Monday, December 31, 2007

Where's Scooby Doo when you need him?

Some months ago, my supervisor received an anonymous letter, alleging that I was "blogging" on the clock. After an evaluation of the site, my supervisor dismissed the allegation. I immediately thought it must be Pat Shields, since he just called me at work, on a brand new telephone with a brand new telephone number, in a brand new building looking for Jim Young.

This evening, I got back to the blog cave and ran a report on IP hits for today. Low and behold, I found an entry from an IP address at the City of Seattle. I also found that this person from the City traveled to esd15.org by way of Google. This person also logged on at 12:29 PM from a computer in the City of Seattle's Department of Transportation. Perhaps Jim Young, the State and Federal Funds Coordinator. But then my eyes fell upon the name Susan Paine, also an employee of the City of Seattle, in the Department of Transportation and a member of the Edmonds School Board.

Sure, it may have been a lunch break, but is that an appropriate use of public resources? Surfing the internet and reading blogs on the taxpayer's dime? Maybe an anonymous letter is needed.

Now I am wondering if the anonymous letter addressed to my supervisor and postmarked in Seattle, was mailed from the Seattle Municipal Tower or perhaps across the street at the Columbia Center. I have six postcards and a one hour lunch break on Wednesday. I will let you know if I get a match.

Isn't this fun?

The Ten Commandments of Ethical Government Purchasing

"When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property."
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), quoted from, Life of Jefferson (Rayner), p. 356.

We are bombarded these days by news stories, radio rants, and talking heads decrying corruption in government: no-bid contracts, insider deals, and allegations of kickbacks large and small. Politicians of every stripe are spinning, posturing, and rushing to photo ops. Some of the charges of corruption are leveled at those who receive the government's largesse, but many indict those within government who grant it.

This gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands is likely to produce "reform" that places additional burdens on government purchasers and the purchasing process. Why is reform necessary? Don't we have laws on the books in every jurisdiction down to the tiniest hamlet against throwing contracts to friends and cronies? Of course we do. The answer may be that what's needed is not reform of law, but the restoration of ethics.

Laws are a manifestation of societal values. For example we all agree that rigging bids and taking bribes is wrong. But law does not address the moral questions government purchasers face. How does a government purchaser obey the law, and, when called to task, retain the ability to stand up and say "my conduct was both legal and ethical"? Law and ethics are not necessarily synonymous.

A definition of ethics may help in understanding the difference:
eth-ics: 1 a. A set of principles of right conduct,
b. A theory or system of moral values, e.g., "An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain".
2. The study of the general nature of morality and of the specific choices to be made by a person, a moral philosophy.
3. The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession, e.g., medical ethics.

Ethics as "right conduct" requires action. Deeply held moral beliefs are satisfying and can be good for society, but even a large group of individuals having such beliefs is of no appreciable benefit unless those individuals put their conduct where their values lie. To accomplish this, it is useful to agree to a short list of ethical conduct rules that go beyond legal technicalities. A procurement ethical code might include the following:

1. Be Independent
A government official engaged in purchasing should be independent, from vendors, bidders, prospective bidders, interested parties and, in a perfect world, politicians and political appointees, including their own bosses. As human beings we tend to form emotional obligation bonds with people we like, who are nice to us, who help us, who flatter us and people who give us things. In procurement, while one can be friendly and helpful, one must resist the temptation to accept benefits, emotional or economic, from any would-be vendor, so as to reduce the desire to reciprocate.

2. Act Only in the Public Interest
A procurement official represents the public interest, as defined by the legislature or Congress, and never the private commercial interest of a seller of goods or services. It is the legal duty of every person representing a commercial enterprise to maximize its profit. A commercial representative who says he is trying to help the public is not doing his duty to his company. This is not to say that it is bad to have a profit-motive, the profit motive drives markets toward developing better mousetraps. And corporations can be very good public citizens. But a purchasing officer must assume, always, that private profit is the only motive of the vendor or interested private party.

3. You Are a Trustee of the Public's Money
A government purchaser is a fiduciary for the public's money, a trustee. An effective regulatory scheme governing procurement officers might read as follows:
A. It's not your money.
B. It's not your money.
C. It's not your money.
D. It's not your money.
This catch phrase delineates exactly the ethical limitations of purchasing personnel's discretion. You are not Donald Trump and it is not your money. Spend the public's money with the care you'd demand a bank exercise in handling your own funds.

4. Follow the Law
Most jurisdictions have many statutes and rules that protect competition and consumers in government purchasing. Take all the training in competition and public integrity law available. Develop a close working relationship with enforcement lawyers, so that legal questions can be asked and answered. Your agency's risk management department will be thrilled with your commitment to the law. There are plenty of lawyers who will be used against you, ask that public lawyers be used to help you. This outside check empowers procurement officials since enforcement lawyers can run interference with higher-ups when what they want to do is unlawful, unethical, or against public policy.

5. Strive for Efficiency
This is not easy to do in a system of cumbersome procurement rules. But efficiencies can take hold in ways you can control. Do your homework, independent of any one vendor. Study historic outcomes that reflect poor procurement choices and avoid them. Identify what efficient vendors do and use that as a guide for your next set of specifications. Don't let the vendor write them, write your own so as to produce a similarly efficient outcome. Ignore the "bureaucrats waste money" talk and do your job as efficiently as the system lets you.

6. Protect the Economy
The economy works best when large and small firms are competing to produce the highest quality goods at the best possible prices to meet consumer demand. Buyers drive markets, and government purchasing has a tremendous effect on economies. To protect local economies, consider these guidelines:
A. Do Not Bundle Contracts - Bundled contracts favor big, incumbent firms, to the exclusion of small business. Some regulatory schemes specifically prohibit bundling. Bundling leads to longer contracts, and less flexibility to take advantage of new market products. Some projects require bundling and some statutes allow it, but know that bundling favors old technologies and prevents taking advantage of innovation and the power of head-to-head competition.
B. Run an Arms' Length Shop - Relationships turn into conspiracies where public money is involved, and the official who gets too close to a vendor may be engaged in criminal bid-rigging. Bid-rigging hurts economies and there is no law to the contrary.
C. Research New Ideas - Markets create new technologies and unheard-of small firms come up with wonderful new products and services. Do the market research to ensure that you are not locked into obsolete technology. The economy works better when innovation pays off.

7. Take Nothing, Ever
Don't even accept cookies from the vendor dropping by with the paper delivery. Why not? Surely no one is bought for cookies! If you don't take the cookies, no "appearance" of a "relationship" with that vendor arises and you create no witnesses who can testify against you. Even if your rules permit you to accept lunch or anything valued under $25, do not take anything. Acceptance of anything can create the appearance of conflicted interests.

8. Do Not Socialize with Vendors
Prosecutors prove procurement offenses through testimony putting government officials at social events with government vendors. If you have social friends who may be bidders, get completely out of any aspect of the process, then socialize. Otherwise, don't do it. This applies to business associations also. If you want to fraternize, get out of the procurement process entirely before you do.

9. Maintain Confidentiality
The business of the government in buying goods and services is your business, not the business of your business associates, your friends, or your golf buddies. Reveal only that necessary to insure clean bids and a sterling selection process. The possession by a bidder of insider information not available to his competitors is almost universally an issue in procurement crime enforcement. If the information is public, everyone gets it. If it is not, nobody gets it.

10. Do Not Play Favorites
Do not help cronies, family members, business associates, or good buddies get a leg up in the procurement process. Whether you like the representative of a contractor or would-be bidder, whether the firm has the best holiday parties, or whether the vendor will hire your child to help her through college are all irrelevant to the procurement process. It is not irrelevant to criminal prosecutors. Almost every jurisdiction has common, or court-made law that says favoritism in the expenditure of public money is wrong.

Here then is a working model of a proposed Ten Commandments of Ethical Government Purchasing. Since you are, in Jefferson's words, a "public property", your ethics are as important as your formal rules. Remember that, "an ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain". Above all, stay independent and you'll stay above the fray. The payoff? It won't be your name, or your agency's name, in the next "culture of corruption" headline. Ethical procurement isn't always easy, but it's always worth the effort.

Editor's Note: Suzanne M. Dallimore has 28 years' experience as an antitrust and commercial and securities fraud litigator, prosecutor, and trial attorney in Utah and Arizona. She served as Chief Antitrust Counsel for the Arizona Attorney General and as Chief Counsel, Utah Attorney General's Antitrust Division. Ms. Dallimore is currently in private practice. Notable cases include: State v. Thompson and State v. Fletcher (criminal RICO, bid-rigging and commercial bribery criminal convictions); In re: Project SLIM Investigation, (Arizona state government contract bid-rigging, $750,000 recovered for Arizona); In re: Electric Utility Deregulation Proceedings, Arizona Corporation Commission, (utility stranded costs proceedings, $800 million saved for Arizona electric consumers); Baseplans USA v. Arizona Department of Transportation, et al, (Public corruption and bid-rigging, case pending).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

District donates $2.5 million to support wineries.

Late 1999
MJR partners Mike Raskin and Mike McClure develop concept for Woodinville Village while having a beer at Redhook Brewery. The vision: to develop a tasting room along Highway 202 where small wineries could offer samples of their wines.

2002
Idea expands in scale to a four-acre site incorporating not a just tasting room but two wineries, a grocery, restaurant, and banquet facilities. This is currently the site which Novelty Hill and Januik wineries have now begun construction.

2003
A nine-acre site becomes available in the current location of Woodinville Village. Work with the Planning Commission and City of Woodinville begins.

2004
Additional parcel acquired. Site size expands to 18 acres. Initial site plans developed and refined, design team chosen, master planning begins.

August - December 2004
Extensive planning and meetings with the City of Woodinville and the Woodinville Planning Commission to obtain zoning variance in the Woodinville Tourist District in order to include residential (project not viable without residential component).

October 2004
Zoning variance approved by Planning Commission.

December 2004
City Council accepts Planning Commission’s recommendation for zoning variance.

January 2005
MJR drafts proposal to enter into development agreement with City of Woodinville. It would be an unprecedented agreement that would lay the groundwork for more effective collaboration between city government and developers.

July 2005
Edmonds School District buys MJR property in Lynnwood for $3,300,000.00 and provides a seller's bonus of $2,500,000.00 to support the Woodinville Village and Wineries Project.

August 2005
Woodinville City Council unanimously agrees to enter into development agreement with MJR. The two entities will work together to ensure that the vision of the project is in line with the City’s goals for both tourism and residential quality of life.

August 2005 - June 2006
Design review process continues.

September 2006
Retail leasing begins.

March 2006
Additional parcels acquired, bringing total size of project to 24 acres.

Disclaimer: Okay, technically it wasn't a seller's bonus, but since the District overpaid by at least $2,500,000.00, it stands to reason that Raskin happily funneled the proceeds right into his winery project.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's the nickels, dimes and $100 bills that add up.

The chain across the driveway at Esperance was left off over the weekend and now piles of trash are popping up like dandelions. The normal course of events would be to have Grounds go out to the site and pick up the bags of trash. It isn't a large pile, but all around the pile are pieces of cardboard and junk that tried to escape in the wind.

I would estimate that from the time someone is dispatched (likely two people) until they return to their normal course of duties, an hour or more could pass. Add the cost of properly disposing the debris and this bit of careless dumping costs more than $100.00.

Of course, one could exert the energy to dig through all of the bags of trash and look for identifying information. Who knows, maybe you'll find my address.

If you do send someone out, could someone please send the bill to Razz Construction. There is no point in the District picking up the tab when all associated fees for using Esperance have been waived. Better yet, give Don a call and have him clean it up.

Rolling out the new Blog Tip Line (and yes, it is two words).

The Blog seeks to address any and all matters of interest to the tax payers of the Edmonds School District. In working to achieve this goal, we are rolling out the Blog Tip Line so that members of the public seeking to provide comments, ask questions or relay story ideas can just pick up the telephone and leave a message. The number is 425-218-3172.

No one will pick up the call. If you want to talk to someone from the Blog, just leave your name (fictional or otherwise), a telephone number and a time when to call and someone will get back to you shortly.

We are aware that not everyone has a computer at home and some choose not to have an active internet connection. Still, some would prefer not to call from their home or office for fear the call may be traced. Now, you can simply write down the Blog Tip Line number and make a call from a pay phone (if you can find one), a protected cell phone or home phone, or from any conference room in the ESC. Just another way the Blog is trying to make reporting even easier.

Once again, thank you for your support and we look forward to a great year of blogging.

Mark Zandberg
Chief Executive of Blog Content Development
425-218-3172

"We need more industry and jobs."

The intention of applicants MJR Development, Inc. and Polygon Northwest is to develop a multi-family project in the vicinity of the Interurban Trail and west of the Lynnwood Park and Ride. In order to make such a development possible, they have requested a plan designation change from Business/Technical Park (BTP) to High density Multi-family (MF-3). A previously approved office development PUD is still active on this property and the underlying zoning is Light Industrial (LI).

Larry Calvin, owner of NW Development Advisors, P.O. Box 12391, Mill Creek, Washington 98082. Mr. Calvin is represented Mike Raskin (President of MJR Development, Inc.). He informed the Commission that the MF-3 is a more viable option than an industrial development. However, in case it isn’t approved, they are working on an industrial flex-space development as an option. He felt that the 60/40 goal was the primary obstacle to their 2003 proposal, but are more confident this year because that goal is being considered for removal.

Ted Hikel, Lynnwood City Council Member, disagreed that the 60/40 was the main problem. Instead, he pointed out that the Raskin property contains 85% of all developable industrial land in Lynnwood and the Council is aware that we need more industry and jobs.

So, either Ted Hikel thinks that school administration is industrial work and would create new jobs, or the City of Lynnwood had their "sites" set on the District moving away from the Alderwood Mall. But Ted, that would create more retail jobs not industrial ones. Perhaps Ted believes mopping floors and deep-frying food is industrial work.

Fun Factoid: Mike Raskin donated $4,200 to Mike McGavick's campaign for state senator. His candidate didn't make it but that extra $2,500,000.00 should soften the blow. Didn't Mike McGavick stick it to Safeco? What's up with these Mikes? Something about birds and feathers...?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The biggest disease today is not leprosy...but the feeling of being unwanted.

I suppose one could adopt the position that a board member has every right to avoid contact with a member of the public, but Board Policy 1220, Item 7 leaves me a little confused.

To represent the Board of Edmonds School District to the public in such a way as to promote both interest and support.

This morning, as I left King Street Station and started my short walk north up 4th Avenue to my workplace, I couldn't help but notice a certain board member just a short distance ahead of me. I immediately wondered if she would continue walking north or take her new short cut through the dark, puddle-ridden and slippery parking lot up to 5th. Of course, knowing I was right behind her and that I could potentially ask a question, she darted across the street and opted for the path of darkness.

Then I thought, rather than stop at All City Coffee for my morning latte, let me just skip the coffee and head straight to work. I went up the Prefontaine steps and headed east on Terrace. As I was approaching 5th Avenue, this board member popped out from behind the Yesler Building, caught a glimpse of me and darted across to the other side of the street.

Either there is a caste system that was voted into effect by the board, or I would be willing to bet she is avoiding contact with a member of the public. What if I just handed you a list of questions? You could respond at your leisure and send them via email. How does darting through the shadows encourage my interest and support?

Editorial: As "leprosy" grew more prevalent during the Middle Ages, the status of lepers changed. Far from being pitied, lepers became increasingly more reviled by the populace. The vocabulary linking sin with leprosy increased in frequency. This idea may have been most aided by the expanding power of the church. The church rhetoric of equating uncleanliness with sin was used by all levels of the population. This association led to the equivalence between lepers, sin and punishment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not all welfare recipients wait around for the cheese.

I asked for and received the job description for the individual currently working for Powerful Partners, but on the District's payroll. No where in the job description does it mention that management of Powerful Partners is a requirement, nor is Powerful Partners a District program. It is, as their contractual relationship suggests, a separate entity and outside of District operations and obligations. Very similar to other non-profit organizations based in the region.

Naturally, I am curious. How is it that Powerful Partners has a full time para-educator, on the District's dime, working to support their programming? By "their" I mean Powerful Partners.

We have a plethora of respectable non-profits in the area that would love to receive a free cubicle and staff to promote their agenda. Why did the District single out this entity for special treatment? Did the Board authorize this free ride?

I am sure that some of this person's time goes to support some District activities, but how much? She is a coordinator of volunteers, and yet not a volunteer herself. I am not suggesting that people should work for free, but why work for a non-public agency at the expense of District taxpayers.

Why wouldn't the District just gobble up Powerful Partners and make them an official department within the District's list of departments? Could there be a financial impact for doing so? Could it be that the executive team of Powerful Partners draws income from their affiliation? Could it be that grants and funding would dry up if Powerful Partners was absorbed by the District? Just what is the logic behind giving all of these public funds away to fringe, extraneous programs?

The District is full of parent-teacher associations and organizations and yet they are not clerically-supported or provided with free office space at the ESC. Why is that? Does the Board have a problem with their mission statements or purpose for existing? Is a PTO's mission so much more inharmonious than that of Powerful Partners? Why the special treatment?

Why won't the Board go on record and officially sanction the accommodation of Powerful Partners? Why would the District go through the trouble of drafting a use agreement if they had no intention of enforcing it?

"...trying to improve it is largely a waste of time."

Perhaps you may have noticed the mess at Esperance. The District's Director of Facilities Operations authorized a county contractor to stockpile materials there for the month of October. But wait, it is almost January. What happened?

The weather apparently entered the equation and led to delays in the contractor's schedule. Sad, very sad. Thank goodness the District is earning something for the mess being created. Granted, it isn't much, but it adds up over time and could serve as a motivating force to get the contractor off the site as soon as possible. Too bad the fees were waived.

Why were the fees waived, you ask? Well, it was felt that the work being performed by the County was tangentially supportive of the District's mission. The County was addressing some long-standing drainage issues that originate near Chase Lake Bog. The bog is a District site and therefore, by the reasoning of others, a District problem. If this were the case, why wouldn't the County require the District to correct the issue?

To extrapolate that the drainage issue is a District problem and therefore warrants a free ride on storage is utterly foolish. The same reasoning can be applied to other issues. Perhaps they will be waiving rent at Melody Hill because those day care programs are serving future students? There's an idea, call King's Temple Day Care a kindergarten program and hit up the state for more money. Perhaps the District will soon offer hotel rebates for persons interested in adding to the number of children born in the District. Better still, just let couples use classrooms after hours.

"...but if you could please give me a holler..."

Voice Mail Message to Marla Miller from Evan Pearce June 15, 2007

Good Morning Marla. This is Evan Pearce, it's Friday about 11:40ish the 15th. I was calling you because, well it's in regard to the potential field rental, playground rental, usage for our community groups, kind of a barbeque/potluck meeting in the, you know an outdoor meeting, not really a meeting just an outdoor get together for the community group and the neighborhood itself, and, I spoke with Joni, the office manager there and she put me pointed me toward Mark Zandberg and the reason I'm calling you is because I remember Mark Zandberg article that ended up in the Beacon and View pretty vehement about his opinion regarding our group and [laughter] so call me jaded, paranoid or whatever but it just seems like he's probably not the best person to deal with on something like this it didn't seem like he was very objective in the article, so at any rate if you could give me a holler that would be great 206-6X3-1X90 hopefully I'm not sounding [message faded out] everybody, again, it's around 11:40 on Friday, we're looking for availability on the 24th of June, that's a Sunday, I think it's the day before the last day of school, but if you could please give me a holler I'd appreciate it. Thanks, hope you're well, talk to you soon. Bye bye.

First, his name is Evan Pierce, not Evan Pearce. A simple check with Google or Edmonds City Council minutes would reveal the correct spelling of his name.

Second, this call came in on June 15th and my Letter to the Editor appeared in late March. Didn't Mr. Pierce read the rebuttal by the superintendent? Apparently, I had nothing to do with the Old Woodway transaction and my position was merely a clerical function. Clearly, the position is clerical now, though I would have thought Outlook, Word and Access would have been in a secretary's arsenal of software packages.

Third, my last day with the District was June 11th. Didn't an announcement go out to office managers? If a supervisor even had a morsel of an idea as to what department staff did all day, one might think to notify office managers of such news.

Fourth, Mr. Pierce does acknowledge that my views were an opinion. I am impressed. Though he does share that he felt my opinions were not objective, but then opinions seldom are. That is why most people use the term "subjective".

Fifth, how can voicing an opinion render a person incapable of reserving a playground? I find it amusing. But then District leadership felt the same way, which is why constructive termination had to come into play. If I had anything questionable in my past, the District would have used it.

Finally, the Mayor of Edmonds spoke at a RE/MAX luncheon just after this letter ran in the Beacon and expressed his support for the comments that I had made. He also went on to say that Marla supported my position privately, but of course couldn't say so publicly. Not that I was seeking her support, but clearly her position requires that personal thoughts and objectives be left at home. Why couldn't she retain such a policy when putting together a real estate transaction with Raskin?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reviewing development in Snohomish County.

I asked for and received the entire collection of review requests from Snohomish County since the arrival of the new Planning and Property Management Specialist. There was a sum total of three.

I suppose it is a good thing that development has slowed down a little bit in the County, due to market conditions and a lesser demand for new construction. There was a time when the requests poured in like our region's wet weather. Apparently the volume is down to a trickle.

What I find somewhat bewildering is that the District has shifted back to using a word document and writing in the bus stop locations by hand. Of course, writing things in by hand means no one can search, sort or evaluate data for enrollment projections. The bus stop information is available on the District's main web page. Any developer or the County's planner could just input the development's address and get that information without paying for postage to the District or waiting weeks for a response.

Another concern is the fact that I was told the District would be critically evaluating each and every development. Not just performing a cursory glance at the proposal but visiting each site, pacing distances, developing standards and making recommendations for off-site improvements. None of that is going on now. What prompted this reversal? There was supposed to be a new emphasis on this aspect of the evaluation and yet such information is nowhere to be found on any of the three responses.

I suspect this was just "busy work" fashioned by managers seeking to keep their staff distracted by less important things. After all, what engineering experience does the position require? What sort of traffic count and analysis is to be performed by a Planning and Property Management Specialist? Assuming conclusions were drawn by the District, what credibility would they have once they were reviewed by County staff? They have engineers on staff and confer with them on a regular basis.

The purpose of evaluating these developments is to make certain that the developer made the necessary improvements to his or her development during the time of construction. Without these issues being included, the improvements would have to be put in place years later at the public's expense. Is that sort of evaluation taking place? I was told it was a new and high priority, but surely it must have been a lie.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reactive versus Proactive? What makes sense?

When managing budgets, where the lives of many hang in the balance, what makes the most sense? Should a good manager focus on where things are heading, or respond after the adverse conditions have already arrived? Just what makes sense?

When it comes to the Capital Facilities Plan, the District expends money in the form of salaries and fees to consultants to help forecast enrollment trends. When the last reliable CFP was generated, and adopted by the Board, all reasonable measures pointed to a drastic and irrefutable downward trend in enrollment. But somehow, the Board adopted the document but never insisted that the document guide decisions internally. Just what sort of chaos is that?

Wouldn't it be better to know in advance when your state checks are going to get smaller? Wouldn't it be better to know years in advance that you might have to trim programming a wee bit? Why wait until the bad news hits? Why wait until teachers start seeing empty chairs in their classrooms before you start slashing budgets? Why not make adjustments gradually over time - well in advance of financial consequences?

I remain convinced that the District, one person in particular, seeks to use enrollment realities as a weapon of war - slashing personnel and demanding that undesirable programs be cut or trimmed back to a less offensive level.

Forecasting enrollment trends is not the story of Chicken Little. It isn't about a single and lone voice screaming a message that makes little to no sense to anyone. This is clearly a case of a solid assessment, endorsed by Board adoption and yet no meaningful action was taken as a result. Current enrollment has demonstrated that the sky has fallen and that Chicken Little was right all along.

It's as if the District was speeding down the highway and only started wondering about the value of brakes after slamming into the car in front of them.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A scapegoat isn't as good as a solution to the problem.

I am frequently asked why I started this blog and, to date, I have generally responded by sharing my concern about the direction the District is heading. Since the departure of Dr. Robertson, conditions have gotten progressively worse.

They were so bad, in fact, that upon the District's removal of my work assignments, I couldn't just casually sit around without the distraction of productivity. I couldn't let my eyes drift to the suffering of others, or to the dismantling of organizational accomplishments.

Another significant factor, was my concern about becoming a scapegoat. Without a doubt, someone in the District (or in the State Auditor's Office) would stumble upon a string of peculiar transactions and start asking questions. While mounting a defense, certain people (okay, a single person) would redirect the responsibility for these poor choices upon former employees with the meaningful terms in their titles, like "Property Manager", "Director of Property Management", or "Planning and Property Management Specialist".

Political/sociological scapegoating
Scapegoating is often more devastating when applied to a minority group as they are inherently less able to defend themselves. A tactic often employed is to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as
guilt by association.

"Scapegoated" groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: adherents of different religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.

In industrialised societies, scapegoating of traditional minority groups is increasingly frowned upon.

Mobbing is a form of sociological scapegoating which occurs in the workplace. From At The Mercy Of The Mob A summary of research on workplace mobbing by Kenneth Westhues, Prof. of Sociology University of Waterloo, published in OHS Canada, Canada's Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 8, December 2002, pp. 30-36.

"Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life. ... Mobbing can be understood as the stressor to beat all stressors. It is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate."

Scapegoating in psychoanalytic theory
Psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems. In other words, blaming another person or thing, for your own problems.

If the scapegoating pattern continues into early adulthood, development towards healthy personal
identity is likely to be compromised, with strong likelihood of histrionic, compensatory narcissistic, and/or obsessive-compulsive, as well as passive-aggressive traits. Fully-criterial personality disorders are likely, leading to severe, ego-protecting "affect management behaviors" including alcoholism, drug addiction and other substance and behavioral process disorders.

Editorial: Portions in blue came from Wikipedia.

Excuse me, but your shoes don't have laces.

There have been a few strange things that have happened since I started this blog. First, of course, was the phone call from a board member shortly after getting a new telephone number at a new job in a new building. How that happens without a lot of effort still defies logic.

Second, was finding a board member peering into my living room windows from Talbot Road. I happened to have binoculars on hand so quickly looked back and waved. This board member promptly drove away.

Third, was an encounter that happened this morning in QFC. I was buying a few bananas and went through the self service line. Upon exiting, I happened to spot a board member who quickly ducked down behind the checkout counter. I thought perhaps they were tying their shoelaces, but alas, as I walked by, I noticed that the shoes did not have laces.

Maybe I am imagining things. Maybe I am losing my grip on reality. Maybe I will start walking through poorly lit parking lots in downtown Seattle to avoid making eye contact with people.

Editorial: By the way, if you are a board member and you happen to be walking through poorly lit parking lots near the train station to avoid making eye contact with me, please stop. I wouldn't want anyone to slip in the darkness or encounter an unsavory character with criminal conduct on his mind. I promise not to ask any questions, hard ones or otherwise.

Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the District.

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a book review of a new book, "The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia" by Orlando Figes. It is apparently a compilation of interviews describing first-hand what Stalin did to the 'average Joe-Russian' family. I was struck by the description of the fear and intimidation injected into daily (communal) life; government informers seemed to be everywhere, people disappeared without word and people literally lowered their voices to a whisper even in their own living quarters.

Sounded to me like what my work life was like in the District. It was not a workplace where people worked together despite the hyped "collaboration" that was the professed banner under which we were working. There can be no "collaboration" when decisions are made by one person no matter how much icing is on the cake to hide it. When educational decisions are made with no stated educational reason ("to ease your load" is not a reason when you haven't talked to me about how "the load" was CREATED by YOUR previous decisions, also made without my professional input) there has to be another reason for making them. I do not discount stupidity or incompetence in the equation, but it seems to me that when a series of these decisions tend to impact senior staff members more than junior staff members and when this is pointed out to upper administration, it is ignored or dismissed ("I talked to Mr. X and he says that didn't happen"), there is something going on that is bigger and more complex than stupidity.

Please remember that management is usually disgraced when it is discovered that they tried to cover-up indiscreet or stupid actions rather than from the severity of the indiscreet or stupid actions in the first place. Thus 18 minute gaps in tapes are worse than breaking into the office of your political enemy.

The District will not become a better place to work until the fear, intimidation and bullying of subordinates stops. Nor will it become a better place to work until people who don't know what they are doing have no power over those who do know what they are doing.

Editorial: While I am sure this writer is not suggesting that district staff will end up in mass graves, I am surprised by the comparison. The atmosphere in the District has definitely been getting worse.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The board doesn't want you reading their minutes.

For several months, perhaps as many as six months, the ability to search board minutes and agendas has ended. Sure, there is a web page that allows you to insert search terms into a field, but the search doesn't take you anywhere.

Could it be that the District doesn't want anyone searching past minutes to determine how board members have been voting? Could it be that a massive editing campaign has been waged to alter the minutes to reflect a more judicious outcome - albeit false? Could it be that public access to the minutes of meetings would introduce a degree of accountability that would just be intolerable?

Most people don't have the time or energy to attend board meetings. They can be a real snooze fest and really don't amount to much more than a lot of ceremonial back patting that fortunately doesn't come through in the typed minutes. I prefer to skim over the contents of a three hour meeting in a matter of minutes. While I care about where my tax dollars go and how they are frivolously wasted, I don't care to subject myself to the mundane and physically-exhausting contents of an unexciting and uninspired room of misguided public sloths.

Just when will the search function return to the District's official website? Is it a matter of employee qualifications? Perhaps no one on staff knows how to reanimate the search function. If you need help, just drop me an email and I'll send over my webmaster.

Editorial: Is it a coincidence that the search function died shortly after this blog grew legs and started walking around asking questions?

An honor is not diminished for being shared.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council is moving quickly to select a new council member to fill the seat of recently departed councilman Doug Wittinger, who has moved out of the city limits.

At its Dec. 17 meeting, the council decided to advertise the opening immediately and conduct interviews at a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 3 at City Hall council chambers, 23204 58th Ave. W.

The council will appoint a new council member following these interviews, so the new member can participate in the mayor and mayor pro tem selection process at the Jan. 7 regular meeting and attend training for newly elected officials in mid-January.

The term for this office expires Dec. 31, 2009.

To qualify as a council candidate, interested parties must be at least 18 years of age, a United States citizen without any felony convictions and a registered voter who has lived within the city for at least one year prior to the appointment.

Applications for this vacancy can be obtained by calling the city clerk's office at 425-744-6206 or by sending e-mail to
cityhall@ci.mlt.wa.us. Applications are also available on the home page of the city Web site, www.cityofmlt.com, and at City Hall.

The due date for submitting applications either in person or via mail is 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31.

Editorial: Doug Wittinger bought a new residence in Edmonds and the transaction closed on September 24, 2007. Only three months passed before leaving the City Council, as opposed to a number of years for Bruce Williams. This article came from the Enterprise.

Friday, December 21, 2007

5200-R1, Section 4: Site Acquisition Procedures

These steps shall be completed in the acquisition of sites:
a.
The Board shall authorize the superintendent to appoint a site acquisition committee. Such appointment shall be in writing, specify the assignment, list resources available to the committee, name a chairperson and establish a time frame for reporting. The committee shall report to the superintendent;
b. The superintendent or designee shall report to the Board with recommendations regarding site acquisition and may include the report of the committee in such recommendations. The superintendent's report to the Board may be made in a regular public meeting or in an executive session.
c. The director of business services or designee shall prepare a legal description or address for the identified site.
d. The Board shall authorize contact to be made with the owner of the site.
e. Upon Board approval of price and any other conditions of purchase, a warrant shall be drawn covering all acquisition costs, except attorney and/or consultant fees which shall be paid by separate warrants.
f. The warrant shall be placed in a separate Edmonds School District trust fund by the district's attorney. Checks against the trust fund shall be countersigned by at least two (2) of the following persons:
(1) district's attorney
(2) director of business services
(3) superintendent
g. At the first regular Board meeting following issuance of the warrant (Item e.), the district's attorney shall report as to progress in closing the transaction. Within sixty (60) days thereafter, if the transaction has not been closed, the district's attorney shall submit a written report to the Board indicating the reason(s) the transaction has not been closed.
h. Monthly reports shall be made to the superintendent by the director of business services or designee indicating progress on all sites that are being purchased or are in condemnation action.

Editorial: Who was on this mysterious site acquisition committee? Here is the link for those of you following at home.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's all about making the District a better place.

For the few that claim I am targeting the weak or professionally-impaired, I apologize. This blog is all about making the District a better place. If concerns were not expressed about the quality of writing by a certain member of staff, nothing would have happened to improve the quality of writing. Unfortunately, the writing style is not of her supervisor, but rather of his and at the rate she is paid, I suspect the tax payer would have been better off with poorly constructed sentences and nonsensical directions.

It's good to know the blog is still having an impact.

On a more serious note, I certainly wouldn't want the blog to cause any personal trauma or hardship for anyone. If it creates a bit of work, maybe that work might motivate public servants to do the right thing first. Avoid stress and pressure by making the right decisions earlier. Don't let the heartache and sweat accumulate. Think things through before you run with questionable instructions.

In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that people feeling pressure should unload their guilt and share their ideas about how to make things better for everyone. Don't live under thumbs. Don't live with the hatred you propagate at the direction of others. Unleash your humanity and be your own person. There is a better way to live than marching all day to the beat of a misguided manager. People want to like you but alas, they cannot get beyond the glare of your master.

Again, this blog is all about change. The District needs change. Things change when board members do the honorable thing and step down when necessary. Things change when board members ask intelligent questions and understand the answers they are provided. Things change when people start challenging the status quo and demand more than mediocrity.

Like everyone else in the District, I know we can do much better. Unlike everyone else in the District, I have a meaningful forum that cannot be controlled or manipulated by management. Most importantly, I am not on their payroll, but as a tax payer, they are on mine.

Tech levy in May would cut tax rate?

Voters in the Edmonds School District will get the chance in May to renew a four-year technology/capital levy that expires in 2008.

If approved, locals would pay 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – a decrease from the current 52 cents per thousand. That would be about $84 a year on a $300,000 house, as opposed to the current rate of $156 a year on the same house. But what happens if it is voted down altogether? Wouldn't that be a decrease from $156 to $0? I can see why the District may want more students to fail the math portion of the WASL, because as adults they would be voting to support this sort of mathematical reasoning.

The Edmonds School Board approved putting the levy before voters at its Dec. 11 meeting. The 2004 levy that's expiring brought technology into every classroom in the district. Renewing the levy would replace and further build on those advances. The earlier levy also put a lot of laptops and LCD projectors in the homes of petty criminals.

The levy would collect about $31.4 million over four years, with an additional $100,000 in interest. It would expire in 2012.

The deadline for the all-mail ballot special election would be May 20.

In addition to technology, $7.5 million of the $31.4 million would go toward capital facilities projects in safety and emergency preparedness, energy efficiency, systems upgrades and outdoor facilities and partnership programs. In other words, if you think the District is saturated with technology, how can you vote against an opportunity to have more Capital Partnerships?

Editorial: The red portion of this entry came directly from the Enterprise
.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vast improvement. Did somebody help?

Good Morning Everyone,

Our custodial crew is scheduled to do CARPET CLEANING for the entire ESC on Dec. 26 and 27. They would like to begin cleaning at 3:00 p.m. and plan to be finished at 11:00 p.m. (For anyone who is scheduled to work after 3:00, please check with your supervisor as to a possible alternative schedule.)
In addition, we would like to ask everyone’s help in CLEARING THE FLOOR of your work area completely. This includes files, chairs, and mats.
We would recommend using your work rooms to store chairs and mats.
(FYI, the ESC has not had the carpets cleaned entirely in over three years!)

Thank you for your cooperation and support of our GREAT Custodial Crew!


I am a little bothered by the fact that the ESC's carpets haven't been cleaned in more than three years. I don't know how many times I relied upon the three second rule when eating in my cubicle. I may have to consult with public health officials as to the wisdom of such a rule. Clearly, it has no foundation in science.

Congratulations to the ESC for getting their carpets cleaned. Three years of accumulated blood from flogging bureaucratic opposition, vomit from repulsive management practices, and sweat from the countless minions that toil at the pleasure of their supervisors. It is about time.

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

Some many months ago, perhaps as many as two years ago, I set up a php module site with the support of Technology. It was a raging fad at the time to have this sort of format used in departmental web profiles. Of course, we have since seen how easy it is for unknown individuals to post questionable materials for inappropriate activities. Click here.

My department was assigned the subdomain of "property.edmonds.wednet.edu". To make matters simple, I just had the subdomain auto-forward, or "point" to esd15.org, which pointed to edmonds.wednet.edu/propertymgt. That way, I would be spending less time updating the php site at work (and the esd15.org site at home) and only have to worry about a single website.

Well, imagine my surprise when I checked traffic counts and found a flurry of hits coming from property.edmonds.wednet.edu. While the subdomain still automatically forwards to esd15.org, esd15.org no longer automatically forwards to propertymgt. In other words, if you type in the subdomain, you are taken directly to the blog site. Try it.

Who is looking after such issues? I had to point out the earlier problem to District staff before it was corrected. I am hoping that District staff may find time in their hectic schedules to make this correction as well. I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it.

Yet another modest proposal for your consideration. In the last blog entry, I touched lightly on the power of money and how we could potentially improve the calibre of board candidates if we offered a higher sum of money. An actual salary instead of a meagre handout of $50 per meeting. During the day, these board members could put whatever skills they might possess to work making the District a better place. Have them meet and mingle. Let them dig around. Encourage them to ask questions and poke under rocks. They could drive a school bus, prepare and serve lunches, they could fill in when a teacher is sick.

Now, imagine if the Edmonds School District offered the superintendent a substantial raise. Not to suggest that he doesn't already get paid enough at more than $200,000.00 a year. But imagine if the District paid him $250,000.00 a year, with one small string attached. The net percentage he would actually "earn" would be directly tied to WASL scores. If 60% of District students passed the WASL, he would take home 60% of his pay. If 60% of District students failed, he could be flipping burgers next to many of them on weekends to make ends meet.

It's a standardized test and outside of the superintendent's direct influence or control. If better teachers are recruited and retained, there might be a better chance he could earn more money. If they leave in droves, his income may take a dive. Nothing motivates a person to succeed better than lining their pockets with legitimately earned income. The superintendent could add another Porsche or two to his collection and we can churn out brighter and more accomplished students. Maybe they might even survive a few rounds of math at the University of Washington.

I would suggest even taking this scenario one step further. Eliminate Marla's salary and put her on commission. Let her deals see the light of day and openly encourage creativity. Instead of guessing as to the financial impact of these questionable deals, cast some light on them and openly acknowledge her accomplishments with a percentage of the transaction's value.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lack of money is the root of all evil.

I have a modest proposal. While at first blush, it may seem like a rather costly endeavor, I can assure you that the end result would be a lean, efficient and highly-capable District. I propose that we pay board members a salary, and not just a small salary, but a salary that might motivate competent managers and business people to join its ranks.

But can we pay board members? They are elected officials and we pay elected officials a substantial sum for their contributions to society. We paid Don Rumsfeld. We continue to pay George Bush. We pay our congressional representatives. Closer to home, we pay the mayors of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. We pay our County Sheriff. In fact, we pay the vast majority of our elected officials a wage that most people can comfortably live on. Why not include our local school board members.

Of course, if you offer a salary you might just get people competing for the position that really want to be there. Once there, they would work hard to keep their place. They might just cast a few votes in favor of the District's mission. It's a great idea and needs to get some traction.

For those of you that still believe that board members take their seats to perform a public service and are not motivated by the money, I say balderdash. Who is better equipped to detect a money-hungry parasite than another money-hungry parasite? Pay board members lucrative salaries and they might just look a little more closely at the fine print - or in the case of important documents like the CFP - they might even glance at the print or maybe the pictures.

I cannot help but wonder what motivates a board member to sit on the board. Of course, it isn't the money. (Well, not the actual stipend. Surely there must be kickbacks here and there.) It isn't in the spirit of public service, because they must be convinced by now that a service to the public hasn't been performed since September 11th, when Bruce Williams resigned. There was nothing public service-oriented about the property transactions. The piano scam. Or a wide spectrum of internal malfeasance.

This token gesture of handing out $50 bills for each board meeting a member attends has to be ended. In this day and age, even children know that you only get what you pay for. There is no such thing as a free ride and $50 is as close to free as you can get in the world of accounting.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Love is a piano dropped from a fourth story window.

First, thank you for the comments. I will try to respond as fully as I can.

The board presentation didn't do a thing to resolve the piano scam. The board members are easily fooled and have no idea how to craft an intelligent question on this topic. No one bothered to ask how Seattle Piano Gallery was selected. They just seem so transfixed by the "process" after the vendor was selected - they failed to investigate as to the nature of the relationship between the seller and the District's representative. Perhaps they need a refresher course in how the public sector works.

If you assume for a moment that what spews forth from Marla's mouth is true, the summary of events would lead the casual reader to believe that the District purchased the pianos for slightly less than full list price. However, the District apparently did not set out to buy all of these pianos. Or did they? Why would the District take pleasure in knowing they purchased more pianos than they needed for slightly less than full list price? Would I buy 14 cars for a fraction under sticker price? Would anyone? Of course, my expenditures would be made with private money and where I chose to park them would be a private problem.

Over the last seven years of service in the public sector, I have grown accustomed to obtaining assets for less than full list price. For instance, Business Interiors Northwest offers most of their cubicle parts and pieces at 70% less than full list price. Yes, 70% less than full list price. For the mathematically-impaired that would be a purchase price of 30% of full list price. Would Marla and the Board be happier paying 95% of list price for their cubicle parts and pieces?

It has become even more obvious, since the release of the board minutes, that Marla's plan from the very beginning was to buy more than a dozen pianos from her friend, Arnie Tucker. It must be nice to have such a large wallet and so many friends with things to sell.

Arnie Tucker must have read those board minutes.

[Anonymous]
How many pianos did the Edmonds School District end up with?

[Arnie]
Four grands and I don't remember how many verticals...

I've decided to bow out of this and give you my contact for the pianos I've mentioned.
Here it is.

These are the quality, warranted, restored pianos imported from Japan. You will find 3 pages of models and prices. They come from a warehouse in Kentucky or one in California. Many piano dealers use this source for their used piano inventory.

Questions? Email me again. I'll be happy to help.
Good luck!
Arnie

Editorial: Next time the District wants to buy "quality, warranted, restored pianos" just click on the link above and cut out the middle man - even if he is a friend.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tolerance is as American as apple pie.

A brief exchange between a member of the public and the Edmonds School District.

[Anonymous]
Please send a copy of the 2006-2011 CFP to the following address:
2321 XXXXXX Ave
Everett, WA 98201

[P&PMS]
I have requested this documented and will send it to you as soon as I receive it.
Please let me know if you have any further questions,
Thank you
Stephanie Hall
Planning and Property Management Specialist
(425) 431-7332


[Anonymous]
Sorry, is there someone else, from whom I should have requested this document? I used to get these every two years from the Planning and Property Management Specialist. I was on a list.
Thanks.


[P&PMS]
In response to your request, you are correct in requesting the Capital Facilities Plan from myself. However, I needed to have additional copies made. It will be mailed to you today.
Please let me know if you have any questions,
Stephanie Hall
Planning and Property Management Specialist
(425) 431-7332

The District really should move this document online. For the very few people in the region that read the Capital Facilities Plan, it would be more convenient and cost-effective to keep it on the website. I would also recommend an illustrated version for board members so the concepts can become more clear to them.

Maybe each quad could be portrayed as an apple tree and the children can be the apples. When the apples become ripe, they fall from the trees and roll into the classrooms - where they are ravaged by hungry worms.

Editorial: Thank you to yet another contributor. This polite exchange seems so unlike the manner in which others were treated while trying to rent a public parking lot.

Words of the Day: Fatuous and Maladroit

fat·u·ous /ˈfætʃuəs/ Pronunciation [fach-oo-uhs] –adjective
1. foolish or inane, esp. in an unconscious, complacent manner; silly.
2. unreal; illusory.
[Origin: 1625–35; <>
-ous] —Related forms
fat·u·ous·ly, adverb
fat·u·ous·ness, noun


mal·a·droit /ˌmæləˈdrɔɪt/
Pronunciation [mal-uh-droit] –adjective
lacking in adroitness; unskillful; awkward; bungling; tactless: to handle a diplomatic crisis in a very maladroit way.
[Origin: 1665–75; <>
mal-, adroit] —Related forms
mal·a·droit·ly, adverb
mal·a·droit·ness, noun

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bullies in the schoolyard - and in the front office.

Perhaps the District would like the contents of our 2 2" three-ring binders that document our treatment, much of which consists of e-mails to or from bullying District employees. But then again, all we have are those e-mails that we had the presence of mind to save or forward to our home e-mail account; the District would have all of them already. They just have to put forth a little effort to find them.

But wait! Perhaps if someone were to go through the old cached e-mails they might find evidence that is NOT helpful to the District on a number of issues with a variety of present/former employees. Perhaps this is a case of "Be careful what you ask for" for the District.

And note again that the intimidation factor of a District paid lawyer monitoring this blog is ever-present. This is a threat to anyone who feels the need to get the truth out. Which reminds me of WAC 180-88-040 which I ran across recently. It seems that "verbal abuse" means "the use of malicious or hostile language by an employee that results in harm to another if the school district has determined that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that an employee engaged in the conduct and that it resulted in the employee leaving a position with the district." Also "under RCW 28A.400.301, a district is prohibited from entering into any contract or agreement that has the effect of suppressing information about the abuse by a present or former employee or has the effect of expunging such information from employer files."

It seems to me that ANY settlement agreement which limits a former employee's ability to openly discuss their "constructive termination" is, under this statute, ILLEGAL. And yet the settlement agreement, with the agreement and approval of the Edmonds Education Assn, is the weapon of choice for the school district. Mine says just that: you can't talk about your former employer or your employment "story." Of course, the catch 22 here is that the District has to find that verbal abuse occurred. They get to investigate themselves and determine that they verbally abused someone. What, do you suppose, is the chance of that? It will be a cold day in the underworld before that happens, you can be sure. We need oversight from another government agency, or at least the daylighting of these practices to the average taxpayer.

Editorial: A sincere thank you for another informative entry from an unknown contributor.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Give us all of your documents... Except the ones you have.

[Duncan]
On Wednesday, November 28, 2007, your client, Mark Zandberg, posted an entry on his blog entitled "Why miss your weekly dose of intelligent humor?" In that entry he inserts a copy of an e-mail sent to him and a man named "Steve" from Marla Miller, Assistant Superintendent at Edmonds School District, dated March 24, 2006.

All documents created by District employees and maintained on District computer servers, including e-mail communications, are property of the District. Accordingly, we are now requesting that any and all such electronic documents that were obtained by Mr. Zandberg while he was employed by the Edmonds School District, or any time thereafter, and now in his custody and control, be returned to the District, through us. In addition, please instruct him to retain any documents that remain in his custody and control until the issues related to his claim have been resolved.

We trust that you will advise Mr. Zandberg accordingly.

This is a blog-related issue, not a constructive termination issue. Therefore, contacting my legal counsel is contrary to my earlier request that all blog-related issues should be directed to me, personally. I retained the services of legal counsel for the sole purpose of resolving the manner in which I was constructively terminated.

You are directing me to return documents now in my possession, except the documents in my possession. I suppose I could return everything once my "claim" has been resolved. But what happens if I choose not to resolve any claim? Do I retain such documents forever?

Your request is not specific enough. In order to return documents, I will need to know exactly which documents are being requested. Also, I am not a public agency, so the fee will be $.15 a page. I do not have staff assigned to such a task, so the response may take more than 45 days.

It is clear that the District seeks to reclaim letters of praise and commendation. The letter included in the blog entry mentioned above, was retained for the purpose of demonstrating that I was once appreciated by my employer for the work that I performed every day - particularly the work that I was juggling for many months. Will the District be applying a uniform standard to all current and former employees? Will all letters of appreciation have to be returned? Will all thoughtfully written documents expressing appreciation have to be returned to the District?

The District has every e-mail message I ever sent from my District email account, as well as every message I ever received. Why not just have your hard drive dissecting contractors or the District's network administrator print out every e-mail that ever made contact with me?

Editorial: There are a great many companies in the world that offer free server space for the storing of e-mail and data. Imagine if everyone in the District were to automatically send every piece of email ever received or sent to a G-mail account through Google. It takes only a few minutes to set up a new rule in Outlook where this can happen without any on-going effort on the user's part. Then, if you are ever constructively terminated, you can just draw upon the wealth of information at your fingertips - and not in your home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gentlemen.... Start your shredders.

Duncan,

I would like to receive copies of any and all archive manifests for documents that may have been removed from Property Management's "vault files" within the last six months. By "vault files" I mean the three 42 inch wide, five drawer (top drawer is actually a flipper door) file cabinets located in Property Management on the second floor of the ESC. By archived manifests, I mean a list of all documents removed from the "vault files" and sent to any location outside of the ESC, whether the District warehouse or any other location.

If no such manifests exist, and documents have been removed, I would like to coordinate a viewing of the remaining documents.

I would also like to know who was assigned the task of removing and/or archiving documents, how they were selected for the task and what qualifications they possess that would make them uniquely qualified for this task.

Thank you.
Mark Zandberg

Editorial: If the public asks for any and all copies of documents in the District's possession, why not just "unpossess" them?

You just have to know what keys to poke.

Ms. Miller provided the Board with information on a recent public records request related to a lease agreement with Seattle Piano Gallery in 2005. She outlined the work with legal counsel to formulate the lease agreement with the vendor, the payment schedule, resale outcomes, an erroneous purchase order, and the company filing for bankruptcy. It was confirmed that the end result of payment for the thirteen leased pianos was less than the list price and the 2006 quote for comparable pianos.

This passage was pulled directly from the meeting minutes approved by the Board. Of course, I have a few questions. They won't be hard, I promise.

1. How was this particular vendor selected? Did it have anything to do with the fact that he was a friend of the person making the decision to lease the pianos? The fact that they worked on some sort of jazz function together? The fact they have a connection in Rotary?

2. Just which law firm worked on developing the lease agreement? Did they know how the vendor was selected? Would they have any reason to ask? Were they involved in that selection process? Would any law firm presume that a public agency isn't aware of public bid processes?

3. What payment schedule was developed? My records (and granted they could be incomplete) show a single payment for a rather large sum and then one very small payment back to the District.

4. What resale outcomes? Since when does the District sell pianos for a profit? Or a loss for that matter? When did the District feel a need to report on the sales success or failure of private enterprise?

5. What erroneous purchase order? I never asked for copies of erroneous or legitimate purchase orders, I asked for copies of checks. The truth is in the numbers and the checks were full of them.

6. What difference does it make that the dealer of these pianos filed for bankruptcy? If the transaction was legitimate and the pianos were leased, it is just a simple matter of returning the pianos when the lease was up.

Bottom line: "It was confirmed that the end result of payment for the thirteen leased pianos was less than the list price and the 2006 quote for comparable pianos." Hint: Leasing a car for a year should always be cheaper than buying it outright, unless you plan on driving to the moon a few times in the next 12 months. After 12 months of leasing, you have no pianos. After 12 months of ownership, you have one-year-old pianos.

How was the Seattle Piano Gallery selected? If you are going to scam the tax-paying public, why not take the extra effort to go out to bid and then disqualify every vendor you didn't like? Maybe you can afford to skip this critical step because you know the Board will never ask any questions.

Editorial: I am flattered that the contents of this blog are being discussed at Board meetings. I am just disappointed that no one understands public processes.

The trouble with law is lawyers.

[Mark Zandberg]
Please review Edmonds School Board Policy 3300 R-1 and help me understand how the purchase/lease of pianos from the Seattle Piano Gallery complied with this policy...

Please also review RCW 28A.335.190 and help me understand how the same transaction complied with state law...

[Duncan]
These questions appear to seek legal advice or opinion. As you are well aware, Patterson Buchanan has been retained to represent Edmonds School District, and provide legal advice on matters of its concern. Should you desire an answer to the questions above, I suggest you consult with your own counsel.


I have and it doesn't.

Editorial: Edmonds School District is a public agency and should have no concern other than that of serving the public. Spending public funds to insulate public servants from public scrutiny does nothing to advance the public's interests.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Federal Blogger Protection Program

Due to a recent relocation to a tropical environment, the blog is not being actively maintained or updated. I will be back in the Edmonds area on Tuesday, December 11th and will respond to comments and post new entries at that time.

If questionable forces are planning a raid on this blogger's home, I'll have you know that a highly competent housesitter has been enlisted to guard the estate until my return.

Thank you for visiting and I look forward to the many emails and kind comments upon my return.

Mark Zandberg
Chief Executive of Blog Content Development

Monday, December 03, 2007

Employee Guide to Playing Human Resources (3/3)

Visit a Doctor: Actually, this isn’t a tactic, it’s a necessity. You will be undergoing a lot of stress during this whole process. It is likely you will have headaches, insomnia, gastro-intestinal problems, and fatigue. Go and get help. You need to take steps to take care of yourself. At the very least ask for something to help you sleep so your mental acuity does not wane. You will need to be on the top of your game to be free from fear! If you really need it, use the Employee Assistance Program to get things off your chest or go see your pastor. You will be validated as most people who learn about the culture at the District are incredulous. If things get really bad, as a last resort, file a workman’s comp claim for work related stress. Don’t laugh; you make actually have to do this. Use the time to center yourself and focus your energy on what is important.

Lawyer Up: If you have union representation, use it. For those of you without union representation, it is probably worth hiring an attorney. Check out legal aid associations if need be. If the union rep or attorney is poorly prepared, prepare for them. As you can tell from this blog, or have been through a divorce, you know that many lawyers are not that smart. They just have a good vocabulary and have read some law books. You are just as qualified to formulate the gist of your defense and craft the strategy to argument your case. If you truly want to keep your job, YOU need to take control and call the shots. All you need them to do is be your mouthpiece and strike fear in the District to a potential law suit. As an outsider, they can be more eloquent and dispassionate, as they will not have to keep their emotions in check. The key to the game is not to let them “get” to you and con you into believing their side of the story.

Age/Gender/Race/Religion Card: Use it if you have to. The District has paid out dearly in discrimination cases. Check where you are in the age range in your department to see where you fall in comparison to others. Celebrate if you are older than everyone else. If you are pushing 50 or are older, yippee! Make sure you look as old as possible and let that gray show! As for gender, if you are a woman, muster up those tears even if you have to put a nail in your shoe! Point out inequities between treatment of men and women, real and or imagined. Remember, it’s the perceived threat and how they make you feel that is important! And if you have been so blessed with even 1/16th of heritage or have a family religion considered as a minority, be sure to embrace it! Make it your identity. Put a dream catcher above your desk; wear your yarmulke, dashiki or birka.

Postpone/Delay/Cancel: Turn the tables and string them along. Book up your calendar with meetings that directly conflict with your interrogators open time or take a day off to make sure you are not available to meet at any time you know you will not be ready for battle. You want to be ready to rumble, do not go in if you are not at the top of your game. There are sick days, vacation days, personal days, and my favorite, bereavement leave. Search the obituaries for people with names that are identical to yours; that is on both sides of your family. Make sure to check out of state obituaries, as the number of days allotted for an out of state funeral are greater than an in-state affair. It helps if you have name like Nguyen or Smith somewhere in your family.

Conduct: During this time of strife, you need to make sure you do not give them anymore ammunition. So, stay off the internet for personal reasons. Do not check your personal email or order your prescriptions on line. Use it solely for work. Do not come in late or leave early. Do not take an extra five minutes at lunch or at break. Even if it’s going to snow and you want to gas up the car at lunch for your commute home. Stave off the desire if it might make you late. And by all means do not, under any circumstances, work overtime for them. If they are going to squeeze you, why would you help them when they are in a pinch? If they say you cannot keep up with your work load, show them the log of what you do on a daily basis to show you are not goofing off.

Quitting: If you do quit, make sure it is to your advantage. If you haven’t taken all of vacation, sick, or personal days, take them. The District has a problem giving people what they are owed. Also, if you want to minimize the impact of paying for your health insurance on COBRA, make sure to work at least one day of a new month. Your benefits will be paid for the month you quit and the next. If you have to wait for three months for your new coverage to kick in, you will only have to put out one month’s worth of payment!

Step Five: Never forget how to play the game.
Things are cyclical at the District and once bitten; you are more likely to be bit again. When you see the political winds begin to change, prepare yourself. You will get better at predicting when the storm will hit and be ready for another round. You will strike back at them harder, faster, and will be far more clever and fearless as you have become a seasoned player. It is after all, it’s a game that never ends, so you must play to win.

Step Six: Print this Manual
In the spirit of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal this Book, print this manual and keep it and/or share it with your District colleagues. It was written to help you save your job, screw with HR before you leave if you so please, but most of all it was written to confirm your suspicions that the District is the most dysfunctional place you have ever worked so you can survive the berating. The goal here is to reduce the impact any investigation may have on your self esteem and personal life as it will take a negative toll on your psyche. You are not as bad as they paint you out to be. In fact, you are a far better person than they will ever know, because they never give you the chance. That is not what they do. Do not be your own worst enemy and believe the load of crap they shovel out. Do not be afraid. FIGHT BACK and choose not to be their whipping boys and girls. As Abbie Hoffman would say, "
POWER TO THE PEOPLE!"

Editor's Note: Thank you to another guest contributor. This is the final part in a series of three.