Category Archives: Sandown Issues
When you raise issues about Timberlane’s financials to the TRSD auditor, you get stony silence, even as a board member. When you question a second time, you get threats from our SAU. I’ll leave you to decide if this is normal.
You should also know:
- Timberlane’s district treasurer resigned suddenly last week after four months in the position. I have done a Right to Know request for her resignation email and everything else that went between her and the district.. Martha Sumner is a senior VP for a regional bank. If anyone is capable of doing the district’s reconciliation with our bank accounts, it would be Ms. Sumner.
- SAU 55’s Business Administrator is not yet certified by the state as a school district business administrator. He is on a “pathway to certification,” according to the Department of Education yesterday.
- SAU 55 does not have an Assistant Business Administrator, which we used to have. That position was re-titled as Business Operations Coordinator, and Mr. Tom Geary was hired. Mr. Geary’s resume has not been made public but to my knowledge he does not have a Bachelor’s degree and he does not have an employment background in accounting or finance.
- Arthur Green and I sent an email to Timberlane’s auditors on Jan. 3, 2018 pointing out some issues in Timberlane’s 2016/17 financial statements (within the scope of the current annual audit). No response from TRSD or Plodzik and Sanderson, PA. In Feb we sent our email again via certified mail. No answer from any party.
- Yesterday, Arthur Green and I sent out another email pointing out material financial reporting errors in the newly released TRSD annual report for 2016/17, as well as restating the issues previously raised. We also sent this by certified mail to Plodzik and Sanderson, PA. Letter to Auditors March 2018 certified
SAU 55 finally broke their silence today with a barrage of threats. This email was sent to me, Arthur Green and Superitendent Metzler, but not, notably, sent to the auditor. Here is today’s email:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Green,
Please be advised this office has received communication from Plodzik and Sanderson requesting we notify you of the following:
Plodzik & Sanderson, P.A. does not have an engagement with you. The next communication from you be it email, traditional mail, certified mail or phone call will trigger a consulting engagement with hourly rates of $250 and a minimum of 4 hours, for which under professional standards they will be prohibited from discussing another engagement or client.
To be clear, if you trigger an engagement with Plodzik and Sanderson they will proceed with any legal actions necessary to collect fees associated with that engagement.
This communication shall serve of notification that any further action will constitute engagement of the firm.
Now don’t you find it interesting that SAU 55, the entity whose work is being audited, is threatening me? Has the auditor lost his voice or fingertips? Did the auditors even say such an outlandish thing? The email is cunningly written so I dare not call Plodzik, but I can assure you I will be making other calls.
By way of more background, another Timberlane resident, a former CPA no less, sent a letter to Plodzik and Sanderson, PA last year concerning issues in the Town of Plaistow’s audit and got a cease and desist letter in return Upton and Hatfield (3).
There is no known record of the last time Timberlane’s auditors were changed.
“Why a constitutional amendment is needed to restore taxpayer standing to challenge illegal spending”
By Andrew Cline
On Sept. 1, 2015, Manchester’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a contract with the city’s teachers union that included a pay raise. Three aldermen with immediate family members employed as city teachers voted for the contract, in direct violation of the city charter’s conflict of interest provision. (1)
Just five years earlier, taxpayers would have been able to challenge such an illegal vote at the state Supreme Court. For 147 years, New Hampshire taxpayers had the right to petition the court for opinions on the legality of alleged unlawful government expenditures.
READ MORE of this exceptionally well written article by Mr. Cline, chairman of the NH Board of Education: Why a constitutional amendment is needed to restore taxpayer standing to challenge illegal spending
During the public hearing on Timberlane’s budget, Arthur Green questioned why the revenue budget for 16-17 showed $250,000 from capital reserves. There was no answer that night, Jan. 11, 2018.
Today the district’s unaudited annual report was published. Last year’s revenue budget still shows the same unexplained $250,000.
It’s odd because the voters did not authorize the withdrawal of any capital reserves on the 2016 warrant. Perhaps our auditors could trouble themselves to explain this bookkeeping oddity, as well as all the other ones we pointed out in a certified letter to them a few weeks ago.
Arthur Green sent this note to the auditors, Plodzik and Sanderson, on March 3:
To the Auditors:
I am a resident of the Timberlane Regional School District, writing to you in your capacity as auditors of the TRSD 2016/17 financial statements, to draw your attention to what I believe to be a significant discrepancy in the TRSD financial statements as published on March 2, 2018 in the TRSD Annual Report for 2016/17.
The actual revenue reported for 2016/17 is provided on page 36 of this document, under the column “2016-2017 Received”. Under this column, line 5250 shows “Trans- Capital Reserve” in the amount of $250,000. This is clearly incorrect.
- Revenue from the Capital Reserve fund would constitute a withdrawal of money from that fund.
- Withdrawal of funds from the Capital reserve in 2016/17 would have had to be authorized by a warrant article at Town Meeting in February/March of 2016. There was no such authorizing warrant article. There was in fact a warrant article authorizing a deposit to the capital reserve. This warrant article was approved, and the Expenditure report (page 4) shows on line 5250.930 that there was a deposit to the capital reserve of $250,000.
- If there was both a deposit of $250,000 and a withdrawal of $250,000, then the Capital Reserve fund would have the same balance on June 30, 2017 as it had on June 30, 2016. This fund is not included in the Annual Report, but I believe that the audit report will show that the Capital Reserve fund is higher by $250,000.
At the Timberlane School Board meeting on Sept 1, 2016, the board voted to draw $500,000 from the Fund Balance Retention to include in revenue for the 2016/17 year, thus mitigating the tax impact. The minutes of that meeting show that the Board was informed that the surplus carried forward from the prior year was $3.099 million. However, line 0770 of the Revenue report shows that the Unassigned Fund Balance was $3.599 million.
- The 2016/17 Revenue report shows no revenue from withdrawal of $500,000 from Fund Balance Retention. Clearly, that amount has been combined with the Unassigned Fund Balance
These mis-statements are material because
- The consumers of this report could justifiably conclude that there was no net change to the Capital Reserve fund in 2016/17, when in all likelihood the fund increased by $250,000
- The consumers of this report could justifiably conclude that there was no drawdown of the Fund Balance Retention in 2016/17, when in fact that fund was reduced from $700,000 to $200,000
- The consumers of this report could justifiably conclude that the operating surplus carried forward from 2015/16 was $3.599 million, when in all likelihood it was closer to $3.349 million.
I would also point out that I brought this matter to the attention of the administration, the board and the budget committee at the Public hearing on January 11 2018. At that time, I did not receive a clear answer, but I anticipated that the figures as published in the the Annual Report would have been corrected.
Please give this matter your attention during your preparation of the TRSD financial audit for 2016/17.
In the long saga that is my complaint to the NH Board of Education concerning the hiring and salary setting practices of SAU 55, there approaches a happy ending though you may not yet recognize it. Even Superintendent Metzler does not realize it.
Superintendent Metzler is representing to the Timberlane school board that the Board of Education’s February 8th decision was a win for him. In fact, it is much more favorable to me.
The re-issued decision says that the Board of Education asserts jurisdiction over my complaint and refers it to the Department of Education for “review and investigation.”
For me, this is a fabulous outcome. The NH Board of Education’s previous decision on my complaint instructed the SAU 55 board to hold a fact-finding public hearing. At the Feb 8 NHBOE meeting, the board rescinded that decision and instead issued a new decision that instructs the Department of Education to look into my complaint.
This means I am saved a pointless sham “public hearing” by SAU 55’s board, which would have resulted in yet another appeal to the state Board of Education any way. Now the Department of Education is going to actually examine the facts and make a determination based on facts. SAU 55 would have considered only their own craven political expedience.
What Could Come Next?
It is quite possible that Superintendent Metzler is going to ask for a reconsideration of the NH Board of Education’s most recent decision. Why?
- Legal fees are no issue to the superintendent or the SAU board
- The decision asserts jurisdiction over SAUs and the superintendent disputes that there is any state authority over him
- A reconsideration is the first step in appealing to the state Supreme Court where the court would determine who, if anyone, has authority over superintendents.
Why the Timberlane School Board Still Needs to be Involved
The Timberlane School Board voted on Jan. 25, 2018 to request a special meeting of the SAU 55 board to discuss putting a stop to the needless legal fees being expended on my complaint. (I didn’t hire a lawyer and neither did they need to.) By policy, an SAU meeting must be called at the request of one of the constituent boards. Mrs. Sherman, chairman of SAU 55’s board, set a date of March 7.
As a result of Facebook chatter on Feb. 22, the SAU office sent me this note:
Please be advised that in light of the recent State Board of Education decision, the March 7th special SAU Board meeting has been cancelled.
This would be laughable if it weren’t so typical of the perversity of SAU 55.
- The point of the requested meeting was to put an end to further SAU legal action
- The BOE’s new decision can still be appealed by SAU 55
Will the Timberlane board permit the superintendent to unilaterally cancel an SAU meeting the board voted to request?
If you watched the Jan 25 school board meeting (conveniently not captured on video), you might recall Superintendent Metzler’s promise that no Hampstead school board member would attend a special SAU 55 board meeting on this topic. It could be that we can add clairvoyance to the other extraordinary powers of our superintendent if the real reason the meeting was cancelled was because of lack of quorum.
Will TRSB Do Anything?
The correct action is to insist on a special SAU 55 meeting to direct the superintendent to stop spending money to fight a complaint that should just run its course – no reconsideration, no Supreme Court challenge. Likely only a few members of the SAU’s board (namely, a few Timberlane members) will so vote, and the superintendent will go off with more of your tax dollars to fritter away in the pursuit of his ultimate authority over…. himself.
Regardless of the expected outcome, both TRSB and SAU 55 boards should convene and at least pretend to do their job defending your tax dollars. Sadly, your elected officials have given up their power to control the superintendent’s bat phone to legal services. All they can try to do now is control his actual legal actions.
If my complaint is upheld, taxpayers will be able to control the salaries of SAU employees via their elected officials. Right now, SAU salaries are set by the superintendent. You can read the basis of my complaint and why it matters to taxpayers here.
[DG: This posting has been corrected. The meeting where the vote was taken to call a special SAU meeting was Jan. 25, 2018 – not Feb 1 as I reported. The motion occurred at the school board meeting immediately after the second public hearing on the proposed budget. This meeting, though live streamed, just happened not to be retained on live stream archives or transferred to Vimeo.]
For those who have ever been passed over in favor of a boss’ child, spouse or lover, you know how corrosive nepotism is to morale, and Dr. Metzler’s favorite expression, “The climate and culture of Timberlane.” Yes, we all know that nepotism is bad for the sound functioning of any organization, but the Timberlane Regional School Board apparently doesn’t.
On January 18th the board approved a revised Board Member Conflict of Interest Policy. It added a badly needed provision prohibiting board member business dealings with the district, but – despite my strenuous arguments to the contrary – it kept intact a wide open invitation to nepotism.
The board correctly added this prohibition: “A board member shall not have any direct personal and pecuniary interest in a contract with the school district, nor shall he or she furnish directly any labor, equipment, or supplies to the district.”
Let us hope that Kelly Ward, school board member from Sandown, will no longer be awarded any work or contracts with the district, no-bid or otherwise, so long as he serves on the board.
The board should also have prohibited nepotism, but when you hire the superintendent’s wife as a consultant, it is hard to impose common sense on other hires.
BOARD MEMBER CONFLICT OF INTEREST (as of 1/18/18)
As elected officials, school board members owe a duty of loyalty to the general public in protecting the school district’s interest. Therefore, the board declares that a conflict of interest is a personal and pecuniary interest that is immediate, definite, and demonstrable and which is or may be in conflict with the public interest.
A board member shall not have any direct personal and pecuniary interest in a contract with the school district, nor shall he or she furnish directly any labor, equipment, or supplies to the district. [New]
It is not the intent of this policy to prevent the district from contracting with corporations or businesses of which a board member is an employee. The policy is designed to prevent placing a Board member in a position where his/her interest in the public schools and his/her interest in his/her place of employment (or other indirect interest) might conflict, and to avoid appearances of conflict of interest even though such conflict may not exist.
The Board may employ a teacher or other employee if such teacher or other employee is the father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law of the Superintendent or any member of the Board. Such a relationship will not automatically disqualify a job applicant from employment with the school district. However, the Board member shall declare his/her relationship with the job applicant and will refrain from debating, discussing, or voting on a nomination or other issue. The job applicant is expected to declare his/her relationship with the Board member as well.
This shall not apply to any person within such relationship or relationships who has been regularly employed by the Board prior to the inception of the relationship, the adoption of this policy, or a Board member’s election.
Marsh v. Hanover, 113 NH 667 (1973) and Atherton v. Concord, 109 NH 164 (1968).
Nepotism is a serious problem in Timberlane. So is the hiring of formerly elected district officials. The board should change policy to disallow the hiring of former elected officials in any capacity whatsoever in the district or SAU55 for 3 years after their elective service. Wake up TRSB. The “climate and culture of Timberlane” needs you to steer it straight.
Graphic violence in video games, movies and television has often been blamed for the rise in mass shootings by young people. I think the appetite for horrible violence cultivates a sickness of the soul similar to the appetite for pornography. Neither of these anti-social and mentally unhealthy predilections should be encouraged, but they are, to my mind, not the cause of violence.
“Dr. Twenge started doing research 25 years ago on generational differences, but when 2011 -2012 hit, she saw something that would scare her to the core. This is the year when those having iPhones went over the 50% mark.”
I urge you to continue reading: The Scary Truth about What’s Hurting Our Children