Monday, October 17, 2011

K&S will remain on schools case: More on the story

Reprinted with permission from Daily Report online

Civil case over DeKalb construction contracts will go to trial after criminal matters have been tried
By Kathleen Baydala Joyner, Staff Reporter

A DeKalb County Judge ruled Wednesday that King & Spalding can remain the counsel for the county school system in a multimillion-dollar case, despite his view that the firm's lawyers negotiated an unfair fee agreement, stonewalled discovery and potentially witnessed discussion of criminal activity.

Judge Clarence Seeliger:
The case "has probably infuriated
me more than any other."
Superior Court Judge Clarence F. Seeliger said the fee agreement was an issue between the school board and the firm—and the school board and the voters. The discovery battles have been resolved, he added, and allegations that K&S lawyers witnessed discussion of criminal activity could be verified by non-attorneys who may have seen the same events.

Seeliger said he thought of ordering mediation for the school system and the construction companies with whom it has been locked in litigation for four years. But he decided there is no way the two sides can resolve the case without a trial, which will take place after the criminal matters have been tried.

"I've had lots of cases, but this has probably infuriated me more than any other," said Seeliger.

His decision came after several hours of heated arguments between King & Spalding lawyers and lawyers from DLA Piper, representing the construction management companies whose firing by the school district in 2006 prompted the litigation.

The hearing was the latest chapter in a saga involving DeKalb's former school district superintendent and chief operating officer, who are facing criminal indictments for corruption; three major construction management companies accused of civil racketeering; and big-name Atlanta attorneys.

DLA Piper is representing Heery International Inc., E.R. Mitchell & Co. and Heery/Mitchell Joint Venture, which did construction work for the school district. They wanted Seeliger to kick K&S off the case because, they claimed, K&S essentially controls the litigation—possibly against the best interests of the school district—due to its contingency fee agreement with the DeKalb schools.

DLA Piper also asserted that K&S concealed or blocked evidence, including the suspect status of a top-ranking school district official who oversaw construction projects, and that K&S attorneys may be called as material witnesses in the civil trial and a separate criminal case.

DLA Piper's lead attorneys are Atlanta managing partner Mark E. Grantham and Paul N. Monnin. K&S's lead attorneys are partners W. Ray Persons and Robert C. Khayat Jr., but K&S partner L. Joseph Loveland Jr. represented his colleagues during the hearing.

Heery/Mitchell and the other companies filed suit against the school district in 2007 for breach of contract, seeking roughly $1.5 million. The district filed a countersuit seeking $100 million, charging the companies with racketeering. In May 2010, former school district superintendent Crawford Lewis and chief operating officer Pat Reid (she then went by Pat Pope) were indicted on corruption charges.

DLA Piper claimed that as early as November 2008, Lewis notified K&S about a criminal investigation into the chief operating officer, a matter K&S concealed or misrepresented to the court and DLA Piper.

"Roughly three years ago [when the DeKalb County District Attorney began its criminal investigation], the school district trial counsel was confronted by a fork in the road and they shifted from merely acting as advocates for their client to key participants," Grantham said during his opening statement.

Grantham said K&S wanted the civil case to go to trial without evidence of criminal conduct by school district officials being revealed.

"It seems there is a question of fraud on this court by refusing to disclose to the court or us that a criminal investigation was under way and may have a serious impact on the civil litigation."

Grantham said K&S has unfairly painted his firm's discovery and deposition attempts as harassment, mischaracterized whether K&S's star witness Reid was a suspect in a criminal investigation and advised Lewis to try to convince the DeKalb DA to delay his investigation until after the civil trial to preserve K&S's case against Heery/Mitchell.

Grantham added that K&S's financial stake in the form of a contingency agreement forged in 2008 means the firm may veto attempts by the school district to settle the matter at a lesser amount than the firm's break-even sum of about $35 million, which is calculated as the firm's post-June 2008 fees and payments for expert witnesses.

Grantham posed a scenario to the court that if the school district were to win its case and receive an award of $35 million, it would not actually net any money because all of it would go to either reimburse the district for costs already incurred or to finish paying K&S.

"Disqualification would remove the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads in the form of their unconscionable fee agreement, where counsel's financial interest is paramount," Grantham said.

Loveland, speaking for K&S, told Seeliger, "These unproven attacks are simply legion, and no evidence supports any of them."

Loveland accused DLA Piper of kicking up dust to conceal its clients' deceit of the school district and county taxpayers through its mishandling of $500 million in school construction projects.

"This case has been pending for four years. There have been three separate motions to disqualify [K&S]," Loveland said. "There is no claim here that King & Spalding has a conflict of interest with Heery/Mitchell. Instead, as Mr. Grantham says, Heery/Mitchell takes the remarkable position that it, not the school board or the school board's independent counsel, should stand as the guardian for the school board's interest. That is simply not the law in Georgia or anywhere."

Loveland accused DLA Piper of filing its latest motion to disqualify to pressure the district to drop its suit or at the very least further delay a trial to cause the district to rack up more expenses.

"This is a phenomenal motion to bring to this court with no affidavit or any legal experts on ethics with any facts that [King & Spalding's] contract constitutes any violation of ethical rule[s]," Loveland said.

Loveland then argued that ousting K&S would prevent the school district from having its day in court because no other firm could pick up where it left off and successfully litigate the complicated case.

"Our firm has spent hundreds of hours going through documents because the fraud [by Heery/Mitchell] is in the documents," he said. "The conflict would be if our firm did not put time and energy in the case to zealously represent our client."

Monnin said one reason that DLA Piper did not move the judge for disqualification of opposing counsel sooner is because K&S dragged its feet on handing over evidence during discovery.

DLA Piper served discovery in March 2009 but didn't receive some evidence until two years later, including calendars and notes that showed meetings between school district officials, internal affairs investigators and attorneys for K&S and other outside counsel, he told the judge. That evidence further shows that K&S had knowledge of a criminal investigation but did not disclose it to the court or DLA Piper, he said.

After the ruling, Tom Bowen, chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Education, said he was relieved.

"Had the judge gone the other way, there would have been pretty serious hardships for the district because the case is so complex to start with it would have cost millions just for a new firm to get up to speed," he said.

Bowen acknowledged that the district's fee contract with K&S would obviously be part of any settlement discussion, but he defended the agreement by saying paying the firm on a contingency basis avoided up-front costs from the schools' already-strained operating budgets.

46 comments:

Cerebration said...

Did you all catch the sub-head? "Civil case over DeKalb construction contracts will go to trial after criminal matters have been tried"

Cha-ching.

Anonymous said...

Just seen on the evening news, Dr. Atkinson is appointing a SPLOST oversight committee consisting of community stakeholders and independent experts in the construction and accounting fields with the authority to review any and all documentation related to construction project. Sounds like this may be genuine oversight, not a board-picked "task force". More to come.

Cerebration said...

That's great!!!

Cerebration said...

I hope she sets up a completely different accounting department or uses a firm to pay bills and track costs. Marcus Turk has his hands full with the billion+ dollar annual budget for the school system.

If she puts it all on Check Register I'll eat my computer!

Cerebration said...

I wonder, if DCSS has spent about $35 million to date on attorneys in this case - how much has Heery spent? In total, have they spent perhaps a combined $50 + million? $75 million?

Are they all aware that there are starving children in the world? How many kids could have gone to college on that? How many new schools could we have built or fixed? How many books could we have bought? How many paras and bus drivers could still have a job?

What a waste. Sad, really.

Anonymous said...

"Just seen on the evening news, Dr. Atkinson is appointing a SPLOST oversight committee consisting of community stakeholders and independent experts in the construction and accounting fields with the authority to review any and all documentation related to construction project."

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:
"How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?

As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds."

Source - DCSS webpage regarding SPLOST III (link below).
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

When you go to this page, click on the right hand menu bar "Forensic Audit Report Follow Up".. You will be taken to a page that says:
"Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.)."

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Before we believe there will be an audit published for SPLOST IV, let's see the promised audit for SPLOST III. That would go for in furthering the "public trust" as they termed it.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:52 pm

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:
"How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?

As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds."

Source - DCSS webpage regarding SPLOST III (link below).
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

When you go to this page, click on the right hand menu bar "Forensic Audit Report Follow Up".. You will be taken to a page that says:
"Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.)."

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Before we believe there will be an audit published for SPLOST IV, let's see the promised audit for SPLOST III. That would go for in furthering the "public trust" as they termed it.

atl said...

"Just seen on the evening news, Dr. Atkinson is appointing a SPLOST oversight committee consisting of community stakeholders and independent experts in the construction and accounting fields with the authority to review any and all documentation related to construction project."

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:
"How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?

As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds."

Source - DCSS webpage regarding SPLOST III (link below).
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

When you go to this page, click on the right hand menu bar "Forensic Audit Report Follow Up".. You will be taken to a page that says:
"Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.)."

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Before we believe there will be an audit published for SPLOST IV, let's see the promised audit for SPLOST III. That would go for in furthering the "public trust" as they termed it.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing if Lewis and Pope and crew are found guilty that we've lost a lot of money in law fees and will probably lose this case, which will cost us more money.

I shake my head, because, I'd be homeless if I ran my personal finances like this, and wonder why the district can't be more fiscally responsible with the money that they have.

I really don't know how to vote for this SPLOST, as I feel that we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Which is the lesser of two evils? (i.e. which is going to cost me less?)

Anonymous said...

And if the criminal case never goes to trial, then what?

Anonymous said...

Time line. Whole thing seems a bit strange.

1.H-M in SPLOST 1 and 2 and bringing in projects in on or under budget.
2. CLew brings in Pat Pope.
3. Pat kicks out H-M, probably so that she could control all of the money without someone else seeing it.
4. H-M sues DCSS for $1.5 million. For what? Maybe DCSS did do something wrong. H-M is big in this business and has a reputation to protect
5. DCSS counter claims for $100 million. That is 10% or more of the total of both SPLOSTs 1 and 2. Weird.

Who in the DCSS pushed the counter claim against H-M? My guess is that it was Clew seeking to cover up something and was hoping that H-M would settle out after the counterclaim was brought. H-M also has brought in the BOE members during SPLOSTs 1 and 2. Maybe CLew was protecting one or more of them?

Cerebration said...

FWIW, the HM lawsuit was for $500,000 plus $1 million in legal fees and other 'stuff' (can't remember). Then Lewis paid a company called Neilsen-Wurster/Marsh $3.6 million to conduct a 'study' to see if we should countersue. (Let me repeat - a study to countersue a lawsuit for less than half the cost of the study.) They studied some projects, determined that DCSS had been over-charged (change orders) by a certain percentage. They then used that percentage as a multiplier on all other projects and came up with a recommendation to sue for somewhere between $85-100 million.

At any rate - HM contends that Pat Pope was hired by Lewis specifically to push HM off the projects and clear the way for contracts to go to 'special' contractors like say, Pat's husband! Yes, Pat's husband, architect Vincent Pope was already working on DCSS projects while Pat was his VP at Pope Architects and consulting with Lewis on SPLOST II projects and managed to get several more contracts and extensions in scope from DCSS via second party affiliations after Pat was hired full time (meaning, he wasn't 'officially' on the project - just a subcontractor). All of this (HM alleges) was pre-planned while Pat Pope worked for DCSS as a consultant before being hired. In fact, on her resume, she more or less lied about her own identity... as in she didn't claim her name as Pope for one thing. In fact, it was later revealed that she hadn't actually ever divorced her first husband and couldn't legally be married to Pope anyway. More than that, I think HM isn't trying to delay the trial for any other reason than to make sure the criminal trials go first. After all - wouldn't jurors want to know if the star witnesses are actually convicted criminals or not?

Anonymous said...

1.H-M in SPLOST 1 and 2 and bringing in projects in on or under budget.

I don't think this is accurate. Most projects didn't finish under budget or on time, if I recall correctly. In fact, there are real quality issues related to workmanship. It was discovered by the facilities audit that a school that supposedly got a new roof under SPLOST II -- DID NOT.

HM did a terrible job -- the system did a terrible job managing them, but they own some of the problems.

Anonymous said...

5. DCSS counter claims for $100 million. That is 10% or more of the total of both SPLOSTs 1 and 2. Weird.

I don't think this is accurate either. Each SPLOST was expected to raise at least $450 million That would make the total for SPLOSTs 1 and 2 at least $900 million.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to take a guess as to how many "Friends of DeKalb" members are appointed to the oversight committee? Will this committee be appointed before the SPLOST vote? Hopefully because the makeup of this committee will definitely affect my vote.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:32 must be a H-M supporter or has been asleep. Everyone knows about the constant change orders along with the foul ups with the Southwest DeKalb project. Most people also know that in government, one person cannot control the money or determine which contractors get projects. Everything is done by committee, with every person having one vote.

Anonymous said...

I am no apologist for either H-M or for DCSS, believe me. But this whole thing has more layers than we know. An executive in the construction business told me that before this debacle, Heery enjoyed a stellar and unassailable international corporate reputation. E.R. Mitchell is a far smaller minority-owned firm and Heery-Mitchell was created to ensure a portion of the contract went to a minority-owned firm. When Pat Pope came on the scene (promoted by Crawford Lewis as a Purdue-trained engineer - he led the community to believe she was recruited from out of state and new on the scene) she immediately began speaking very frankly about over-payments to the contractors. She spoke at one Emory-LaVista meeting and openly discussed issues - in a way that was so open, we all thought she was refreshingly plain-spoken. In retrospect, she was just building her case to get H-M out of the way and direct the business to her sorta-husband's firm. Heery is fighting like crazy for their reputation. And while I've heard the stories of new roofs being paid for but not actually installed, Pat Pope was in leadership when that allegedly happened. Was she complicit? So yes, thanks to her and Crawford and big-money lawyers and a construction firm (Heery) with deep, deep pockets, this case won't be resolved for a very long time.

Cerebration said...

@Anon 7:48 AM - actually this is relevant to the criminal case. The case accuses Pat Pope of changing bid sheets and changing committee votes for 'certain' contractors. She also changed the way projects were bid and revoked the contracts awarded, make people re-bid as design/build rather than separate contracts for architects and builders. Guess what - the accusation is that the new 'design-build' team included her husband's firm as a sub-contractor.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 7:48
Change Orders are most often generated by inadequate documentation by the architect, inadequate bid by the contractor, or changes made by the owner. H-M played none of these roles – they were the construction manager.
Am I a supporter of H-M? In this case, absolutely. There are two parties to this disagreement. Are you defending Lewis and Pope? If we’re comparing the professional reputation of H-M versus that of Lewis or Pope, there’s no contest.
H-M was treated rather shoddily from the day Pope showed up. All they were asking to be paid what they were owed. We could have settled this originally for about $1.5M – Pope, representing DCSS, escalated it into the mess we’re in today.
Even today, I’d love to just settle it and move on, but King & Spalding will never let that happen. Wouldn’t it be nice to be spending money on educating our kids instead of providing retirement funds for lawyers?

Fred said...

Anon 12:59 obviously has a desire for the truth. Thanks for sharing that link. It contained an article that should remind everyone of who we are dealing with in Heery. It also was a reminder that a forensic audit was done of SPLOST 2.

Part 1

Audit raps schools in DeKalb
Building program oversight criticized
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/02/06

An independent audit released Thursday criticized both the DeKalb County school system and the management firm it contracted with for problems in the system's school construction program, including delays and probable overpayments for work.

The audit found no evidence of any fraud or theft, said Patrick A. McGeehin of the Maryland-based Rubino & McGeehin Consulting Group. He said the problems could be corrected.

The county school board commissioned the audit about four months ago in a move meant to reassure the public about the construction program. Board members plan to ask voters next March to renew — for the third time in a row — a special 1 percent sales tax that is paying for the construction program.

On Thursday, system officials said work began months ago to iron out obvious problems in the program, including bringing in new leadership with the hiring last fall of Patricia Pope, a construction industry veteran, to oversee it.

Other recommendations in the audit — including a better prioritized project list, more realistic cost estimates, revisions in contract language, and up-to-date, concise status reports on projects — are already being addressed, Pope said. The system also cut ties with Heery/Mitchell, the management firm, in April.

DeKalb officials also announced two audit-related hires:

• The powerhouse law firm King & Spalding will see what costs the school system might be able to recover from "any and everybody involved with our program," schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis said.

• The public relations firm Jackson Spalding will help get information out about the audit and what the system will do to address its findings, Lewis said. Auditors had criticized DeKalb's communications efforts related to its construction program.

Fred said...

Part 2

"Some of the information was somewhat of a disappointment," county school board Chairwoman Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn said. "But much of what is in the forensic audit was what we know."

The audit did not give any figures on possible overpayments.

Among the major findings:

• Heery/Mitchell did not live up to its contractual obligations. Auditors said they could find no comprehensive, regularly updated program schedule or any documented evidence that the firm analyzed the need for or price of change orders. Required monthly reports "were not consistently prepared."

• DeKalb officials were late in voicing questions and concerns, and they aggravated the problems in the program by making a career educator — someone with no construction experience — their point person. That educator recently retired.

• The entire construction program should have been re-evaluated once it became clear original cost estimates were too low. "This would, in all probability, have avoided much of the continuing controversy," auditors said. They noted that board members approved more than $610 million worth of projects, even as revenue for the program from the sales tax was projected to be less than $500 million.

• Neither the management firm nor DeKalb officials systematically reviewed whether they were owed money back for problems and delays that may have been caused by contractors or architects. Examples cited by auditors include delays and rising renovation costs at Southwest DeKalb High School, which have riled parents and students.

"I know that they know they messed up," said Tracy McMeen, Southwest's PTA president. Work at the school is ongoing. "I still feel we're not doing everything we can."

Heery/Mitchell, a joint venture of Heery International and E.R. Mitchell and Co., had not been provided a copy of the audit Thursday, but Gregory Peirce, a senior vice president for Heery, said the firm feels "pretty strongly" that it did what DeKalb asked it to do and that it took its directions from the school board.

The firm had worked in DeKalb County since the start of the construction program in 1997. Since then, the system has addressed nearly $1 billion in building needs during the past decade. Officials estimate they currently have about $800 million worth to go.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fred said...

@Anon 11:39

I'll go back to my saying of there is enough blame to go around. It should be noted the Dr. Hallford and Board members in 1997 made the decision to hire Heery-Mitchell as the construction manager for SPLOST. They made the decision to put Dr. Pritchett in a position he was not qualified for. When someone with construction contract knowledge began questioning the bids and payments, that was the beginning of the end of Heery-Mitchell. The forensic audit clearly indicated mismanagement on Heery's part.

I wonder if this trial will turn our similar to the one in Dallas for Heery. They eventually dropped the suit before the trial and now no longer can work on projects for DISD. It seems they have a history of this. Thanks to Anon 12:59 for sharing that link. It shows the truth is out there if you want to find it.

Cerebration said...

Actually, I removed that link as we had a lengthy discussion about it once before. I have the documentation showing that the person running that website recanted his statements.

Also, this really jumped out:

The firm had worked in DeKalb County since the start of the construction program in 1997. Since then, the system has addressed nearly $1 billion in building needs during the past decade. Officials estimate they currently have about $800 million worth to go.

Is there no end? What happened? This article quotes $800 million to go. Now we're being told it's back up to $2 billion.... Seems when there's a bucket, no one ever quite decides we've had enough.

Almost all school systems around this country are able to build and maintain their buildings with the operating money they collect. What is the problem here? Have we created a vortex? Spend SPLOST money, then spend operations on lawyers fighting over the SPLOST money...

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Cere, this is so maddening! Think what this money could be paying for? Instead we have an incredible web of deceit, lies, blue ribbon panels, engagement seminars, charettes, round tables and misinformation, not to mention so many other charges. The local media organizations say, "the story is too difficult to tell." Most of CLew's and Pope's inner circle remain with DCSS today and they expect us to hand them more money to spend.

Dr. Atkinson get us a big tow truck and get us out of this ditch! You can make some needed changes quickly and the time is fast approaching. Good luck.. the trials will be a tough time for everyone, stakeholders, DCSS teachers and employees, BOE members past and present and the charged. We're going to need a lot of popcorn for this sordid story.

Anonymous said...

A SPLOST oversight committee is great, but DCSS needs to get rid of Barbara Colman (with the Parsons/Jacobs Team who replaced Pat Pope) and the former principal Steve Donahue. She is another waste of money and he lacks expereince..

DCSS needs to hire their own "expert" construction manager. No one is minding the store once again. I have no choice but to vote no for SPLOST IV.

Anonymous said...

DCSS can make all of the committees that they want, however unless new blood is in these committees, it doesn't really matter, as nothing new will happen. I don't trust any committees, unless new people(outsiders) are part of the committees.

Anonymous said...

Amen about the need for entirely new blood!! What about the area supers? Why was Moseley stuck there instead of being let go? What about that woman that Crawford brought to us from Gwinnett? For that matter, what about all of the principles who have no business being where they are? Remember Crawford's 10,000 dollar bonuses for his chosen few? One was the lady who failed miserably at Lakeside!!!! And do not get me started on the APs. Get us some some people with military and real management experience.

Anonymous said...

These cases may get at the heart of corruption in Dekalb County Schools and, from what I hear, will bring down some who still hold power.

Unfortunately, both trials will be delayed indefinitely until the lawyers bleed us dry.

A what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!

Can the citizens of Dekalb sue DCSS?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:18 I sure hope so, but I am skeptical, as I believe that more people knew about Lewis and Pope and no one spoke up. Why weren't more people indited? I hope that more people go down, but this is Dekalb and I have learned that there is much corruption and cover up all over the county.

I would love to see the citizens sue the district, but I am doubtful that it is allowable. My wish is for a few kids who graduate who are illiterate to sue the district, but anything like that would probably be swept under the rug like so many other things in the county.

DeKalb Mommy said...

You understand, don't you, that a) the SPLOST III projects are being completed; and b) the new leadership in place is strongly committed to oversight and accountability? Where's your story on the oversight committee (a completely different methodology from prior SPLOST projects) and other transparency initiatives going into place? The SPLOST IV Oversight Committee will have NOTHING do do with the Board; it's to be selected from applicants to select individuals who are qualified to oversee construction and improvement projects.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb Mommy, at this point, there is ONE new leader in place. Yes, she is installing some new deputies, but essentially THE SAME LEADERSHIP is in place. The school board is intact. The corruption has not been fully dealt with vis a vis SPLOST: the criminal cases and civil cases are essentially stalled so who knows who else is involved. The notion that is a new day, clean slate, is premature. And I'm sorry: Atkinson will have to prove her integrity to our community because she was willing to sign on with a school system with a demonstrated LACK of integrity. We will have to wait to see if she is cut of the same cloth, or if she has the courage to fight a Board governed by self-interest and get rid of those on her staff - the administrative thieves who have misspent millions of local and federal dollars. Will the Board allow transparent oversight? We will have to wait and see. Makes more sense to put the accountability pieces in place before we routinely approve a SPLOST extension.

Anonymous said...

Completed, perhaps? Done well, not really.

Let her get the committee in place first -- be vetted by the public and bring SPLOST back next year...

Anonymous said...

The proposals for SPLOST IV are (a) not really binding (cp how Palace was completed instead of, say, auditoriums at all schools) and (b) not really the proposal from the superintendent based on actual need-based priorities in the system based on MGT study (e.g. Coralwood may be an awesome program and the proposal may make it even better -- but those same kids may be even more deserving of access into and out of the building at Hawthorne when they get there for 1st grade -- where they will be in that building for many more years and currently, I believe, the building does not have ADA access (maybe I'm wrong)). For years, Corralwood has had a beautiful facility with a remarkable program for a small number of great kids while the special needs kids at Lakeside had to be taken around the building to get in and out of certain classrooms -- this may finally be changing with construction but still happens at other places. It's not that some projects are worthwhile -- it's that there are so many needs that with a global view there are some that need it more. Dr. Atkinson should have a chance to review and make her own proposals to a BOE that will flat out support her and her proposals and not undermine her and her proposals. If and when that happens, along with certain financial checks and balances, including an oversight committee and on line check and p-card registers, we the taxpayers (the parents if you will) can then authorize E-SPLOST IV. Not before then, as there has been much too much abuse and corruption. All to the actual detriment of the children.

Anonymous said...

It would behoove the citizens, property owners, concerned parents and yes even the kids to attend the November board meeting and tell them what we think of their request for millions of funds (renamed the slush funds IV). They the board have mishandled manipulated and stolen money from the the little children of Dekalb. It makes me sick to think that people like Gene Womack and SCW, Zepora, Bowen have anything to do with our schools. (And yes, I know Zepora is out but she seems to be at every meeting waiting for her chance to join the fun again.) These people have got to go. Their arrogance and mismanagement of the previous slush funds are the reason that this one will fail.

Call the board office today and demand to see the audits of the previous slush funds, all three. Tell them you won't vote on it until it is released on their website!!!

Apparently, the only way to get things done in this society today is to act like a petulant child. So let's have one hell of a temper tantrum!

Atlanta Media Guy said...

The only three changes I have heard of; Dr. Alice Thompson has been reassigned. Robert Moseley is now an Area Super. This is a new title since the website still has Asst. Super Region (whatever) The word area is a new one here at DCSS and Beasley is no longer in charge of education. I can't believe Beasley is still on the payroll! Doesn't he have some side churches and businesses that he can take care of?

I want to see some Pink Slips Dr. Atkinson, until the former Clew bunch is gone, I can not trust that true change is going to happen at DCSS.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

You'd think some of these former Clew staffers would read the tea leaves and start looking for other work. The fact that most are still employed, tells me that they're either holding something over the system and will threaten a lawsuit or that these people are incapable of finding another job because of their online diplomas or that they are not qualified to work for another school system. Nothing would surprise me these days.

No Duh said...

Dr. Atkinson "appoints" the first six members of the Oversight Committee. The first six then pick the other six.

I heard there will be an application process. Is that process for the first six or the second six, or both?

If only people with true experience overseeing very large-scale construction work are being considered, I guess any concerns that we may have that the first six appointees will be mostly from Friends of DeKalb Education should be assuaged. Being a lawyer doesn't make one particularly qualified to oversee construction projects. And being a vocal PTA member or School Council representastive doesn't either.

Anonymous said...

Coralwood even has the expensive electronic LED lighted message sign out front while Lakeside and most high schools still have the kind with removable letters. How did that happen?

Cerebration said...

@DeKalb Mommy 7:29 AM - FWIW, I didn't post a story on the oversight committee because I wasn't aware of it. IF you have news to share in the future, please send it in an email to

reparteeforfun@gmail.com

This is a community blog. It takes the efforts of the community. We are not a news publication. We do not get paid. We rely on people to keep each other informed. Please do not criticize us for not having 'breaking news'. We are a community blog. Help us out.

Anonymous said...

@ DeKalbMommy

It's always a "new and different" process - until it isn't. Where is the forensic audit from SPLOST III was was supposed to so "new and different"?

Posters, go to this link to see where the SPLOST III Forensic Audit Follow-up was SUPPOSED to be. Note nothing is there:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

This reminds me of the 24 principals Lewis fired in 2009 as student achievement tanked. Shift the blame, and then trust that the public has a short attention span. By the time someone puts the spotlight on it again, some other group will take the fall and the term "new and different" will be used - over and over and over.

Look at this Cross Roads article from July, 2009:
http://issuu.com/crossroadsnews/docs/july1809b
(see page B4 and B5)
Cross Roads quote:
"Some schools had all "C" people. No wonder the students weren't performing," he said.
Lewis said wholesale changes were made the the schools' leadership.
"We've taken and made stronger the administrative teams", he said. Every principal now have stronger support staff."
Lewis said that good support is important for principals, who will now be held accountable, not only for how they students perform, but also for how they look"

What happened? Scores tanked even further. Then Lewis was out and Ms. Tyson was in. So the accountability game started all over again.

What happened? Scores tanked even further. Then Ms. Tyson is out and Dr. Atkinson is in. So the accountability game stars all over again.

At what point will taxpayers say - enough is enough of this shell game - we will not move forward with additional funds until we have some accountability from the "Upper Management" that got us into this.

BTW - this is not just a Lewis Group maneuver. This has been going on since Hallford installed 16 Area superintendents each with their groups of coordinators as cost and student performance accountability centers. They did not last a year before he began to change the structure - so in the end - no one was accountable.

Cerebration said...

Now that is one truthful statement. Exactly Anon. This has been the frustration for so long. How many 'task forces', 'blue ribbon committees', 'oversight committees', etc have we seen come along, make recommendations and then fade into the sunset. I have concluded it's a tactic used to pacify people who have concerns. Keep them busy. Make them think they're making a difference. And then continue to do things the same old way.

No Duh said...

You're correct Cere. The "advisory committee" is DCSS's version of the classic shell game. Or maybe, a slight-of-hand trick.

But, some parents will clamor to sit on this newest SPLOST committee. There's a sucker born every minute.

Anonymous said...

My committee nomination is ...

drum roll

Clark Howard. I would vote to pay him to participate.

Ms Atkinson really does not know the players. She will be relying on information from others to select her 6 appointees. Maybe the transition expert Ms Tyson will help her.

We will probably end up with different surname relatives of Zephora, SCW, Cunningham etc., etc.

Please wake me when Ms Atkinson gives a pink slip or substantial pay cut to some of the present and
ex BOE member relatives or the
inside power players like the Callaway Clan and the Edwards Establishment. Until then it will only be a different captain re-arranging the same deck chairs.

Anonymous said...

In light of the wording in the Judge's opinion...I would think HM will look to appeal this decision. The judge appears to agree with the HM arguments (particularly the alleged involvement of K&S attorneys with stalling the DA's investigation and helping to cover up the alleged fraud of Pat Pope)...but rules against their motion b/c it is too expensive for DCSD otherwise? That is not a legal basis for a ruling.

This is not over. Stay tuned--give it another week or two--an appeal will be filed. I can't see this going any other way.

What does HM have to lose? Money is clearly not a concern.

The Board members that agreed to this awful fee arrangement and Alexander & Associates who approved it NEED TO GO! They are not good stewards of OUR money.

If you are lucky enough to have a speaker role at the Nov. meeting--Please make a pleas to this end.

Cerebration said...

Curious - what exactly is the hold up for the decision on Lewis' attorney? If the judge would make a ruling, we could get going on the criminal trial at least. Mark my words - there is no way the HM will move forward with the civil case until the criminal case has been tried. They certainly are hoping for convictions all around.

Anonymous said...

And, they will get them.

The GA. Court of Appeals has still not handed down its decision as to Lewis' appeal (of the lower court's decision to disqualify his attorneys from Alston & Bird due to known conflict of interest that was simply ignored). Based on when the appeal was filed and when oral arguments were held (in April), a decision should come down before Thanksgiving.