depress Ctrl and + keys at same time to increase zoom (font size), depress Ctrl and – keys at same time to reduce zoom
Nashville J replied to yesterday’s the sound of music and bright sunshine in the Florida Keys school district, mostly post:
“Chief Financial Officer Ken Gentile told the school board money was tight when the mortgage payment was due, they had lots of obligations to pay back then.”
As I remember, and you can correct the number, this missed payment was over 200 days of LATE. I wonder why there was no mention in the newspapers about the payment being late, why the School Board did not report it monthly at the meetings, was it listed on the monthly financials? Or do they have monthly financials in Key West?
Was there a penalty charged for being late on the payment? Did the interest rate escalate due to the late payment?
Did Ken Gentile make the decision himself to NOT pay the mortgage and fail to tell the School Board? If he did, why is he still an employee? I know he is leaving due to his contract not being renewed but they should FIRE HIM if he made that decision himself. IF, the School Board knew about the failed payment of the mortgage and did not report it or address it they should all be thrown out.
JMO of course!
I wrote back:
It is not clear who was in charge of looking after that mortgage payment, but it does not seem the school board knew it was not paid. The whole thing was whitewashed by the mortgage lender. Apparently, it did not send an invoice for that mortgage payment, when it was due, and later the lender sent and invoice for about half of what was due. There also was confusing talk about when the mortgage payment was due to be paid: early in the year, January, as I recall; June, or later. The loan documents say January, I think. Like, whoever in the SD was in charge of making that mortgage payment didn’t know when it was due to be paid. As Ed Davidson keeps saying, you know when the mortgage on you home is due, and if you don’t get an invoice for it from your mortgage lender, you pick up the phone and call your mortgage lender to find out what happened. There is a huge penalty in this mortgage, for default – it’s basically an interest free loan, part of President Obama’s stimulus package, but if there is a default in payment, or if the school is not completed on schedule, all the interest, about $20 million, which was waived, has to be paid. Serious wailing and gnashing of teeth, in that event, which is why it was/is acutely imperative to stay dead on top of this particular SD obligation. Glad you weren’t there to listen to all the whitewashing and sweeping under the rug, you might have had a stroke and a coronary simultaneously. I told the SD’s bond lawyer out in the hall, that if I was the SD’s bond lawyer, I would tell them during the public part of the meeting that they had better never do that again. I left before he spoke in the public part of the meeting, so I don’t know what he told them. Privately, I would have reamed them out, and sent them a bill for the reaming.
Thanks for the updated info. Just another School Board circle jerk!
Larry Murray replied to yesterday’s post:
Just got back from a day in Miami. Went to a game in the World Baseball Classic, my first visit to Marlins Stadium, and I know that I had a lot more fun than you did attending the School Board meeting. I was surprised that you did not print today’s Citizen editorial. To say that it was a scathing indictment of District financial affairs would almost be a positive characterization.
I wrote back:
Hi, Larry -
I forgot to look at the Editorial section today, will do so now.
OMG!!! They call for state takeover of the school district, installation of an emergency board to help new poor Mark Porter right the sunken ship:
Time to clear financial fog at Trumbo Point
Four years after the Monroe County School District’s most embarrassing scandal in decades began unfolding in the headlines, how is it that the district has yet to fix the accounting and reporting deficiencies that contributed to that scandal?
How is it that a subsequent succession of three superintendents — two appointed by the governor and one hired by the School Board — has been unable to correct the flawed financial reporting that, in part, led to felony convictions of a schools superintendent and his wife, the director of Adult Education programs?
How is it that accounting problems cited in audit after audit remain, despite the hiring of an internal auditor and new finance director, and the creation of an Audit and Finance Committee to help oversee district finances?
How is it that, even as the district’s former Adult Education coordinator sits in prison, the program’s records are still in disarray, showing students enrolled in multiple classes during the same class periods?
Among the 18 deficiencies cited by the district’s most recent state audit — six of which have been cited for the past three audits — are numerous errors and omissions in the reporting of expenses, overstating some by millions of dollars while understating others. In doing so, according to auditors, the district may be approaching the reserve fund ratio — 3 percent of the operating budget — at which it must report a financial emergency to the state. If that ratio falls to 2 percent, the state can appoint a financial emergency board to assume control over district finances.
For years the district tapped its reserves — funds that can be used for unanticipated expenses or emergency situations such as hurricanes — to balance its budget. In 2004, the reserves added up to $12.1 million. By 2012, they had dropped to about $2.3 million.
In June, with reserves below 3 percent, district Finance Director Ken Gentile assured School Board members that past concerns over the district’s reserves had been successfully addressed. At first this appeared to be welcome news, but a closer look gave cause for concern.
While some of Gentile’s budget magic came from cutting expenses, about $2 million came from district assets not previously considered as reserves. In describing this “new” money, Gentile explained that “inventories count; you could sell it and spend it.”
We believe that kind of “creativity” is just one more example of a financial three-card monte intended to make the district seem more solvent than it is. And the resultant foggy and inaccurate reporting cited by state auditors continues to obscure where the district actually stands financially.
The district’s financial software, according to former Superintendent Jesus Jara, dates back to the 1970s, making it difficult or impossible to provide the School Board with a comprehensive line-item budget document. Gentile and Director of Operations Michael Kinneer are on their way out, their contracts understandably not renewed by Superintendent Mark Porter.
Porter, with just seven months on the job, is throwing patches at the wreck of an administrative structure while striving to maintain the core mission of educating our children.
In addition to the district’s audit issues, the School Board also is facing change orders and unanticipated expenses with the Horace O’Bryant School construction project.
School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths often laments the frequent headlines about district problems — as though the district is merely the victim of bad press.
However, financial oversight of the district is the board’s job. It is Monroe County taxpayers who are the victims of a broken system that incompetently handles their tax dollars. And unless the board quickly gets a handle on that job, there is a good chance the district will continue to generate headlines.
Unfortunately, after four years, two felony convictions, three superintendents, several financial officers, a string of bad audits and far more excuses than solutions, we don’t hold much faith in a miraculous financial epiphany that sets all right with the district budget. The past four years have clearly demonstrated that the Monroe County School Board simply doesn’t have the skills in its tool kit to repair district finances.
No matter how hard Porter works to rebuild this train wreck, he lacks the personnel and resources to quickly determine where the district really stands financially today, much less in the future. For him to have any chance of success, he needs a path cleared by the state — not more political theater in the boardroom.
It’s time the state Department of Education intervened with some form of financial oversight, preferably by appointing a financial emergency board to sort out this mess and put in place whatever measures are necessary to put the district back on financially secure ground and to restore taxpayer confidence.
As for the School Board, it’s up to voters to fix that mess.
– The Citizen
But then, to make that call last summer, they, at least de facto, would have had to endorse the only candidate in either race calling for a state takeover. The odds of Tom Tuell [Editor of The Citizen] letting that happen were below sub-zero. Just as the odds of that editorial mentioning that candidate was me, and state takeover was my position even before Hometown! PAC’s call to candidates last April.
I dunno know, if I had to hazard a guess, I might be able to name the author of that editorial.
Maybe somebody needs to send that editorial to whomever in the Florida Board of Education calls the shots on taking over school districts. Too bad that whomever who calls those shots wasn’t at yesterday’s school board meeting. Well, maybe that whomever be sent a link for the instant replay and watch it, if instant replays exist in the SD. Do they?
It’s probably a dang good thing you were doing baseball yesterday. You might have had a seizure and stopped breathing, if you had been at Trumbo Dumbo. You would have loved Roger McVeigh’s report for the AFC. Hell, if I were Roger, being the CPA up the wazoo he is, and I had heard the district had not paid the HOB annual mortgage payment, I would have gone into cardiac arrest and perhaps mercifully removed from this planet.
As I wrote to Nashville J this morning, to explain what has not been explained in the newspapers:
The whole thing was whitewashed by the mortgage lender. Apparently, it did not send an invoice for that mortgage payment, when it was due, and later the lender sent and invoice for about half of what was due. There also was confusing talk about when the mortgage payment was due to be paid: early in the year, January, as I recall; or June, or later. The loan documents say January, I think. Like, whoever in the SD was in charge of making that mortgage payment didn’t know when it was due to be paid. As Ed Davidson keeps saying, you know when the mortgage on you home is due, and if you don’t get an invoice for it from your mortgage lender, you pick up the phone and call your mortgage lender to find out what happened. There is a huge penalty in this mortgage, for default – it’s basically an interest free loan, part of President Obama’s stimulus package, but if there is a default in payment, or if the school is not completed on schedule, all the interest, about $20 million, which was waived, has to be paid. Serious wailing and gnashing of teeth, in that event, which is why it was/is acutely imperative to stay dead on top of this particular SD obligation. Glad you weren’t there to listen to all the whitewashing and sweeping under the rug, you might have had a stroke and a coronary simultaneously. I told the SD’s bond lawyer out in the hall, that if I was the SD’s bond lawyer, I would tell them during the public part of the meeting that they had better never do that again. I left before he spoke in the public part of the meeting, so I don’t know what he told them. Privately, I would have reamed them out, and sent them a bill for the reaming.
The closer I got to KW yesterday, the worse I felt. By the time I reached Trumbo Dumbo, I was barely moving. The high point was the Spelling B winner kids and me rapping a few minutes, as described into today’s post. That frolic sort of revived me long enough to speak my three minutes to the entire gathering, and after that I was spent and silently giving thanks I was not a school board member.
With all due candor, The Citizen had a golden opportunity last year to persuade the voters that they needed to clean house on the school board, starting with not reelecting 5-term incumbent Andy Griffiths, and The Citizen did not do it. I look forward to somebody on The Citizen Editorial Board tearing the Board a new one for dereliction of duty. Not holding my breath.
As for the school board and district getting beaten up in The Citizen, The Keynoter, The Citizen Blog and other blogs, ahem, this being one, the school board and district have themselves to thank for that.
In that same vein, Larry Murray later copied me with this ass-whupping to now 6-term Andy Griffiths, serving again as the school board chairman:
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2013 19:40:07 -0700 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Deliberate Manipulation Of The Agenda To: email@example.com
I thought we had an agreement as a result of my persistent criticisms of the School Board agenda. That is, I thought we agreed that no “Action Items” would be added after the publication of the agenda 7 days prior to the meeting and that a good faith effort would be made to have everything complete with the initial execution of the agenda. Believing that was the case, I did not check on a daily basis as I should have.
As it turns out, Superintendent Porter added a critical “Action Item” only hours before the meeting, burying it as something in his report, “Leadership Transition Plan”. Bullshit! If you read the supporting documentation, the Superintendent is requesting action by the School Board to give him certain authority, which the Board did. That is an “Action Item” by any definition and to not identify it as such and then to sneak it by at the last minute is reprehensible. Don’t try to tell me that it just occurred to the Superintendent on Tuesday that he might need interim appointments to replace the people that he fired, i.e. did not renew contracts, 10 days earlier.
In addition, the Superintendent, while not calling for action, did include at the last bloody minute four job descriptions for high ranking administrative positions. I assume these descriptions will be the basis for the legally noticed future public hearings, a subject of which I have been highly critical regarding how it has been handled. Again, this is something that has been kicking around for several weeks and could have or should have been included with the initial publication of the agenda.
There are numerous other instances of background information being linked on Friday and again on Tuesday. I will not belabor you with the particulars as they are self-evident on the agenda.
The issue here is either incompetence or deliberate manipulation of the agenda. What the District is telling the public is do not pay any attention to the initial publication of the agenda because it will be twisted and torqued right up to the opening of the meeting. You will be misled. Some things will be added and other things will be hidden and you will have to dig them out. I certainly do not consider that dealing with the public in good faith nor do I consider it anything resembling transparency. This is exactly the kind of behavior that leads members of the public, certainly yours truly, to distrust the School Board and the Superintendent.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
The one thought that came to me after reading Larry’s email was, if Mark Porter can announce the non-renewal of high ranking administrative employees’ contracts, without getting school board approval, can Porter not also announce the hiring of temporary replacements for those departing high ranking administrative employees, without school board approval? And can not Porter also solicit long-term replacements for those high ranking administrative employees, and interview them, and hire them without school board approval? Is that not within the purview and authority of being the school district’s CEO? I ask those questions because I think that’s how it’s done in the private sector. Maybe it’s different in the public sector, but when the schools superintendent was elected, he had that purview and authority. Maybe there is something in Porter’s employment contract, which addresses that.
Meanwhile, today’s Keynoter article on the recent school board meeting joined The Citizen’s article on Wednesday in not reporting the really juicy stuff reported in yesterday’s the sound of music and bright sunshine in the Florida Keys school district, mostly post.
Further meanwhile, there is a Disney Magic cruise ship guilty of unAmerican activity, not to mention despoilation of Key West post today at goodmorningkeywest.com.