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There is a post at goodmorningkeywest.com today about my relationship with Key West the Newspaper, and its relationship with school board member Andy Griffiths, which you should be able to reach by clicking on this link: interactive investigative journalism – Key West, Florida Keys, and beyond. In that post, you see how Naja and Arnaud Girard and Griffiths neutralized Key West the Newspaper from reporting on adverse school district goings on.
Meanwhile, from Sandy Downs yesterday, on Horace O’Bryant K-8 School:
Coastal Construction is the only company that is allowed to build schools in Dade County. Dade County found their construction to be superior to all others and to be the lowest priced for the quality delivered. Dade County no longer puts the school building “out to bid”, but instead just awards all building to Coastal.
Coastal built HOB and finished it early and $1,000,000.00 under budget. The School District splits the $1,000,000.00 under budget with $600,000.00 going back to our school district, and Coastal keeping $400,000.00. Upon this news being delivered, our school district decided to do a certain type of “audit” of Coastal and that will delay the $600,000.00 delivery.
If our school district does not complete the “audit” by June, the loans owed will not be paid, and the interest rate on the loans will skyrocket. Steve Primbransky is in charge of the “audit”. Thank God, because he has some sense.
Because the School District or the City is suing the original architect, the parking lot for HOB was put on hold. Now, that architect’s plans are not being used for the parking lot, and so there are no drawn up plans by an architect for a parking lot. The city has not given Coastal permission and a permit to build the parking lot they submitted plans for, so HOB will be finished with no parking lot.
Cheery news, huh?
Can I send this to Larry Murray for his thoughts? It may be more complicated than you have presented it; but, you may have condensed it to what really is going on beneath all the thrashing around.
Also, I want to talk to you about how you arrived at what you wrote.
Yes, please send it to Larry. The School District knows all this, but how they spin it is their madness. Ed Davidson seems to be a problem in all this.
Ed’s problem in all of this, also Stuart Kessler’s problem before it became Ed’s problem, also Larry Murray’s problem, and my problem, the school district seemed to have no records, or at least no intelligent or easily found records, of the construction costs and payments to Coastal. For all I know, Coastal is squeaky clean; but according to Ed, I heard him say this at a school board meeting, he was only able to get HOB construction cost and payment records out of Coastal; he was unable to get anything out of the school district. Later, after that splashed the news really good, or really bad, Ed started getting records from the school district, but I heard the records were all jumbled up, like all in a big box, or in boxes, and were not organized and it was not easy to make sense of any of them without lots of effort. That is why, as I understand it, Steve Pribramsky finally was hired; to get to the very bottom of it. It may be nothing to it, but the school district cannot simply rely on Coastal’s word for their numbers, no matter how well thought of Coastal may be in Dade County. Coastal built other schools in the Keys. Coastal had to account for its numbers then. My recollection, perhaps faulty, there were some “negotiations”. A problem with HOB, as I recall, a fellow ramrodding HOB for Coastal once had worked for the school district in similar capacity, either as an employee, or as an independent contractor. What is truly astounding to me in all of this, everyone knew the huge penalty that would be imposed if HOB was not completed on time, basically the school district would have to pay $20 million in interest which had been waived as part of the $36 million loan to build the new school. Yet, knowing that, the school district today really has no clue if it went okay with Coastal. More specifically, the school board has no clue; and, make no mistake, it was the school board who approved the stimulis “creative financing” with the huge penalty in it, because it was interest free, basically, if everything went okay. Pribramsky told me that he warned the school board against approving the stimulus financing, because he knew the school district’s history and he was worried something might go wrong and the huge penalty would have to be paid. He was ignored. All the more astounding, we now hear the school board is clueless about the HOB and Coastal numbers. As I wrote earlier, it might be more complicated than you presented it; but, you might have boiled it down to its essence from an accounting perspective. Am forwarding all of this to Larry now.
When I later spoke with Sandy on the telephone, I asked where she got the information in her two emails? She said from someone high up in the construction company building HOB. She asked me to not publish who is is, which I agreed was best because this person might provide more information. I said Ed Davidson is the only person in the school district administration trying to get the district straightened out, he is not the problem with HOB. I said I was not aware of any lawsuit being filed against the HOB architect. Sandy said the high up person in Coastal had said the school district is insane. I said, on that point, I agreed.
When later I talked with Larry Murray by telephone, he said as far as he knows, no lawsuits have been filed re HOB by anyone, but such might happen later. I said that is my take, also.
In reply to what Sandy wrote, Larry wrote to me:
Lawrence Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org)Add to contacts 5:00 PM
To: sloan bashinsky
I will not be responding to Sandra Downs’ commentary as it is rife with error and misinformation. I have neither the time nor the inclination to make the corrections. I will, however, say a few things about a subject you raised, HOB recordkeeping.
When I joined the Audit and Finance Committee, now 3 1/2 years later, I raised the issue of District recordkeeping and what an abysmal job was being done. State law requires that the District have a Records Management Liaison Officer (RMLO) and a Records Management Program. The MCSD has neither.
Joe Burke simply swatted my concerns aside as was his wont to do. Jesus Jara humored me by appointing Nick Osterhoudt, then IT Director, as RMLO. He wanted nothing to do with the job and consequently did nothing until he left the District a year ago.
When I raised the records management issue with “Poor” Mark Porter, his response was: “What RMLO?” and “What Records Management Program?” It was typical of his ignorance. Eventually, he appointed Michael Kinneer as RMLO, who was as enthusiastic about the job as his predecessor and did exactly as much, nothing. So far as I know today, the District has no RMLO and I know for a fact that it has no Records Management Program, hence the problems with records for the HOB project.
As we all know from complaints raised by Ed Davidson and Stuart Kessler, Porter feigned ignorance, something he is good at, and refused to give requested documents to the Board committee investigating the HOB Change Orders. Finally, under the weight of public pressure, Porter gave Davidson and Kessler 10 boxes of miscellaneous records in no particular arrangement as you reported.
I just learned today that Porter, in response to records requests from Steve Pribramsky, the District’s Attestation Officer, has provided 8 more boxes. It seems that some records were found in the Transportation Department and others at Marathon High School. Like the first batch, there is no organization or arrangement to the mishmash of records. I was not all that wrong in my original surmise that the records were in a storage locker in Islamorada. I was only off by 20 miles! Who knows if there are more records and where they may be located.
I understand that Pribramsky has, like Porter and Dirk Smits before him, requested records directly from Coastal Construction. It remains to be seen if he will be any more successful than his predecessors. I doubt it. My Public Records Request of Coastal has so far been ignored.
It does not surprise me that there is no organization to the records as the District does not know how to create, store and retrieve records. If you look at assorted documents, you will see that it is a commonplace that there is no date, no letterhead, no originating office(r), no indication as to whom the document is directed and no signature. Other than that, they are pristine.
Equally important, there is no plan or program for storing and retrieving documents no matter how woefully prepared. I once asked Nick Osterhoudt if he could give me the last three directives issued by Burke and the first three issued by Jara. He laughed and said, “No way!” The general thinking is that electronically communicated documents can always be found–assuming you know where to look. For paper documents, common with the HOB project, good luck.
My guess is that if you want any District records, HOB related or otherwise, ask Sally Smith, the administrative assistant to both the Superintendent and the Board. If anyone knows where the dead and wounded are buried, it would be Sally.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
Last year, Larry and I both ran for the school board seat Ed Davidson ended up narrowly winning from a retired Florida Keys school principal in the general election. Before that, Larry had served a 4-year term on the school board’s volunteer Audit & Finance Committee, from which position he repeatedly tried to bring sanity to the school district’s financial and accounting practices.
I called Larry and asked him to write briefly to what Sandy had reported, and I asked him about the employee who had worked for the school district, whom I thought maybe had gone to work for Coastal. Larry said he would send me something brief. He said, the Coastal employee, last name Eaton, had been a buddy of a school district employee, last name Sims, who had looked after construction projects for the school district, including HOB. I said my fear is, by the time it’s all said and done, Coastal will come out squeaky clean and the school board and school system will have shit all over it. Larry said that might well be, but the school district must pursue and complete its HOB investigation via Steve Primbramsky. I said I agreed.
Larry’s second reply to Sandy Downs:
Larry Murray 7:59 PM
To: Sloan Bashinsky
1. HOB should be finished on time and over budget. The principal buildings are complete and they are working on a punch list. A parking lot remains to be done. HOB was bonded for $36 million. Best estimate today is the final cost will be $40 million +/-.
2. HOB will not be completed under budget let alone $1 million. There is no $1 million to be split.
As there is nothing to split, there is no delay in the delivery of any money. The District holds all of the money until it pays Coastal.
3. There are no loans to be paid in June as the $36 million paid is amortized over 20 years. What remains is paperwork, the final accounting. No interest will skyrocket as there is no interest penalty. If needed the District can request an extension in filing the paperwork, an extension that most likely will be granted since the building is effectively done.
4. Steve Pribramsky is not conducting an audit and has said so many times. He is reviewing documents, attestation, to determine validity and accuracy. He can quit anytime. His work technically has no direct relationship to the bond. His job is to confirm that the District received everything that it paid for. [Re HOB]
5. The School District is not suing the architect or anyone else for that matter.
6. Yes, the parking lot is on hold and remains to be resolved.
7. There is more than one set of plans for the parking lot that are being considered, two I believe. All have been prepared by a licensed architect.
8. So far as I know, the School District does not require a permit from the City of Key West to build a parking lot or anything else. Coastal is awaiting an agreement with the School District to building a parking lot, not permission from the city. The School District is self-permitting and does its own inspections.
9. Whether the parking lot, actually a second parking lot, will be built before school opens remains to be seen. Either way, the world will not end.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
Larry also forwarded by attachment a May 17, 2017 (yesterday) email from the Coastal’s HOB Project Executive to the school district demanding retractions of erroneous statements made against Coastal by school board and district personnel at school board meetings and in local newspapers and blogs. The email tears the school board and district to shreds. I am unable to copy and paste the email into this post. Maybe I can get it sent to me in a different format, which I can share in a later post. Here is today’s article in The Key West Citizen – www.keysnews.com – about the email.
Coastal Construction, the contractor charged with building the Horace O’Bryant K-8 School, formally requested Friday that School Board members disown comments made in public regarding the project.
The email, sent to School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths and copied to all board members, Superintendent Mark Porter, project architect Rick Z. Smith, and the media, marked the first time the contractor has spoken out on the controversial project. The company’s policy is not to communicate with media on the record.
The missive, signed by Coastal Construction Project Executive Keith Sockaloski, states that, “Coastal is concerned with statements made in Board meetings, quoted in the newspapers, and again repeated on US. 1 Radio, by certain Board Members.”
Sokaloski is not the Coastal employee Sandy Downs told me she spoke with.
It goes on to request that any assertion that Coastal was the contractor that built Coral Shores High School be retracted.
I would like to know if Coastal participated in building Coral Shores High School, even if it was not the contractor.
The email also takes issue with a statement allegedly made by “Board-appointed HOB Change Order Specialist” Stuart Kessler that Coastal had “‘double-dipped’ on the Fire Proofing line item.”
“This statement was made without merit and was not correct, as shown to Mr. Porter and yourself the following day,” it reads.
Further, Sockaloski states: “It should be noted that all of our change orders have previously been approved by a Monroe County School District authorized signatory, the district’s construction manager, and the architect. The failing was that in 28 months of construction, the district failed to report the change orders to the board. This failing was not the fault of the contractor or architect, but rather, the district.”
Hard to argue with that on the face of it. However, read on …
Reached by phone on Friday, Sockaloski declined to comment on the email.
Griffiths sided partly with the contractor.
“They are correct,” he said. “They did not build Coral Shores. And I await the documentation to discuss the rest.”
Who, then, in the school district, or on the school board, said Coastal built Coral Shores?
District 3 board member Ed Davidson, the most vociferous critic of the project, conceded that the email was likely directed at him.
“I would point out to Mr. Sockaloski that Florida law requires that all change orders must be reviewed by and filed in the minutes of the School Board, which delegated that authority to the superintendent, but only up to a $25,000 limit,” Davidson said. “Florida statute 1013.48 requires even such delegated approvals to be reported to the board and entered in its official minutes, neither of which happened over a period of two years.
“There were roughly 16 to 18 change orders that exceeded those limits, and which the superintendent had no authority to approve on his own,” Davidson went on. “The contractor is responsible for knowing and obeying both Florida law, School Board policy, and the terms of the contract he signed. Our own attorney advised the board that we had to retroactively reapprove those change orders which had no legal standing, because they violated state law and School Board policy.”
Given how many schools Coastal apparently has built in Florida, I’d say Coastal has to know what Florida law is on this subject. However, that does not excuse the school board from not staying on top of the HOB construction, change orders and costs.
Sockaloski’s email also referenced the “unsuitable” soil discovered at the site that required extra work.
“We find it interesting that the oversight of change orders does not bring up the fact that the majority of the additive costs are related to the unsuitable soils, and contaminated soils — that was the responsibility of MCSD (Monroe County School District) to establish those particular liabilities on this site. MCSD commissioned KACO (Kaderabek Company) and EEG (Environmental Enterprise Group Inc.) for said services, not Coastal.”
Davidson contested this point as well.
“To the expensive issue of unsuitable soils, I would direct Coastal officials to review page five of the zumBrunnen report, that states as follows: ‘A reasonable amount of construction contingency funds are budgeted to fund additional costs that may be encountered during earthwork operations, and road and foundation construction, due to limited amounts of unsuitable soils.'” Davidson said. “But Coastal instead billed the full $300,000 directly to the taxpayers.”
Also on Friday, Kessler, in an email sent to a number of interested parties in the construction project, stood by his earlier statements and offered supporting documentation to back them up.
All of the above is an example of dynamics which provide a real world view of how the school district administration operates.
Imagine a company keeping records like the school district kept on HOB. When I see something like that, I am looking at a forest burning down. Steve Pribramsky was hired to deal with a few burning trees. HOB is not an anomaly; it is but one of many symptoms of what I started saying early last year is a dysfunctional terminally insane school district administration. Larry Murray told me about month ago, which I published, that he had come around to agreeing with me, that the only way out is for the state to take over the school district.
I told Ed Davidson at candidate forums last year, if elected, he would not be able to change the school district.
I told candidate forum audiences last year, it didn’t matter who they elected, nothing would change. A state takeover was needed, along with each school becoming a charter school and having its own board of directors and coming out from under control of the school administration and tending to doing what school are suppose to do, teach children.
I told candidate forum audiences last year, they were not ready to hear that yet, but a day would come when they might remember what I told them.
2012 school board candidate