UPDATED: Packed day of Broward School Board stuff. School Board Member Stephanie Kraft wrote in an email today that Miriam Oliphant's job at the School Board is being investigated by Supt. James Notter. The problem with that is that ol' Notter already said he didn't there was "special treatment" in the case in which Oliphant, a former School Board member and ousted elections supervisor, was bumped up to $75,000 in a guidance counselor's position after a year on the job. Here's what Kraft wrote about the case:
[O]ur Superintendent is looking into the Miriam Oliphant issue. None of the Board members knew she was working for us until we read that her name was on the discharge list. You are correct, there are questions as to how she climbed to the top of the pay scale list. Florida law allows us to hire teachers conditionally and as a guidance counselor she is hired as an instructional employee. They then have one year to get their certificates in order. She did not do this and thus was discharged. I have questioned how she got to the top of the pay scale as I don't believe her prior experiences as a witness coordinator afforded her experience as a guidance counselor. I questioned this yesterday at the Board meeting, as well as raising this with the Superintendent personally. Mr. Notter has assured us he is looking into this.
Kraft also responded to criticism from Property Appraiser Lori Parrish today, saying that current School Board policy dictates that draft copies of audit reports be kept secret and that there is no way Parrish changed the policy when she was on the board in the 1980s.
The email, below, speaks for itself. But here's the problem: The board policy stands contrary to state law (a minor detail the School Board at times has little trouble skirting). The Sunshine Law, designed to curtail public corruption and hold governments accountable, demands that drafts be made public. This come directly from the Sunshine Manual:
Accordingly, any agency document or document prepared by a member or members of a governing board advisory body such as the peer review panel, however prepared, if seen by another for review, comment or information, is a public record regardless of whether it is an official expression of policy or marked "preliminary" or "working draft" or similar label. Examples of such materials would include telephone message slips, interoffice memoranda, preliminary drafts of the peer review report or proposals which have been submitted for review to anyone within or outside the agency, handwritten notes on a printed report and working drafts of reports which have been furnished to the District for review.
Get that? All you public officials please tuck that paragraph away and remember it. This is an open records state, not Stalingrad circa 1957.
Kraft points to law that indicates that audit reports are exempt from the law until they become "final." When does an audit report become final? When it is transmitted to a governing body. That means that when the auditors send their finished report to the audit committee, it becomes public.
Here's what Kraft is proposing: That auditors not send the audit to the committee until staff has a chance to go over it and respond. Well, that might be technically legal, but all it does is dilute the auditor's report and allow staff to load it up with whatever crap they choose (you should see the steaming pile that Michael Garretson et al. threw at the Ashbritt audit -- hundreds of pages of diversionary nonsense designed to muddy the water). It's sort of like letting Bernie Madoff have a crack at his indictment before it is filed with the court. Nonsense. The public and the audit committee deserve to get the report in its pure form, undiluted. Kraft acts like she's being extremely reasonable, but she's doing what she so often does: trying to protect the dirty machine that runs the School Board.
One more remark on Kraft's email. She makes a special point to label me as Charlotte Greenbarg's "friend." Although I think Charlotte is a great citizen of this county, she is a source (in the past), not a friend.
Anyway, Kraft's full email can be read after the jump. I'll give Kraft this: She did her homework.
From: Stephanie A. Kraft [mailto:
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:39 AM
To: Charlotte Greenbarg
Cc: Andy Shaftel; ; Dot Murphy; Joel Leshinsky; ; Patti Lynn; ; Robert Lynch; Robin S. Moselle; Toby Feuer; Patrick O. Reilly; Dave G. Rhodes; Maureen S. Dinnen; Robin Bartleman; Maureen S. Dinnen; Beverly A. Gallagher; Jennifer L. Gottlieb; Phyllis C. Hope; Stephanie A. Kraft; Ann Murray ; Robert D. Parks; Ruth L. Lutz; Nancy C. Boyd; Maureen A. Cory; Gail Fallon; Kim R. Simmonds; Linda B. Torlone; Marcia Simmons; Denise Usefof; Vinita Pullom; James F. Notter; Vicki Horton; Juanita L. Pringle; Jacqueline H. Dunlap; Donna Justino; Marsha Habib-Cummings
Subject: Re: FW: Stinging audit provokes response from some Broward School Board members]
Actually, our current policy clearly states that draft reports should not be released.
Policy 1002.1, paragraph 10 states:
Pursuant to Section 119.0713(3), Florida Statutes, workpapers, notes and preliminary draft audit reports shall be held confidential and exempt from public records disclosure until the audit report is completed and has been issued to the Superintendent, School Board and Audit Committee.
That means that our current policy contemplates that draft audits should not be released. That policy was adopted in 81, and amended in 82 and 83. It was next amended in 2002 and again in 2007.
Lori was on the Board from 1984-88. I don ' t know what was in the original policy or what the amendments were, but it was not amended during her tenure. Either the above paragraph was not in the policy when Lori was on the Board from 84 - 88, and was added after she left, or the above paragraph was in place while she was on the Board, which means that is how the process was handled when she was there.
Thus, contrary to what she said in her email, Lori did not change that policy when she was on the School Board.
Since I have no doubt that you were quick to provide your friend Bob Norman her email, perhaps you may want to follow up with him to let him know that contrary to her claim, she did not amend the policy while she was on the School Board.
I think the press has been misleading with my comments. I am not looking to hide the audits, I am merely saying that they should be released once they are complete, meaning that all sides should have their reports in writing before they are released. I believe this is critical because when they are released with just the one side presented, as happened in this case, now the department is scrambling to come up with excuses. In the articles that I have read, there have been multiple responses from the construction people already. Wouldn't it have been better to get the one response from the department, have it included in the audit, then have the Audit Committee tear it apart at the meeting? As it is now, his responses will be skewed because of the negative press. I would have preferred to see his response, "unsanitized" as it were, and then let the Audit Committee decide if the response made any sense or not.
There would have been plenty of opportunities for the press to write about the audit report after the Committee had had a chance to dissect the responses and make their recommendations.
Stephanie Arma Kraft, Esq.
School Board Member, District 4