Monthly Archives: June 2017

Yet Another Right to Know Tug of War

Below is an email I sent out this morning.  It is in response to my Right to Know request to see Tom Geary’s resume and job application for the position of SAU 55 Business Operations Coordinator.  Mr. Geary was, until March 2017, an elected official on the Timberlane Budget Committee.  (Timberlane is administered by SAU 55.)

SAU 55 denied my request.  You can see their position following my email of today.

June 16, 2017

Dear Mrs. Belcher, Mrs. Sherman, and Superintendent Metzler:

Your response to my Right to Know request of June 9th asking to obtain a copy of Mr. Tom Geary’s resume and job application for the position of SAU55 Business Operations Coordinator is not at all satisfactory, nor do I believe it is a correct interpretation of case law.

I would draw your attention to 

​Lambert v. Belnap County Convention, 157 N.H. 375, 385 (2008) in which is it quoted that “applicants for public employment have no privacy interest in their resumes.”
Further:  “[I]f no privacy interest is at stake, the Right-to-Know Law mandates disclosure.”  Lambert, 157 N.H. at 383.
The public interest in disclosure is to allow scrutiny into the actions of SAU 55 and the elected officials involved in the selection process by verifying that the individual hired is indeed qualified for the position. 
In light of this, I would urge you to reconsider your refusal, and provide me and the public I represent with Mr. Geary’s resume and application (redacted for confidential personal information such as Social Security number).

I did not request the referral letters which you reference in your correspondence.​

​Thank you,

Donna Green


Here is SAU 55’s previous response:

Hello Donna,

The documents you are requesting are pre-employment documents (application, reference letters, and a resume) gathered by the District during its hiring process.  Such documents fall under the “internal personnel practices” categorical exemption set forth in RSA 91-A:5,IV.  In Clay v. City of Dover, the court wrote the following:

“The information provided by the applicants to the superintendent search committee was gathered in the course of the hiring process, a process that was internal to the search committee and conducted on behalf of the superintendent’s employer. . . Because the completed rubric forms pertain to “internal personnel practices,” they are exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law.”

Accordingly, because the documents are categorically exempt records pertaining to the “internal personal practices” of the District as a hiring entity, they will not be disclosed.

Cathy


I have also asked Mr. Boyle, Chairman of the Timberlane Regional School Board, to request the resume and application for my inspection.  Our school board meeting last night went to midnight and we did not get to “Other Business” so I did not have an opportunity to bring this issue up at last night’s meeting.  Although Mr. Boyle would like at least one July meeting of the board, it is possible we will not be meeting again until August 24. The next SAU 55 meeting is October 4, 2017.

Convenient for SAU 55, isn’t it?

Hear Manchester radio host and school board member, Rich Girard, slay the legal reference to the Clay case cited by SAU 55.  He also says the Manchester Board of School Committee makes public the resumes of employees. Turns out Rich did his own Right to Know request of SAU 55 and got the same answer as I did.  Girard at Large says resume should be public.

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Former Elected Official Gets SAU Job

Do you think former elected school district officials should be employed by the school district or its associated SAU?

I think the answer is an emphatic “No!”  How can any person be assured that an elected official faithfully discharged their duties to the public when shortly after their public service they land a job with the school district or SAU with which their service was associated?  How can the public be assured that acceptance of this practice is not influencing the decisions of current elected officials or those who may run for future offices?

On June 9, 2017, SAU 55 announced the appointment of Tom Geary to the position of Business Operations Coordinator.  Mr. Geary was an elected representative from Plaistow on the Timberlane Budget Committee as recently as March 2017.  The public job posting for the position says it pays $70,000 – $90,000.

 

The official posting for this job is SAU Business Operations Coordinator.

It called for

  • A degree in Accounting or Business administration
  • Minimum 5 years experience in Accounting or Finance with at least one year of supervisory experience
  • Experience in physical plant operation and project management preferred
  • Certified or certifiable as a NH School Business Administrator.

Here is SAU 55’s press release announcing Mr. Geary for the Business Operations Coordinator position.  Mr. Geary was formerly Supervisor of Facilities for the Haverhill School District. Note especially his enumerated qualifications in the release: Geary

His credentials include successful completion of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell – Project Management Certificate Program and the American Physical Plant Administrators Educational Facilities Professional Credentialing Program.

Whether or not Mr. Geary’s qualifications even remotely meet the job posting – whether or not the job description/requirements have subsequently been altered without consultation with the SAU board – whether or not Mr. Geary has a PhD in Operations Coordination from MIT – no elected official within a few years of their elected service should be accepting employment from an entity closely associated with the municipal entity they were charged with overseeing.

The Business Operations Coordinator position will be vacant when Geoff Dowd assumes the role of Business Administrator upon George Stokinger’s retirement. When I requested to see Mr Geary’s resume, Dr. Metzler replied by email to the board as follows:

His contract has already been executed and he is an employee. He is already working part time on special assignments. 

I do not believe, because he is now employed, that Mr. Geary’s resume is necessarily protected from a Right to Know demand, and I’ll be following up with a letter showing so.  (Stay tuned.)

The SAU board has not seen Mr. Geary’s resume or application – nor will they. The SAU board has not discussed Mr. Geary’s qualifications for this position – nor will they. The SAU board has not voted on the employment of an extra person not in the 2016/17 budget, transitional though it may be.

The SAU board is currently working on a code of ethics for its elected officials.  I hope it will prohibit board members, their spouses or close relatives from accepting jobs from either districts or SAU55, but you can be sure it won’t.  Mr. Cipriano’s wife became a teacher at Timberlane during Mr. Cipriano’s service on the SAU board.  There’s a political machine at work in SAU 55 that serves the interests of the administration. Certain elected officials do not seem to mind the public perception, true or false, of having been compromised.

Do your own elected officials on the SAU board see nothing wrong in allowing SAU55’s hiring practices to discredit their own service?  When everything is up for grabs, let the grabbing be done!

They say the problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.  The problem with our hiring practices is that we will never run out of relatives, “friends” and former elected officials.

Education ultimately suffers when the moral fabric of an institution becomes a moth-eaten rag.  An undisciplined budget is merely a symptom of much more profound problems. Sandown deserves so much more.

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Timberlane Taxes to Skyrocket

With calculations from Arthur Green

Timberlane School District residents will be asked to pay 8.9% more in taxes this November. As usual, Sandown and Danville will be slammed hardest.

Also as usual, the news was disguised. The administration reported at the June 1 school board meeting that the surplus projected at the end of June will be $1.377 million, which is about half a million less than the forecast used in preparing the 2017/18 budget.

Here’s the estimated tax increase taking into account the voted 17/18 budget, the voted school warrant articles and the reduced budgeted surplus:

  • Timberlane overall:  8.9% increase
  • Atkinson:  6.3%
  • Danville:  10.2%
  • Plaistow:  8.9%
  • Sandown: 11.2%

At some future meeting, the school board could decide to put $200,000, which is currently in a surplus retention fund, towards this revenue shortfall.  They probably will, but the effect will be hardly noticeable.

Welcome to the land of educational funding where money is no object and having both hands in the taxpayers’ pocket passes for management.

The History

Four months ago at School Deliberative, the district presented the tax impact of the proposed 2017/18 budget – a 7.5% district-wide average increase in the education portion of the property tax.  This information was on a paper handout which was not posted to the district website (and is still not posted on the website).  TRSD does not find it convenient to make this information available to taxpayers in advance of the Deliberative, although all the information is in hand months prior.  Arthur Green did his best to make up for this lack of transparency with this blog post (and others), where he correctly forecast the proposed budget tax impact that was finally made public at Deliberative.

Since the deliberative meeting, two things have changed to make the tax impact even more serious:

  • In March, voters approved the warrant article for the support workers contract, adding $181,000 to the appropriation.
  • Last Thursday, the administration gave the school board a report of the year-end financial position, projecting a surplus of  just $1,377,000.  This represents a shortfall from their budgeted projections of more than half a million dollars.

Let us hope the new school board can bring some fiscal common sense to the district going forward.

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