton that the metal H-beams were an inferior product so far as stability goes and that they did not cost the contractor anymore, but we paid a significant extra amount to allow the substitution. The only excuse that I heard given was that we would get the building sooner. At that point I asked a question, “Well if I understand this correctly, the building is not as strong as it would have been, the construction is not as good as it would have been, and we’re paying extra to get a building early that we should get on time anyway. As a result of getting the building earlier, that means it would be an additional savings to the contractor?’
We did not leave staff with an answer to why we were paying extra money other than it was to be presented to the board as a credit and that we would get the building sooner. I told my wife that I wanted to watch the Board meeting that night, and as I watched the Board as we got to that item, Mr. Newsome commended the staff on the savings that we had provided and the good job we had done. I still don’t understand how we were commended for that Maybe I misunderstood the whole concept. Maybe I misunderstood the whole conversation. That’s certainly a possibility because I’m not an expert in construction, but WI did understand the conversation as I thought it was presented between Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Blackwell, and if I understood the answer as I felt it was given to me when I asked the question, that’s what happened.
Also, I don’t understand that often we will find a serious flaw in a building or something that hasn’t been completed and no one is held responsible at all. Other times if they are held responsible then there is a limited amount of money we receive versus the actual cost of the project.
Again, I go back to Durant MS. The cost of that facility did not go down but the quality did. If the information I received is correct, we were to have four major AC units and we ended up with three, which limited the capacity. You will find in the report, cooling capacity shortfalls in many of our failing systems. Not only that, we were supposed to have insulated ductwork at Durant - we had none. As a result of that there was sweating, which soaked all the ceiling tiles, which fell in, and caused air quality problems.
The auditorium at Durant filled with water and we ended up with what was almost - equivalent to a swimming pool in the auditorium that had to be corrected. Specifications called for solid doors, instead we got hollow doors throughout Durant. It was a tremendous cost and maintenance problem to change those. I was told by Maintenance East that in a short period of time we had over 2000 maintenance requests for that facility. I understand that we did get a little bit of money to cover some of that but just recently a million dollars was allocated to attempt to fix the air conditioning. Another situation is right after that building was built, at Sickles 115, the same incident occurred with the doors. It was discovered after the fact, I learned in staff today, which is October 23, 2000. That issue was discussed, Mr. Blackwell said that nobody would hold the contractor responsible simply because he may go bankrupt if we did this.
I’ve heard this story too often.
Similar story exists at Walker Middle School where we received a terrible construction project that was late and needs painting and has all kinds of problems. I guess I’ve covered about as much as I can at this particular time Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t know why we have the construction problems we have but it’s just obvious to me there are problems. I’m tired of sitting in staff and trying to find creative ways to present the problem or in my terminology, I sometimes call it finding creative ways to present the real truth.
I think the entire situation needs to be looked at and if nothing else, changing the way we do business. I have told the Superintendent and others I don’t ever want to go to a selection process if I’m going to be told that it doesn’t make any difference - that other factors based on who people know and who they’ve supported politically will get the work - then continue to see some of the poor products that we’re getting. A good source of this information to look at the products that we have gotten is my Air Conditioning and Special Projects Departments. Clay Ward in Special Projects, just today, sat in staff (October 23, 2000) and talked about problems associated with Wharton 115. As I said, these problems have not gone away. I hope with the risk I’m taking in revealing some of these conversations that appropriate action will be taken.
Doug Erwin, General Director of Operations
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
New Construction aspect of the Operations Division
Since I’ve become General Director of Operations and besides that, Director of Maintenance, I’ve been made aware of many problems associated with new construction projects. I have personally looked at many of these and listened to maintenance employees, and situations have been discussed in staff I’ve never made an accusation of anyone stealing from the district but I do have great concerns about some of the conversations I’ve listened to and the end products that we’re receiving. I think that since I’ve been in this position that I have seen some progress, however, I still have great concerns and I’d like to cover each of those:
I would like to start with the Land purchases - I’ve discovered that many of our schools are built on trash dumps, some in areas of high concentration of phosphate and we have to monitor the gasses that are being released from these. I’ve heard Dr. Hamilton state at least ten times that Mr. Kluso is correct in many of his accusations that he has made regarding building and land purchases. Durant High School comes to mind, in particular, where our test by state standards has failed and we have to have a local environmental engineer review. We did get them passed again this past year. Another concern with our purchases of property is that we seem to continue to buy land that is extremely wet.
Then we sit in staff and discuss how we might appropriately locate the building on the property. After the building is built we consistently experienced standing water and water that seeps into the building and gets floors wet and creates air quality problems. I have been a part of discussions in the Operations Division Staff meetings, as recently as approximately one year ago where we first purchased a piece of property. I am not sure exactly which one it was. From the conversation, it could have been possibly new Tampa area where we were trying to determine after we purchased it if it was buildable because of the wet lands. A plan was made to have the land evaluted during the driest time so we could use it.
There was concern expressed about the school board being aware of the price we had paid and the partial property we had really gotten. This continues to be a concern, I understand that it is difficult to find property to build schools on, but if we’re going to build schools on property that’s going to create possible air quality or health, life, safety issues lbr our students we need to take a close look at this.
The next issue I’d like to address, which is also Health, Life, Safety issues, is the AC and the water penetration of our buildings, whether it be through the roofs or through the walls.
Shortly after entering my position as Director of Maintenance, I was made aware of a number of Air Quality problems that existed throughout our school system- A couple of examples of these are Gaither and Bloomingdale High Schools. The original AC was put in those two schools prior to me being in the position I’m in today and actually the second AC system was placed in those schools prior to me being here.
However, I was told that the second installation cost the district approximately 12 million dollars and we still had serious Air Quality issues in both schools and we were hiring two full-time outside consultants to be there at the site to try to monitor the air quality. Since that time it has been a continual problem. We’ve had to do extensive, additional work at both sites as recently as early October. I was still getting complaints of AQ problemsI
would go to the designated area. Normally, before they got to the designated school that they were being paid to install the phones, they would go by a drug dealer and purchase marijuana, cocaine, and other items. The gentleman, I believe, was telling the truth. He was very, very scared and needed help getting out. I reported all this information to my superiors and to security. The gentleman was fired that gave me the information.
On October 18, 2000,1 met with Oscar Westerfield, Steve Rough and his partner, Fred. I don’t know Fred’s last name. Mr. Westerfield is a former FBI agent who was hired by the school system. They all felt that ample evidence had been presented to bring about prosecutions in both investigations.
Doug Erwin, General Director of Operations
(3reenfleet Garage was responsible for maintenance of our vehicles. The first thing I noticed was that our vehicles were in terrible and unsafe conditions. Greenfleet is an extension of the bus garage, which is a bigger operation that takes care of all the school busses in Hilisborough County.
They did an inventory and discovered that we were short over $50,000 in parts and I discovered that we were paying excessive bills for work to be done.
Idid research on an old truck with a blue book value of $600. We had spent over $42,000 in repairs including three new engines for that vehicle, in about a 2-year period. I also witnessed new tires being replaced with new tires. When I checked on the situation I was told by the person putting on the tires, that these were out of round, and had to be replaced. However, we were billed for 6 new tires.
I made my boss, Dr. Hamilton, Assistant Superintendent, aware of this. He chose to close that operation and told me to find an outside repair service temporarily.
In that transition, Richard Applegate, who was his chart of Greenfleet operation here, was transferred to the bus garage. He came and talked to me and said he didn’t want to go there. He stated that what I was seeing here was just very small in comparison to what was happening there and he knew all the theft that was going on, knew who was stealing and everything about that. I reported this. An investigation of the bus garage did occur. I was told by Dr. Hamilton that he felt that millions were stolen in that operation, however, after the investigation, which was done by Mr. Westerfield, a former FBI agent, and our security department, no one was prosecuted to my knowledge.
One gentleman got fired (Robert Delgado). I was told by our security and Mr. Westerfield, he probably bad less to do with it than anybody. I understand that he has a lawsuit going on at this time. Dr. Hamilton also told me that there was a reporter that the school system might have to hire that had gotten too close to the truth on that situation because we not only had problems on that end (on the receiving end of purchases) but the purchasing department had problems. Both of these departments are directly under Dr. Bookman who is Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance.
Dr. Hamilton did not make any accusation that Dr. Bookman had stolen anything, but simply because so much had been stolen and two departments which were involved directly under him, could lead to the Superintendent. That could cause problems. At that time they did make personnel changes in the bus garage.
Another area I was requested to look at, even though it was not under my direct supervision, is C & E (Communications & Electronics Department). It was running out of money quickly and receiving very poor service. The first thing I discovered there was similar to Greenfleet operation. We found one school that had repairmen supposedly go to the same repair job 17 times. We found multiple duplicate billings.
Also a gentleman by the name of Mr. Schaf came forward and tearfully confessed to me that a company was dispatching work out of the C & E office and the lady that was working with that company was being paid $45 per hour to call her own imployees and sending them to the jobs. She was also responsible for the inventory that left the storeroom of C & E.
The gentleman shared with me that if they needed 25 phones for a school, they would take 100 phones, 75 would be dropped off at a private warehouse in Brandon and the other 25 On 10/20/2000,1 got anonymous inibçmation that Mr. McClelland was avery wealthy man and he had done it by stealing from the district.
This anonymous source gave me information that I had not heard before - that Mr. McClelland had been supplying fertilizer, pesticides and other materials to his nephew, Reese McClefland, and there was no real accountability of where these supplies and materials were being used.
Mr. Reese McCleIIand was under contract by the Grounds Department and there was no “conflict of interest” papers filed to my knowledge. What was more alarming about this latest information I got regarding the tractors that were stolen was there was a reputed drug dealer that has been involved with Mr. MeClelland for years in dispersing the materials Mr. McClelland had taken from the district.
I have been trying to get a last name. I’m not sure the first name is correct but the name I was given was Sergio. It was stated that Sergio was actually the one that had stolen the tractors and parked them on Mr. McClelland’s property while they were waiting for resale or use for parts.
I have no legitimate proof to offer. I don’t think adequate attempts have been made to prove that Mr. McClelland has stolen from the system over the years and I don’t really know where our security department is in the investigation right now. Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Jack Davis, was very supportive of the investigation.
Doug Erwin, General Director of Operations
I have been Director of Maintenance and then General Director for the past three years. During those three years James McClelland has been Manager for the Grounds Department. I am his direct supervisor.
There have been numerous accusations, complaints, innuendoes and sometimes-anonymous information given that Mr. McClelland has been stealing from the school system and, has been for a long time. Not long alter I became Director of Maintenance, Mr. McClelland came to me very angry and said that Bob Boggs, Manager of Sites & Utilities, was telling lies about him - stealing equipment and other things from the school district and for me to inform Mr. Boggs that he could have Mr.Boggsflred.
Icalled Mr.Boggs in and told himwhat had been said. He said “Well if I’m going to be fired, he’s going to need to fire everybody that works here because everybody knows that “Mac” steals and referred to him as a kleptomaniac.” He gave an example of how Mac buys six rolls of toilet paper - he’ll take three and leave three for the system.
I evaluated the Grounds Department’s business practices and determined that there was a lack of accountability. Bid procedures were not being followed. I informed the Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Dr. Hamilton, of the accusations of theft and my findings.
His approach to solving the problem was for me to become more involved in taking away opportunities for theft. New construction dollars were taken away from the Grounds Department and appropriate bid procedures were implemented.This summer (2000), accusations of theft by Mr. McClelland resurfaced. Security was getting anonymous reports at same time I was that Mr. McClelland was leaving the worksite and going to his property in and he was taking supplies and materials out on a regular basis and every time he would leave, security would get a call.
I’ve been told now John Brurngardner was the person watching Mr. McClelland’s behavior and making us aware. Ms. Tuggle, Asst. Principal in the district, was calling security about Mr. McClelland. I believe it was somebody in Grounds that was calling me.
Again, I had no proof, and l had nobody that wanted to step forward. We also had three tractors stolen recently and I was informed by our safety office that it appeared to be an inside job. While this was going on security called me and said they wanted to talk to me.
Sgt. Hough and his partner, Fred, told me that historically, they had not been successful in investigations of the accusations against Mr. McClelland. They asked, “What do you want us to do with it. We don’t know where to go. It seems that he is alwys tipped off anytime we start an investigation or an investigation is delayed untIl it becomes ineffective”. I felt we should move forward and make a case if we could. That was the direction that was chosen. They also shared with me they had witnessed three tractors that met the exact description of those that were stolen from Chamberlain and Arniwood High Schools setting on his property in Pasco.
By the time the decision was handed down they should pursue this case as a theft case, the belief is that Mr. McClelland was warned again. By the time the investigation was actually started the tractors were all missing again. This is pretty typical of some of the situations that have occuned with him as I am told by security.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I spent another several hours with the Erwin legal files. I think I am starting to grasp the morphology of the case.
I will supplement my assessment so far with some of the documents that led me to my provisional guess at what went on.
Erwin’s supervisor, Dr. Edwards, I think, quit right after the supervisor lured Erwin into taking the job that Erwin had refused on the first offer. So the bait was sweetened to give Erwin senior status to take the job.
I haven’t read far enough to know who had this job before Erwin. The administration may have sent him to Chattahoochee for R&R because this job is crazy making.
Good old stout-hearted Erwin goes in and finds chaos. A guy named McClelland is the head of the grass-cutting guys. He is stealing openly. He has a nephew who is in on the theft. They do such things as get in an order for the schools and unload a little of the order in the school warehouse but then go on to their own warehouse to unload most to the stuff.
Meanwhile, Erwin is cataloguing the situation. McClelland seems to have some kind of connection with Joe Newsome, board member that gives the grass cutter a Teflon shield. You will recall that Mr. Newsome is the land owner that the schools recently bought a bazillion-dollar parcel from for a school when many alleged there was cheaper land close by.
Erwin meanwhile is documenting that a lot of the schools are built on bad land, water being a particular problem. You will recall that this is the division that Cathy Valdes with an early-childhood degree now heads thanks to Elia. I don’t think early childhood bona fides is the best background for assessing soil suitability for school houses, but cronyism trumps competence at ROSSAC any day of the week.
The woman in charge of time also is signing in and out people at false times. Sometimes they work a few hours and then take off but get full-time pay and even overtime. McClelland, the super grass-cutting thief, just takes off to his spread in another county whenever the urge comes over him. He has stolen three tractors which the Keystone school cops have spotted on his land, but they weren’t equipped with a camera, so they didn’t get a picture. McClelland’s nephew or some such kin is also getting trees for landscaping courtesy of the taxpayers.
McClelland is not only a thief but also an arrogant one. He stomps into Erwin’s office and snarls that anybody who accuses him of theft is in big trouble. He says he is a rich man, that his father is a rich man, and that he defies the world to prove he is stealing school property. I can’t wait to see what this guy does on the stand when I get to that part. McClelland says he know people in high places. I infer he means board-member Newsome who will protect him.
Meanwhile, Board Member Sam Rampello is checking in to the grass-cutting area. He says he has to look after the Hispanic workers who depend upon him to protect them.
Sam was an administrator at HCC’s Gordon Keller. He was a crony appointment, of course. The reason I feel so at home with the ROSSAC shenanigans is that they are the same ones I saw when I taught at HCC when I was faculty union president there. I talked to Sam shortly before he died to find out about a guy whom ROSSAC had crucified, who had won his case, but then saw ROSSAC not restore him to his job but put him to teaching prisoners. Dr. Lennard did that. He was then in the vo-tech basement with about three people under his command.
That’s the kind of background that the Hillsborough County School Board counts as superintendent material, turning down Columbia PH.D.s with wide experience, considerable publishing, and fluent in three languages. Vo-tech nonentities beat out such superior specimens by a mile. The people who sit on the board don’t feel comfortable with people whose subjects and verbs agree and who come from the unknown regions beyond Plant City and Wauchula.
If you read the folder of the people who applied when Elia got the job, their sterling credentials compared to Elia’s third-rank bona fides leave you astonished to think that she got the job. The board covered its ass in a sham “nation-wide” search and billed the taxpayers $35,000 to cover their dishonest tracks. Entering ROSSAC just infects people. They enter healthy but get soul leprosy in two weeks.
Tearing his hair out, Mr. Erwin takes his diary of wrongdoing to Dr. Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton says, in effect, “Return to your post, observe what’s going on, write everything down, and all will be well.” Meanwhile, the tractors are still missing, a hay bailer, and God knows what else. And McClelland fences to a reputed drug dealer the stuff he can’t use. A weeping subordinate of McClelland stumbles into Erwin’s office, flings himself into a chair, and sobs to Erwin that he “can’t take it anymore.” The “it” being the constant theft going on around him on the job is one infers what he can’t take.
Erwin is meanwhile distraught with a sense of helplessness and disorientation. The administration promotes and gives more money to a man he wants fired for non-performance. The routine to deal with problem employees is to move them around until nobody complains about them any more. I think this is called the Peter Principle. If a firing is eminent, Joe Newsome sweeps in to counteract it. Newsome's ignorance and arrogance quell the other ROSSAC King Tuts.
Meanwhile, Erwin discovers the shoddy workmanship in all the recent buildings. Bloomingdale High School’s AC is terminal and has been in only a short time although it should last 30 years. So Erwin has to replace it for millions of dollars. The roofs are caving, of course, and even the painting jobs are subpar and have to be repeated. Every time Irwin turns around, something else is collapsing that was recently put in for a bazillion taxpayer dollars. I have suspected under-the-table payments to administrators who sign off on contracts. This file presents a primie facie case for the practice.
Erwin checks in with Dr. Hamilton again. He checks in with Dr. Hamilton frequently, but Dr. Hamilton’s generic advice is to rock on and let things play out.
You will recall that this is the same Dr. Hamilton that held a high-level position until the day he finally and mercifully retired. In fact Ms. Elia created and the board signed off on a boutique job for him the last few months of his employment so that he could dither in comfort until he decided to exit.
One of these days when I have time, I shall write to Gainesville, which gave Hamilton a PH.D. I will ask that his thesis committee be arrested for accepting what must have been a store-bought thesis when compared to Hamilton’s marginally literate writing (see back issues of Casting-room Couch, for proof. He mistook the difference between “your” and “you’re” to give you some idea of his level of linguistic sophistication.)
Every time Erwin appealed to Hamilton to do something about the theft and chaos in the department Erwin was overseeing, Hamilton put him off and temporized. Yet Hamilton is a specimen who held high-level jobs until he finally left and cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands in pay and perquisites for his shoddy, incompetent performance over his long and dreary administrator career.
Finally, Erwin in despair went to see Dr. Lennard. In the first meeting Lennard hemmed and hawed and told Erwin to check back in with him. When Erwin did, this is what Dr. Lennard told him: that his job was in jeopardy because he had said some negative things about people in high places. I can hear Erwin's occipital lobe breaking away now.
I can hardly wait for my records-review session this Wednesday to continue with this incredible saga of abuse, lies, theft, stalling, temporizing, sex, lies, and videotape.
Be patient; I will load on the supporting documents after I have cooked dinner. Like all liberated women, I cook. lee