Legal Bullying from the Archives

It is hard to exaggerate the seriousness of allowing school district officials to bully, threaten and attempt to intimidate others in the political arena through publicly paid legal resources.

As I was cleaning out papers, I came across this stunning waste of taxpayer money.  A lawyer from Drummond Woodsum, hired by TRSD without a vote of the board or board discussion, wrote me a letter in July 2015 instructing me to play nice with the superintendent and my fellow board members.

It further tried to make me fear my blog was going to subject the district and myself to liability.  It also stated that my blog was inaccurate, citing just one instance in which they themselves were in error – not me.

This use of public money in legal resources to intimidate and threaten elected officials is reprehensible.  This year the creep of ugly motives and wasteful spending was directed against a school board candidate – yet the TRSD board did nothing.

Here, for your indignation, is the letter I received on July 2, 2015 from Drummond Woodsum.  Think about this the next time Superintendent  Metzler tells you how tight budgets are and how he needs every dollar from your pocket. TRSD hires lawyer to bully Green

TRSD hires lawyer to bully Green_0001

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What’s going on at SAU 55?

Timberlane’s financial auditors have still not released the audit for the 2016/17 year despite promising its completion by March 30, 2018.

One cannot help but wonder why the audit has not been completed.  Add to that the sudden resignation of a new treasurer whose resignation email, though redacted by the SAU, seems to indicate that she could not balance the accounts – and I can’t help but wonder what is going on at SAU 55.

Some noticeably defensive behavior by SAU Business Administrator at school board meetings also gives rise to questions. (Video clips follow.)

By way of background you should know that back in early September, 2017 the board voted to have an internal controls audit done of the SAU business operations for Timberlane.  The board instructed the SAU to issue an RFP in Feb, 2018, and have recommendations for hiring an auditing firm by May 5, 2018.

The first video clip below is from the Feb 15, 2018 school board meeting. The board is talking about the internal controls audit. Interestingly after all the discussion at this February 15 meeting, the RFP was not issued in March and TRSB will not be receiving bid recommendations by May 5. No reason has been given.  Instead, Mr. Dowd notes that our financial auditors have turned their attention to our internal controls.  That’s interesting because every audit Plodzik and Sanderson have done for us says explicitly that they did not assess the effectiveness of our internal controls.

Attack the Messenger

Back to the clip of the Feb 15 meeting. Note how important it is for Mr. Dowd to vilify me over the issues I raised to the auditor about the 2016/17 audit.  He takes significant digs at me at least four times in this short excerpt.  I’m not in the room to defend myself, having resigned from the board the previous week.  Chairman Boyle conveniently pretended to not know the nature of the issues I raised.  For the record, I have not asked for any information from the auditor.  I have simply pointed out reporting and controls issues.  In addition to sending my letter to the auditor, I did also send it to the Commissioner of Education.  I also promised to send my letter to the professional body that oversees CPAs if the issues weren’t addressed in Timberlane’s audit.  Read Letter to Auditors March 2018 certified, which was sent to Mr. Boyle and the whole board, by the way.

Mr. Dowd tried to suggest that my concerns are outside the scope of a normal financial audit and would therefore cost Timberlane extra money in auditing fees.  In fact, the auditors themselves said in emails I obtained through Right to Know that the issues Arthur Green and I raised were within the scope of their audit.  This means, of course, that there  should be no extra charge for examining them.  Mr. Dowd is suggesting there may not be  enough money with which to hire an internal controls auditor, despite the board having voted to do it and the financial auditors saying The Greens’ concerns were within their normal scope.

In the second clip, taken from the April 5, TRSB meeting, Mr. Dowd chastens the board lest they think about criticizing him for being behind with all the extra work of the default budget.  It is quite a high handed finger wagging he gives the board considering the board didn’t breathe a molecule of criticism of him and simply inquired as to how close the audit was to completion. Still waiting, by the way.

 

From TRSD’s 2016 Auditor’s report (page 1, my emphasis):

An audit involves performing procedures to obtain audit evidence about the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. The procedures selected depend on the auditor’s judgment, including the assessment of the risks of material misstatement of the
financial statements, whether due to fraud or error. In making those risk assessments, the auditor considers internal control relevant to the entity’ s preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in order to design audit procedures that are
appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the entity’s internal control . Accordingly , we express no such opinion. An audit also includes evaluating the appropriateness of accounting policies used and the reasonableness of significant accounting estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements.

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Don’t use the word, “conspiracy.”

In a bold and almost unfathomable move at Timberlane’s Deliberative session, Rob Collins motioned to add $1 million to the school district’s proposed operating budget. With the room packed with employees and parents, the motion easily carried. That part wasn’t surprising.

What was puzzling was how Collins could possibly expect a budget with a stuffed liver to pass in the general election.

It is clear to me that he never expected it to pass and neither did anyone else.  The ploy was to give the school board room to increase the default budget and then pressure them to do so. My unexpected resignation added an extra opportunity.

That’s my supposition.  Here’s the timeline of events:

  • TRSD’s default budget was finalized when the MS-DS was signed after Deliberative on Feb. 8.
  •  My last official action was signing the default budget. I resigned from the board at 11 pm on Feb 8 to protest the school board’s inaction on the superintendent’s attack on Ms. Dobson’s election campaign.
  • Feb. 9, SAU 55 WITHHELD the ballots from the printer claiming the previously approved default budget was not “finalized,” which was completely false but revelatory of their scheme.
  • Lee Dube, the only one running for my seat, was clearly going to be appointed by the Sandown Board of Selectmen for the one remaining meeting until the election.
  • With my resignation, SAU 55 sensed an opportunity to play Lee Dube.  Their intention was to strong arm Dube into voting for a higher default budget at the Feb 15 school board meeting, thus making a majority.
  • Mr. Dube got sworn into office by phone before Feb 15, but he had not yet signed his oath, leading to questions as to whether that oath was valid; nevertheless, Mr. Dube was willing to participate in the Feb 15 meeting as stated by Assistant Superintendent Wilson who was SAU 55’s representative at that meeting.  As it turned out, Mr. Dube was caught in the air and could not participate, despite Sue Sherman’s efforts to reach him by phone during the meeting.
  • Although my resignation gave the administration greater hope, the plan was already in the works to pressure the board into raising the default budget at the Feb. 15 school board meeting; otherwise, Collins’ move to increase the proposed budget served only to give voters the chance to put egg on Dr. Metzler’s face, and Collins certainly would not have opened that door without hope of a greater good.

What observers of Timberlane School District politics should understand is that the administration of SAU 55 is actively attempting to manipulate the school board elections and the actions and decisions of the school board itself. Ms. Dobson’s campaign was devastated by the superintendent’s deliberately damaging public statements and action concerning her.  The SAU office secretly withheld ballots from their normally scheduled printing in hopes of being able to obtain a higher default budget. Thanks to Shawn O’Neil from Danville for blowing wide open that nasty piece of business.

Don’t think things will improve because Plaistow voters continue to send lackeys to fill seats that should be given to independent thinkers, while Sandown can’t even muster anyone to contest a school board seat.

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Metzler Losing His Mojo

Remember March 2014, when the Timberlane voters handed Superintendent Metzler his first default budget?  It was about $500,000 less than the proposed budget.  Before the power lights faded on the voting machines, Metzler posted a video announcement warning residents that he would need to spend every penny of the voted budget, and that there would be no surplus the at the end of the default budget year.  He then proceeded to initiate the new full-day kindergarten program, as well as the Spanish FLES rollout – two brand new programs not in the default budget.

That budget year (2014/15) ended with a $3.5 million surplus.

Remember when the Timberlane Budget Committee handed Metzler his first flat-line budget?  That was in Dec. 2014.  His knee-jerk response:  close a school!  He put a giant bull’s eye on Sandown Central.

The budget committee took out the operational funding for Sandown Central.  Sandown citizens put a petitioned warrant article on the ballot to reinstate operational funding.  It passed in Sandown but failed district wide.

Sandown Central should have closed as it had been stripped of operational funding.  Instead, it was re-purposed and stayed open.  That gives you an indication of how much money is sloshing around Timberlane’s mighty budget. You know what else?  In the fiscal year (2015/16) in which that school operated without budgeted money, the district still delivered a $3.6 million surplus.  Staggering, right?

Fast forward to Dec. 2017.  The Timberlane Budget Committee again hands Metzler a flat-lined budget.  This time, no one would believe a threat to close a school.  The derisive laughter would be heard all the way through Massachusetts where the superintendent hopes to find future employment.  Instead, he announces he would have to lay off 20 support staff, 11.5 administrators and 25-50 members of the Timberlane Teachers’ Association.  That is a maximum total of 81.5 full-time equivalent positions.

Skip again to March 2018.  Voters rejected the proposed operating budget that was jacked up by $1 million at deliberative, in favor of a default budget that is $100,000 higher than last year’s operating budget.

Without any consultation with the school board, Metzler ran screaming to the press.  This time his Chicken Little routine is down to 50 staff layoffs, and the teachers’ union president is running around behind him blowing Metzler’s loose feathers into a puffy white cloud.

Poor Superintendent Metzler.  First he threatens to close a school.  Fails at that but not before he displaces hundreds of Sandown students and forces staff into crowded conditions.  Then he threatens 81.5 staff.  Fails at that.  Now he’s down to a hollow threat of 50 staff cuts.  You can be sure he’ll fail at that, too.  It’s too bad, because the district does need to cut excess staff.  Unfortunately he isn’t the man for the job.

Incendiary threats?  He’s the guy!  Proactively embarrassing the school board and bullying them, too.  A+.  Actual management?  [Insert your grade here.]

Here’s an idea that would find favor at the inner sanctums of Timberlane:  let’s stop having elections and let the employees rule the school district by threats, bullying and intimidation.

 

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Would you put your money in this “bank”?

Would you put your savings account in a bank with this list of facts?

  • Timberlane’s district treasurer, a respected senior VP in a regional bank, resigned suddenly on March 1 after just 4 months in the job. Her resignation email has not been made public nor her reason for resigning.
  • Timberlane/SAU 55’s current Business Administrator is just 1 year in his position and not yet certified by NH as a “School District Business Administrator,” but is on a NH Department of Education “pathway to certification.”
  • SAU 55  no longer has an assistant business administrator, as we did for many years prior.
  • Timberlane’s financial auditors expressed an intent to complete the audit at the end of Jan. Nearly three months has passed, and the audit has not been released – 9 months from the end of the fiscal year to be audited.
  • No one knows when our auditors were last changed in our 54 year old district.
  • Timberlane’s school board, on Sept. 7, 2017, voted to put out a Request for Proposals for an Internal Controls Audit of SAU 55’s systems with respect to Timberlane’s financials.  That RFP was to be issued no later than March 2018 for Board decision by May 5, 2018.  The RFP has not been issued by SAU 55 as voted by TRSB. (It is not known if TRSD has ever had an internal controls audit.) The issue of the controls audit is not on the April 7th School Board agenda.

Timberlane taxpayers are putting $71 million in this “bank.”   Would you put your savings account here?

On March 2, 2018 when Timberlane’s annual report was released, it included a note from Timberlane’s auditors, an IOU of sorts.  “A completed audit report will be sent to you by the end of March 2018.  Once the audit report is issued, it can be viewed at http://www.Timberlane.net/auditreport/.”  (See page 25.)

Today is the last business day in the month, and so far there is no audit posted at the above web address. Is the delay due to the auditors or the SAU?

Arthur Green and I, along with an eagle-eyed district resident, have notified the auditor about a number of issues in Timberlane’s unaudited financial reportings to the board, the budget committee and to the public. The auditor considers at least some of our issues within the scope of their normal audit and I believe they are trying to grapple with the issues we brought to their attention, and which SAU 55 has assiduously ignored – except to direct insults to us.

 

 

 

 

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SAU 55 Coughs Up Auditor’s Emails

There are so many red flags waving at SAU 55 one could mistake it for a used car dealership on the 4th of July.

But a pleasant surprise hit my email yesterday morning.  My March 13th Right to Know request was finally ready for pickup. I had asked for emails between SAU 55 and Timberlane’s auditing firm relating to me or Arthur Green (and as published by Mark Sherwood on Facebook).

These emails are fascinating and well worth the $2.50 I paid.  I urge you to read them. Remember when you do that these are communications between SAU 55 and Micheal Campo, Director/Shareholder of Plodzik and Sanderson, PA of Concord, NH.

The question remains, of course, how Mark Sherwood got his hands on this exchange while I, the party about whom these email concerned, had to wait 14 days and pay $2.50 and drive down to the SAU office.

You will also notice that the auditor offered to address the Timberlane board to address my concerns but Mr. Boyle ignored their offer and didn’t even mention it to the board.  The school board met on Feb. 8, three days after Mr. Boyle received the offer, yet he said nothing.

 Campo emails

 

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SDGA Hosts Dynamic Education Speakers

Curriculum and Assessment flyer - FINAL - 14 April 18

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March 27, 2018 · 3:38 pm