Monthly Archives: July 2014

News Flash: Green Barred from Entering SAU Building

Email today from Nancy Steenson, Chair of Timberlane School Board. Received at 5:02 p.m.

Mrs. Green,

It has been reported to me that an investigation is being conducted by the Superintendent’s office concerning your interactions with an SAU staff member on July 24, 2014.  Until such time as the investigation is complete, you are hereby barred from entering upon the SAU #55 premises without the expressed written permission of the Superintendent of Schools.  Dr. Metzler will make appropriate arrangements for you to conduct your duties as a school board member. 

Nancy


I might note that no one from the SAU has contacted me about this incident, so thorough has been their investigation to date. Nor have they provided the security recording I requested that will exonerate me from this ridiculous “investigation.”   The clock is ticking on that.

AUGUST 1, 2014 UPDATE:  More than a week from the supposed “incident,” no one has contacted me – not Dr. Metzler, not the police, not anyone.  The security recording has not been given to me in disregard of the Right to Know law.  Dr. Metzler has been reported as saying that Green is an obstructionist and that I will not be allowed to use rudeness and disrespect to accomplish my objectives.  The only rudeness and disrespect going on here is that from the administration towards me. At the July 16th meeting Dr. Metzler said I was a waste of a representative for Sandown. This is an odd statement coming from an employee talking about an elected official who is charged with overseeing his performance.

I would draw your attention to something I posted here on July 18 in reply to my censure:  “It is true that I refuse to meet with Dr. Metzler because I will not make myself vulnerable to accusations of backroom deals. Public business is to be conducted in public.”  My apprehensions about interactions outside of the public eye have been born out.  Timberlane must surrender the security recording  or stop trying to ruin my reputation and impede my service to Sandown.  Have there been any sanctions against the employee who raised her voice to me?

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Filed under My censure, Pinocchio Academy, Right to Know issues, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Behavior

July 16th Meeting: The Sound of Silence

When does No mean No? Board fails to respond to issue of expenditures with zero appropriation

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

During the contentious July 16 School Board meeting, there was one serious issue previously raised which was met with continued silence.

Budget law says that the voter’s No means No.  When the town meeting (Deliberative plus the following general vote) sets the appropriation for a line item at zero, the district may not spend money on that item (RSA 32:10)….  unless the district follows the special procedures set out in RSA 32:11.

Today I sent the following letter to the School Board, the Superintendent, and the Budget Committee:

The Timberlane School District has to date not responded to the issue I raised in my June 5 presentation to the School Board, in which I pointed out budget lines where expenditures have been made although the annual meeting had voted zero appropriation.
 
Please provide the following details to substantiate compliance with NH budget law 32:11 for the situation when expending money for which no appropriation has been made:
 
Budget line 1600 115 Alternative/Continuing Education – Amount budgeted: $0,    Amount expended to June 30: $6,348
  • Date of expenditure
  • Copy of the budget committee minutes approving application to the Commissioner of Education
  • Copy of the application made to the Commissioner of Education, showing transmittal to the Department of Revenue Administration
  • Copy of the Approval by the Commissioner of Education
Budget line 2620 441 Operating Buildings Services / Rental Land and Buildings – Amount budgeted: $0,    Amount expended to June 30: $34,785
  • Date of expenditure
  • Copy of the budget committee minutes approving application to the Commissioner of Education
  • Copy of the application made to the Commissioner of Education, showing transmittal to the Department of Revenue Administration
  • Copy of the Approval by the Commissioner of Education
Budget line 2660 737 Security Services / Replacement Equipment – Amount appropriated: $0,    Amount expended to June 30: $55,791
  • Date of expenditure
  • Copy of the budget committee minutes approving application to the Commissioner of Education
  • Copy of the application made to the Commissioner of Education, showing transmittal to the Department of Revenue Administration
  • Copy of the Approval by the Commissioner of Education
Thank you

 

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July 16th Meeting: Lawyer Proves Hearing was Needed

School District Lawyer’s Letter Proves Timberlane Failed to Comply with Budget Law

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

Three contentious issues were discussed at the July 16th meeting.

  1. Transfer of appropriations (Policy DBJ) not being respected
  2. LGC HealthTrust Refund money not being accepted by public hearing  (Total received to date: $1,054,000)
  3. The school district audit being 8 months late.

This blog will be addressing each of these topics in a separate post. Let’s start with #2.

Exhibit A at the Timberlane School Board meeting July 16 was a letter from district counsel which was supposed to prove that the district had met the legal requirements for receiving the million-dollar LGC Health Trust refund without holding a public hearing. The lawyer’s letter (Link: Lawyers Opinion 198-20-b) shows the opposite: a public hearing should have been held. The summary quote from the legal opinion reads:

Under RSA 198:20-b it is only when the District intends to accept and expend [emphasis in the original] revenue received that the district is required to hold a public hearing.

The district expended about $200,000 over and above the amount transferred to surplus, so a public hearing was necessary by the board’s own legal advice. The calculation goes like this:

  • Total refund to the district was $1,054,000
  • Refunds to employees and retirees, approximately 15% – $158,000
  • The remainder after refunds is $896,000
  • But the amount transferred to surplus was $855,050, about $41,000 less

By virtue of these expenditures, the district was definitely required to hold a public hearing by their own legal advice.

The School Board is aware of the weakness of its position, as evidenced by the fact that Donna Green was prevented for weeks from reading the lawyer’s letter until it was produced like a trump card at the July 16 meeting. This was clearly done to prevent it from being effectively rebutted in public. But even if we grant the lawyer’s interpretation of the law with which we disagree, there were expenditures and therefore there should have been a public hearing.

Kelly Ward, school board member from Sandown, asked at the July meeting if he could get a full accounting of this money if he went to the SAU office to meet with Mr. Stokinger.  He was assured by Mr. Stokinger that was the case.  Two days after the meeting, Mrs. Green sent the Board Chairman and SAU a request to account for the difference between the gross refund from LGC and the amount transferred to surplus. To date there has been no answer.

Mrs. Green has repeatedly asked the administration for a detailed accounting of this transaction (including a motion voted down at the July 16 meeting). We know a few things with certainty.

  • The total value refunded to the district : $1,053,947
  • The 2010 portion of the refund occurred Aug 27 2013, for $770,461
  • The amount transferred to surplus was $855,050

Some information has been provided in only general terms:

  • The 2011 portion of the refund, worth $283,486, was taken partially in the form of a credit on the Workers Compensation premium.
  • The cash portion was received by the district in August 2013
  • The credit portion was approximately $60,000
  • The reimbursement due to be returned to retirees is approximately 15% of the total value of the refund

Information which has not been provided:

  • The exact amount and date of the refund of 2011 surplus funds
  • The exact amount and date of the premium holiday on workers compensation
  • The exact amount of the employee and retiree reimbursements, and the distribution dates of those reimbursements
  • Use of any portion of the refund for other General Fund expenditures, if any
  • Added: FICA remittances on the amounts refunded to employees, if any, and source of such remittances

To be clear, I am strongly of the opinion that the law calls for a public hearing, even if all the money is claimed to be transferred to surplus. This is to protect taxpayers from the exact situation which has arisen at Timberlane.

The 2013/14 spending and revenue budget was deliberated and approved from Nov. 2012 through Mar. 2013, while the LGC matter was before the courts and definitely not part of any revenue forecast.  On the budget of $65 million, the district was counting on carrying forward a $2 million surplus into 2014/15, and they would have to do this by holding spending to $63 million.

In June 2013 the LGC notified the district that they would be receiving a refund of more than a million  dollars in August 2013.  This unanticipated revenue was not budgeted for the 2013/14 year.

This should have gone to a public hearing.  Had it done so, we might have returned almost $3 million to the taxpayers instead of $2 million.

Instead, the district increased its spending form $63 million to $64 million… still within the appropriation voted in March 2013, but a million dollars higher than expected at the time the budget was approved.

And the School Board pats itself on the back for delivering a $1.9 million surplus.

UPDATE July 27: Added question about FICA remittances to the list of information not provided.  Medical insurance witholdings are pre-tax dollars, so the employee refunds would appear to carry an obligation to withold tax.  Did such witholding reduce the amount remitted to the employees, or was it paid from additional General Funds?

 

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Filed under My censure, Pinocchio Academy, Sandown Issues, School Board Functioning, The Mushroom Farm

Target Acquired!

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.         Saul Alinsky  Rules for Radicals                                                                                                                 

Today’s email from Dr. Metzler to me:

July 24, 2014

Mrs Green – Today it was reported to me that you were both disrespectful and harassing to several employees. Of course I will investigate this report and if validated I will need to limit your access to the SAU. This is both disturbing and unfortunate. I will also be consulting with both the Plaistow Police Department and district council.

Respectfully,
Dr. Earl F. Metzler II


Today I went to the SAU to pick up some Right to Know information.  The monthly expenditure and revenue report was ready ($8) and Mr. Peter Bealo’s letter of censure from the school board dated May 15, 2013 (50 cents). I have also previously arranged to review the year’s correspondence folder for material sent to the school board including the TRSB@Timberlane.net  email address, as well as the lawyer’s letter detailing the email policy unilaterally imposed on the budget committee and voluntarily imposed on the school board itself. This is the second time I’ve read this letter.

After reviewing the correspondence folder, I said to an SAU employee that I found it interesting that none of my emails to TRSB were included in this folder.  The employee replied, “I respectfully request you take up this issue with the proper authority,” or something pretty darn close starting with “I respectfully request….” To this I said, “I understand you just print off what you are told.”  Then again:  “I respectfully request….”  At that I said, “OK.”   Then read the lawyer’s letter after which I immediately left the employee’s office to stand at the reception desk to await change for my RTK information bill. While there, this employee came back with a giant binder with the official school board minutes of 2013-2014.  I was told that my emails to TRSB were behind the official minutes of each meeting, but not attached to the minutes. (This means my emails are not available online with the official minutes. It also meant to me that the board as a whole was not reading my emails since they were not included in the correspondence folder for board review.)  At this I said in a tone that was sterner than it should have been something to the effect of “Are you telling me that my emails are kept secret in this binder that nobody knows about?”

The employee responded by flying off the handle, with voice raised saying that my implication was offensive and personally insulting.  I raised my voice and responded with something to the effect that with this arrangement, the board was not seeing my emails that were specifically sent to TRSB so the entire board could see them.  Mrs. Nancy Danahy emerged from her office, stood near the inordinately upset employee and asked if everything was alright.

I made light  and said not to worry that we were not going to come to blows and smiled.  She smiled back and said I’m just doing my job or some such thing. Then Mr. Stokinger appeared and invited me to see the cheque run – an invitation I could not resist.  For the next hour and more, I sat at a desk in the SAU reviewing invoices, matching them to cheques and the cheque register, which I then signed for the first time.  During this time I asked Mr. Stokinger some questions about 4 invoices and conducted a convivial, courteous conversation with all those around me – the lady sitting next to my desk, Mr. Hughes, and a gentleman to see Mr. Stokinger.  As I was about to leave, the employee with whom I had had words passed my desk.  I asked if I could speak a moment and this is how I started.

“I just want you to understand things from my point of view.  I specifically sent emails to TRSB so all the board could see them and now I find they have not been seeing them.  You know I have always considered you a consummate professional. Then I proceeded to say my remarks were not a personal attack.  The reply was that the way I say things does sound accusatory, rude and personal and further that I was mistaken about who was reading the emails. I did not respond.  Then my interlocutor apologized for not acting professionally.  I did not apologize as I felt I had nothing to apologize for.  By the end we parted understanding each other’s upset and what seemed on good terms.

And now Dr. Metzler, using Alinsky’s tactics, wants to exaggerate and escalate a simple exchange of words with someone at the SAU who by their own admission stepped out of professional demeanor.  The apparent goal of his method is to keep me out of the SAU building.  Now why would he want to do that when he has invited me into his office by automatic email at least 80 times?

School Board policy requires school board members to get permission from the superintendent to visit schools even on an informal basis. Now it looks like the objective is to keep at least one school board member from visiting the SAU.

You will note that Dr. Metzler plans to talk to everyone but me about the incident. The battle for the “collective truth of the district” heats up.

TriTown Times CORRECTION:  Today’s paper says that by my calculations the district received $1.5 million from the LGC HealthTrust refund while only $850,000 went into surplus.  This is not correct. The district has received $1.05 million.  With the third tranche to be received in September, the district will have received in total $1.55 million. I’m pretty sure I said the correct numbers in an interview but if I misstated, I apologize to the reporter.

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Filed under My censure, Right to Know issues, Sandown Issues

TIMBERLANE’S NON-PUBLIC MINUTES ARE AN AFFRONT TO THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW

Timberlane should be applauded for finally posting their non-public minutes online and open to the public.  They should be censured, however, for the paucity of information in them which is an  affront to citizens of this district.

Below is a typical example of Timberlane’s non-public minutes in their entirety.  (Time numbers are time stamps relating to the video recording.) It  is excerpted from the May 2, 2013 public meeting minutes, a meeting in which Peter Bealo got censured. In this case, the non-public minutes are embedded in the public minutes and found under “Other Business.” After the vote to go into non-public, the camera was turned off so the subsequent public part of the meeting was conveniently not televised or recorded.  This happens a lot and you’ll see why this is so convenient from reading these minutes. (It was to save Mr. Bealo the embarrassment of a televised censure.)

Other Business 02:11:18
Motion: Mr. Mascola motioned to enter into a non-public session under RSA 91-A: 3, II[c] Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely adversely affect the reputation of any person. Mr. Blair seconded.
The board was polled Blair Yes Barczak Yes Bealo Yes Collins Yes Delfino Yes Mascola Yes Steenson Yes Ward Yes  [DG: video turned off.]
Motion: Mrs. Barczak motioned to exit the non-public session; seconded by Mrs. Delfino.
The board was polled: Blair Yes Barczak Yes Bealo Yes Collins Yes Delfino Yes Mascola Yes Steenson Yes Ward Yes
The board exited the non-public session at 10:10 pm. No action was taken in non-public session.
————————————–END OF NON-PUBLIC MINUTES————————————————
The May 2, 2013 public  minutes continue:  Chairman Collins asked Mr. Bealo to explain a breakfast he attended in the capacity of a school board member after the April 4, 2013 school board meeting. Mr. Bealo recapped the discussion and stated his lack of judgment in attending this meeting and offering advice. Chairman Collins explained that Mr. Bealo’s actions in holding a secret meeting to conduct/influence school board business violated the ethics statement signed by Mr. Bealo. A brief discussion ensued.
Motion: Mr. Blair motioned to authorize Chairman Collins to write a letter of censure from the Timberlane Regional School Board to Mr. Bealo. Mr. Mascola seconded.
With no further discussion the motion passed by a vote of 5-1-2. (Mr. Barczak opposed, Mrs. Steenson and Mr. Bealo abstained.)
 ——————————————————————————————
You will notice that the non-public minutes of May 2, 2013 do not give an indication of what was discussed. That is characteristic of Timberlane’s non-public minutes.  They are a waste of the paper they are printed on.  By some oversight, we are given a clue of what I suspect took place in non-public by the subsequent discussion of Mr. Bealo’s censure.  Of course, the board could have been discussing a problem with a vendor…  Read more to see why I say this.
Here are the non-public minutes from the July 16th meeting. (July 16th is when I was censured.)  If you watch the video recording, you will see Mr. Collins hand Mr. Bealo a handwritten note from which Mr. Bealo subsequently quotes an RSA to go into non-public under reputation.  He would not say whose reputation was at issue, nor was a non-public session indicated on the agenda.
Here are the draft non-public minutes from the July 16th meeting with minor formatting changes to be blog friendly:
Non-public Meeting SAU No 55
July 16, 2014 30 Greenough Road
9:30 PM Plaistow, NHBoard Members Present
Mr. Bealo, Mr. Blair, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Delfino, Mrs. Green, Mr. Mascola, Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Steenson, and Mr. WardAdministrators Present: Dr. Metzler, Superintendent of Schools; Mr. Stokinger, Business Administrator; Mrs. Danahy, Director of Human Resources and School Board Clerk
Motion: Mr. Bealo motioned to enter into a non-public session under RSA 91-A: 3, II[c] matters
which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person; Mr. Collins seconded.
The board was polled at 9:30 pm:
Bealo Yes; Blair Yes; Collins Yes; Delfino Yes; Green No; Mascola Yes; Sherman Yes; Steenson Yes; Ward YesMrs. Green objected to the need to go into nonpublic session and exited the meeting.
The board conferred on the need to address an issue with a vendor.  [My emphasis]
Motion: Mr. Bealo motioned to exit the non-public session; seconded by Mr. Mascola the board was polled:
 Bealo Yes; Blair Yes; Collins Yes; Delfino Yes; Mascola Yes; Sherman Yes; Steenson Yes; Ward YesThe board exited the non-public session at 9:35 pm. No action was taken in non-public session.
——————————————————END———————————————-

The law pertaining to non-public sessions does not permit non-public discussion of the behavior of public officials, but that’s OK because they were talking about a VENDOR.   I guess the problem just popped into Mr. Collins’ head and it absolutely, positively couldn’t wait to be properly noticed, so imperative was this issue to be addressed in secret. And fortunately the rest of the board was happy to go along with him, not knowing what the issue was.

See the Video of this meeting, specifically 1:57:07 where Mr. Collins passes a handwritten note to Mr. Bealo and  1:58:42 where the non-public is called under “reputation.”     http://vimeo.com/100987216

In this instance, video recording of the meeting resumed following the non-public session, so you can see the board proceed to the matter of censuring me.  Neither “censure” nor “non-public meeting” was included on the agenda of July 16, 2014.

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Filed under My censure, Non-public session abuse, School Board Behavior

TIMBERLANE POSTS NEW DOCUMENTS TO PUBLIC PAGE!

In something of a come to Jesus moment, Timberlane is today posting documents to the public pages of Timberlane.net they had previously kept off,  such as school board agendas, the auditor’s report and letter, and most interestingly, non-public minutes!  This is quite extraordinary as previously non-public minutes were available even to board members only by request to the SAU.

I applaud the administration for finally putting this material on a public page, especially the agendas.  Without agendas, it is almost impossible for the public to find information when they don’t know when something was discussed.  Now, if only the school board would reverse their decision to rely on the video instead of complete minutes, that would be another  big step forward in transparency,  in my opinion.  To my mind, our minutes are abbreviated to a fault because they use time stamps from the video recording as a substitute for a full accounting of each discussion.  Not everyone has the time or the technology to download videos of three or four hours to get an understanding of a board discussion.

Non-public minutes will be the subject of my next post and it will be a humdinger

 

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TIMBERLANE MAKES PUBLIC NESDEC ENROLLMENT PROJECTION REPORTS

Timberlane made public the NESDEC enrollment projections prodded by the insistent requests of Atkinson taxpayers and a Right to Know request by Arthur Green.  My request to put it on a public webpage fell on deaf ears. It took public outcry to get it there.

The budget committee was not made aware of this report, by the way, even though the district has been getting it for years.  I also believe the school board as a whole would not have been made aware of it either had I not accidentally learned of it and brought it to their attention.

Why not?  Because it projects the district losing 27% of its students in the next 9 years.  That’s 1000 fewer students!  If you were asking for 4% budget increases like this year, would you want people to know your customer base was shriveling like a raisin?

You can find this fascinating and well written report, renowned for its accuracy, by the way, at Timberlane.net.  Go to School Board, then Documents.  You will see the NESDEC Report as a file there.

UPDATE July 23, 2014   Timberlane seems to have been smitten by an urge to post things on its public site, such as school board agendas and much else.  Lots of material stretching back years is being posted today.  They weren’t shamed into it, do you think?

 

 

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