Friday, May 22, 2009

Faxes, Faxes, Faxes


General McCollum:

Thank you for your response to my request that you issue an opinion about the refusal of the Hillsborough County School Board to print the names on the Board's Web site of prospective employees and to hyperlink to their resumes before any hiring takes place.

In an open government, citizens should see the basis for decisions on employment that Superintendent Maryellen Elia now makes secretly and Board Members Candy Olson, Jennifer Falliero, Doretha Edgecomb, Susan Valdez, Jack Lamb, and Carol Kurdell approve without giving citizens a chance to offer input. The board and administration conduct an entirely closed hiring process. That defeats government in the sunshine.

The information you included in your response will be helpful in fighting the abuse of hiring that the board and administration have turned into a jobs program for relatives of board members, sycophants of all stripes, buddies, buddies of buddies, and favors for school administrators for doing the unpleasant jobs that the superintendent sometimes assigns them such as cooking up Professional Standards cases if the administration wants to fire or terrorize a teacher with losing his or her job unless the teacher deserts his or her dignity and Constitutional rights as the price for keeping that job.

There exists a case currently that involves special-ed teacher Steve Kemp, whom Professional Standards charged with child abuse on distortion of evidence that the sheriff threw out. However, Kemp's case has languished for a school semester after the sheriff threw it out while the administration, superintendent, and board try to terrorize this teacher into shutting down his education blog, the real reason for his cooked-up case.

The board, superintendent, and administration abhor blogs because they publish information that the board, superintendent, and administration want first sanitized via the Public Information Office. For instance, the administration just published a yearbook with a girl's pudendum showing in a picture, setting her up for ridicule for years to come when anybody opens that year book. The board and administration's position is that the exposed vaginal area of the girl is "just a shadow" and board members such as Chair Kurdell have responded when asked about the problem with an injunction not to discuss it.

The board and administration have refused at the girl's parents' plea to withdraw the limited year-book copies already distributed by the administration and to reprint the yearbook without their daughter's perineum in view. Steve Hegarty, head of the Public Information Office, has responded to people's inquiries this way when they ask about the situation: "We [board, administration, Public-Affairs Office] will not accept your version of this situation. We won't comment on the (vaginal area exposure)] questions."

In other words, the board and administration use the tax-paid Public Information office to promulgate stories favorable to them and suppress stories or redact unfavorable information about them. They refuse to answer questions on a negative incident such as the girl's exposed vagina in a school year-book picture.

Such outrages as refusing to give citizens hiring information before the hiring is done, punishing a teacher with a cooked-up charge because he has an education blog. and publishing a year book with a girl's pudendum pictured should not go on in the Florida school system. I hope that if you become governor, a job I understand you will be running for, that you take corrective measures to rein in abuses of teachers such as those perpetuated in the Hillsborough County school system, to encourage schools to have open governments, and to respect the dignity of students. The board does not correct the superintendent and administration in any of their unethical skullduggery's. It cooperates with the administration's punishing and terrorizing teachers and distorting public-relations reality to present the board and administration in a favorable light.

I shall forward a message to Mrs. McCullum via your office mail. A man's wife says a great deal about his character. I have been wife, a Democrat, for almost fifty-three years to the same old Republican guy and have a good deal of influence on his important decisions despite our political differences. The woman who cooks and has the babies in a household usually does have influence on her husbande and should have major influence in the family. George Bush has succeeded in turning my husband from life-long Republican to Independent, a feat that my fifty-three years of curtain lectures failed to do, although I cooked enough food in those years to feed India for a week. I asked my husband what he thought of you. He responded, "He's a pretty good guy." He was mayor of our little beach town for a dozen years until he couldn't take the bickering anymore. Now he is retired to his Stratolounger in front of the round-the-clock sports stations.

I am not a ninny voter, General Mc Cullum; I am a serious citizens who expects diligent service from our elected officials. Democracy promises that my ten grandchildren will live in a real democracy, not a sham one in which public officials such as those that inhabit the school system's board in Hillsborough County refuse to obey the open-government laws and hides information about the way the administration and board make decisions behind closed doors that affect the community's life.

The Dark Side, alas, took charge in the Hillsborough County schools in the early Nineties when administrator Mr. Erwin discovered newly built leaking, shoddy schools for which the board rubber stamped top-dollar payment to contractors. In addition, Mr. Erwin unearthed rigged bids and outright theft of school property and money. Mr. Erwin asked the superintendent and board to do something about these crimes. Instead, the board with the help of the attorney Tom Gonzalez, the firm of whom has held the job for thirty-seven years, sat by and let Superintendent Lennard and his administrative henchman try to convince people that Mr. Erwin was crazy and then attempted to take his job and pension away from him. They failed.

Mr. Erwin finally ran out of good faith and filed a Whistle blower lawsuit against the School Board.

The jury, thank God, saw through the board-and- administration lies and found for Mr. Erwin, awarding him a $165,000 settlement. When Mr. Gonzalez and the firm's lawyer who prosecuted the case complained to the judge about the size of the award, the judge told them that Mr. Erwin would have gotten more had he a more competent lawyer.

The taxpayers paid for the ethical violations and outright crimes of the board and administration in this dark incident in the board and administration's history. The taxpayers in fact subsidized unawares crime against the state.

Some of the Dark-side DNA of the Erwin years still motivates the board and administration of Hillsborough County. It emerges in such things as making hiring a racket for the pals, sycophants, hangers-on, pets and offspring of the board and administration; in refusing to let citizens view what goes on when the board and administration make decisions for the school district, and of using public relations to deny the administration's allowing a year book to be published showing a female student's private parts.


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


I make a citizen's request to General McCollum to appear before the Hillsborough County School Board at a date and time worked out by his office and the School Board.

I request that he address the importance of removing impediments now in place that keep citizens of the county ignorant about the process of decision making that the board and superintendent use to do school business. These decisions affect the whole community, so the community should see and hear the process. Presently the board and administration bar the community, teachers, and students from discussions of board and administration decisions. This is not open government.

Not only does the board not give teachers and students a regular slot on the board to comment about their concerns, the administration with the board's complicity punishes teachers who do or say anything that the board and administration disapproves of. They have, as illustration, suspended Special-ed teacher Steve Kemp for a school year for a trumped-up charge of child abuse by the Professional Standards office that the sheriff threw out. Ms. Linda Kipley, head of Professional Standards, claims she lost the charges of incompetence and failure to fulfill their job descriptions' duties of the three administrators involved in the charges against Mr. Kemp that I filed in February.

The School Board of Hillsborough County and its administration make a mockery of the First Amendment and the government-in-the-sunshine law of the state of Florida by its deliberate behind-closed-doors decision making affecting the whole community that it shuts out. Citizens and the school family get no information about how the board and administration make decisions that govern the schools. That's not the mark of democracy but of dictatorship.


lee drury de Cesare

c: Philip Claypool, head of Ethics Commission, State of Florida

Dear Mr. Claypool:

The Hillsborough County School Board allows the superintendent to cook up false charges against a teacher whom she wants to fire or terrify about losing his or her job.

Such is the current case of Steve Kemp, a special-ed teacher whom the Office of Professional Standards and Ms. Elia manufactured a case of child abuse against on distorted evidence to scare him into giving up his education blog.

The sheriff threw out the case directly, but the board and administration put Mr. Kemp on a semester-long suspension to try to squeeze the concession of his abandoning his education blog by terrorizing him with the threat of job loss. There he remains today.

The board and administration don't like blogs because they present a different version of what the administration and board do in leading the schools. The board and administration want all information about the schools to go through the vetting and revision process of the Public Affairs Office before it reaches the public so that the public will receive a rosy view of the board's and administration's actions. Hence, the public pays to have itself bamboozled by the board and administration about such outrages as the sadistic savaging of a teacher to make him or her give up his or her First Amendment right to author a blog.

I know state law gives the board and administration the right to hire and fire. But it does not give them the right to terrorize, abuse, and denigrate.

This is a matter of ethics. I ask that you review the situation for its violation of ethics and take corrective action.


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


Anonymous said...

Too bad Doug didn't have the blogosphere to help him.

Keep up the good fight Lee!

At some point history will win out and all should be righted.

Anonymous said...

Anybody or any organization or district that needs a PR department can't be run very well. If you are running things well, why on earth would you need a PR department to spread good news about you? Only frauds need a PR department.