Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AJC - Probe into school construction contracts continues

Probe into school construction contracts continues
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It may be at least May before we learn the results of an internal review into allegations of irregularities with DeKalb County school construction contracts, according to a spokeswoman with the district attorney’s office.

The school system forwarded the review to the D.A., asking that a few things be looked into and whether a criminal investigation was warranted.

An investigator in the district attorney’s office is juggling the schools review along with several other cases, said D.A. spokeswoman Jada Hudspeth, and it may take until May to complete them all.

Hudspeth declined to give specifics about the schools review. It involves the office of Patricia Pope, the school system’s chief operating officer. In December, school system police officers and information systems employees examined records from Pope’s office.


What is going on here? Is this Crawford Lewis' way to keep Pat Pope in check? Is it payback for Pope not taking one for the team when it came to Crawford's $20,000+ DCSS owned vehicle being sold to him for $5,000?

Hmmmm..., "school system forwarded the review to the D.A". Translation: Crawford Lewis forwarded it to the District Attorney.

Can someone please make sense of this mess?


Anonymous said...

O&T said...

"What is going on here? Is this Crawford Lewis' way to keep Pat Pope in check? Is it payback for Pope not taking one for the team when it came to Crawford's $20,000+ DCSS owned vehicle being sold to him for $5,000?"

Or, maybe something irregular is going on. I guess we'll just have to wait and find out what the investigation reveals.

Cerebration said...

I'm not going to speculate, however I'm completely disappointed that this is still going on. IF there is something worthy of investigating, then get on with it. (They've been milking this since November.) If not - quit micromanaging and trying to ruin the career of someone who (I believe) is abundantly qualified and doing an admirable job.

Kim Gokce said...

Yes. We need facts b4 we pile into this one ... also, either way we lose. If it has substance, we may lose one of the most productive managers there. If not, DCSS is confirmed as a political labyrinth ... When will we win / win w/ DCSS? *sigh*

Cerebration said...

Not sure what this is about --

March 25, 2009


A personnel hearing before a tribunal of educators appointed by the DeKalb County Board of Education will be held at 9:30am, Tuesday, March 31, 2009, at the DeKalb County School System's Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center, Building A, J. David Williamson Board Room, 3770 North Decatur Road, Decatur.


Thomas E. Bowen, Chair
DeKalb Board of Education

themommy said...

This is the appeals board that is used, for example, when a teacher doesn't agree with sanctions, firings etc.

It is part of their due process protections.

Ella Smith said...

I am assuming that this teacher tribunal is for the teacher who was let go that all the parents were supporting in the last school board meeting.

Regarding the investigation of whatever happened in Ms. Popes office:

WE know a situation or situations are being investigating that involve Ms. Pope's office but we do not know who is involved. If the district attorney is investigating it to make sure their is significant proof of wrong doing. There must not be significant evidence to get a conviction of someone.

If you want to get fired in the field of education all you have to do is mishandle any public funds. This is very serious situation and I would assume that the charges are serious if the district attorney is involved. The other thing to consider is that if any certified employee is involved then the PPC or the state office that has to also investigate would be involved and this does take a few months for the investigation to occur.

We will not know the details unless charges are filed. Personal records are confidential and this is a personnel issue and the person involved has a right to be protected also.

Dekalbparent said...

Posting this here and at the "Heat On" thread. It appears DCSS needs to been looking a lot harder at "greening" the schools - money is literally going out the windows and doors:


Cerebration said...

Has anything more been decided about Cross Keys or is this "investigation" slowing progress with construction on our schools in the north end?

Cerebration said...

This is an excellent report on energy waste at Channel 2 - posted by dekalbparent. Everyone should watch it.

I heard several things in this report -

DeKalb is the worst offender of energy waste of metro counties. We have MANY buildings that are leaking an estimated 30-40% of their energy costs out single pane windows and uninsulated brick walls. And improvements would pay for themselves in a few years.

DeKalb has not requested grants, state or federal energy assistance.

DeKalb got the lowest amount of construction assistance from the state - just over $1 million compared to Cobb & Gwinnett which each got over $40 million. DeKalb is in denial - and refusing to plan and/or seek assistance.

DeKalb leaders did not respond to inquiries from Channel 2.

DeKalb touts their "green" (recycling) program and Arabia HS as being the first LEED certified in the state. However, when reporters called to ask why DK focused so much attention on just one school while others are in such need, they canceled their scheduled interview.

C'mon - how much longer do we have to deny the inequity going on in DCSS???

Dekalbparent said...

Fact I learned on BBC History: the Romans created double glazed windows in order to keep the heat in the warm rooms at the baths.

They realized single-glazed windows let out too much heat.

This was 1500 years ago.

Cerebration said...

DCSS can also save $$$ if they make a policy that everyone must turn off their computers at the end of the day.

All the power wasted while computers are sitting idle overnight adds up, and one study has finally tried to measure it. The tally: An estimated $2.8 billion wasted on excess energy costs each year in the U.S. alone.

On a CO2 basis, that's 20 million tons of carbon dioxide, about the amount produced by 4 million cars on the road.

The full report is available for download here

To put the wasted energy in perspective, the study provides the data in terms you can better understand: If you run a company with 1,000 PCs left on overnight, you can save about $28,000 a year if they are turned off after hours. That's not chump change.

DCSS must have 20,000 pc's...

Dekalbparent said...

Cere -

A valid concern, although it is not a huge a hit as it might be. The computers in the media centers are turned off daily, and those in computer labs are usually turned off daily, too.

This leaves the offices and the the teachers, but I know that a lot of the teachers turn theirs off for security purposes...

That said, this still needs to go on DCSS "to-do list" along with insulation and better windows and doors and better control over HVAC. There are millions in savings to be found.

No Duh said...


I don't know how to start a new topic. But, thought it might be interesting to discuss here the coming stimulus money and what that might mean to DCSS. Maybe we could get a DCSS person to weigh in and help us understand how and when and where DCSS would/could/should get some $$. Who in the system is the contact? Do they have to apply as with a grant? Do they have to come hat in hand to Sonny? etc.

I got a kick out of the legislature declaring no company or government entity would get stimulus money if the money would benefit illegal aliens. If that's truly the case, then our public schools would not be eligible for funding. Even if the child is American, the parents are "benefiting" by having their child in the system.

Cerebration said...

good idea for a topic, no duh. I noticed today's AJC listed the amounts area school systems were going to receive for Title 1 and IDEA. Dekalb is in exactly the opposite place as it was for the construction money. DeKalb is stated to receive MILLIONS more than other systems in these categories.

So - only a little over $1 million for construction -
but about $55 million for Title 1 and IDEA

This article will require a bit of noodling... feel free to send any info you may have.

Cerebration said...

This is interesting -- I found a Dallas blog with nothing good to say about Heery Construction --
http://dallascrooks.com/heery/heerywatch.htmlThey also posted this article from the AJC - which is not available at the AJC online - it's a broken link...so I thought I'd publish it here for posterity.

Audit raps schools in DeKalb
Building program oversight criticized
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.

"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