Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maybe if you cared about the way they waste millions.

When faced with cost increases, it seems everyone these days is passing along the cost to the consumer. Today I received a letter in the mail from the Edmonds School District reminding me how important lunch is for my growing child's development, but sadly, they have to increase his school lunch daily fee to a whopping $4/day.

Like most retail outlets are in the midst of discovering, passing the cost ultimately means "no sale." My recommendation to the Edmonds School District is to review their budget again for ways to save money on their own, instead of trying to pass along a stealth tax to parents already stretched to the limit.

Brian Moran

Excuse me, Mr. Moran, but your decision to have children is passing along a cost to me. Like 70% of residents in the Edmonds School District, I don't have any children attending public schools, but I pay plenty of property tax to support your children. If you, and people like you, decided to have fewer children, we would all reap a significant tax break.

As for the "whopping $4/day", I would hope you place greater value in the health of your children. Unfortunately, in many cases, school lunch is the healthiest meal they will eat each day. Four bucks is a latte at Starbucks and so many parents think nothing of guzzling one each morning while their children go to school to forage for food.

If $4/day is just too much to pay, try packing a lunch every morning. I'd be willing to bet that the value of your time and the cost of the food cannot stay under four dollars.

You can also choose to do nothing because there's always a free cheese sandwich.

Mark Zandberg

Blog: The letter from Brian Moran can be read in the Enterprise
. It's a great newspaper that appreciates constructive engagement with the community and warmly embraces the very infrequent use of pertinent articles when a link to their website is included.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stifling expression and allowing conflict to fester.

I am reluctant to post anything here, because I love my job and the people with whom I work. It's worth it one time, though, just to echo and reinforce the comments about Boyd, Dale, Dave and Fred (in alphabetical order, cuz they are all first!) and thank them for the work they do. In all my time, at all my schools, their daily "visits" are like sunshine. Great guys, kind men, pleasant, professional - role models for every single person in the district in terms of customer service and getting the job done.

Thank you, guys! I don't know the details of your problems at the Warehouse (which, alone, is an indicator of their professionalism) but whatever you're going through, you are ROCKSTARS on a daily basis. Thank you!


Since this blog started in June of 2007, we have received a lot of comments regarding the District Warehouse and the problems that existed there. Without verifying every comment, it became painfully apparent that the problems required the intervention of district management and no such intervention ever happened.

The Warehouse is a clear example of how effective anonymous comments can be. These are the same sort of anonymous comments that the State Auditor requested from district staff and can now be found in the diagnostic survey only available on this blog. Anonymous comments can help management - still relying on blinders and training wheels - to identify an area where their attention may best be focused.

Like the author of the anonymous comment above, the vast majority of individuals that visit this blog are reluctant to provide their names. They have seen what has happened to past employees that offered personal opinions - even when those opinions had nothing to do with the Edmonds School District.

I will always remain a strong proponent of the freedom of expression. People that have a view should be encouraged to provide it without fear of reprisal. A name shouldn't be required to authenticate a claim and apparently the State Auditor agrees with me in using a diagnostic survey of anonymous comments.

Embracing the freedom of speech requires that management take a few minutes and listen to the concerns without fixating on the source of the complaint. Until district management is prepared to listen and work with staff to improve their district, nothing will ever get any better.

Stifling speech will keep an oppressed majority silent until someone cracks and decides to make a move that has no known remedy. There are countless unfortunate events in our nation's history where people with real issues to express had no real outlet to make their issues known. Examples are far too painful to recount here.

It was terribly unfortunate to witness the District's use of passivity and disengagement at the Warehouse. While problems continued for years, the District lost a teachable moment that may have left a profound and lasting impression upon the real problem at the Warehouse. People should be helped to understand their shortcomings and be given a chance to improve who they are. The District is clearly unable or unwillingly to actively and effectively confront management problems and they apparently prefer to let conflict fester until the combatants kill each other.

While I am happy for what remains of the Warehouse, I am saddened to see that no one in the District actually cared enough to correct conditions when they had a chance to be salvaged.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A great reputation can fizzle with just one bad leader.

What would you do if you ran a school district and wanted to elevate your image? You might have your community relations manager throw together an invitation and send it out like SPAM to every real estate broker in the region. You might plan a little get together with all of these real estate brokers that are bound to appear and engage them in constructive discussions regarding the rapidly eroding reputation of your beloved district. You might just have a pile of cookies and a few gallons of coffee at the ready for the inevitable throng of brokers clamoring to provide feedback.

That meeting took place last Tuesday, from 1:00-2:30 PM, in the ESC.

The grand total in attendance was just 4 (four), and 25% of them were related to the moderator of this blog.

Essentially, the Edmonds School District has an image problem. Real estate agents used to describe the Edmonds School District as "desirable", now that adjective has fallen from common use. People used to ask their real estate agents to restrict their search for homes to the Edmonds School District, but no longer. People with children used to pay a little more for homes in the Edmonds School District, but no longer. People used to respect the decisions made by district management, but no longer.

This image problem won't go away overnight with a few cookies and a cup of coffee. A great reputation takes years to develop and one bad superintendent to destroy.

It's almost as if every real estate broker in the region has been reading this blog and has given up on the Edmonds School District. A person might be tempted to believe that the community relations manager isn't the only person with an email list for brokers.

When 25% of the attendees showed up a few minutes late, she slipped in and was welcomed with a large grin and a packet of information from a certain assistant superintendent. The Superintendent came over to shake her hand. Then, the District's community relations manager asked this late arrival to introduce herself and upon doing so, Nick and Marla made a quick exit.

I suppose they wanted to leave the impression that important people have more imperative things to do.

The "Realtors Roundtable" was described as follows:

Homebuyers seek communities with great schools and Snohomish County's largest school district offers just that. We want to help you help us ensure that potential homebuyers know that as well!

Superintendent Nick Brossoit will provide a District Update focused on what we are doing to support student learning, our well-managed financial resources and capital project work, and
our increased efforts to ensure all students are learning.

We look forward to working with you!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Violating the law to protect the Supe's friends.

A few years ago, when Bruce Williams first informed the Superintendent that he no longer lived in his director district, Nick sought to modify the director district boundaries. I know because I was the one asked to make the necessary changes.

Imagine if someone living in Lynnwood wanted to sit on the Edmonds City Council. What sort of effort would be involved in drawing up new boundaries? How easy would it be to convince a jurisdiction to trim away a portion of who they are to accommodate the needs of an individual? What sense would there be in following that path? What would have happened when Bruce eventually left his seat on the school board? Would the boundaries revert to their original locations or would this long finger reaching out to the new Bruce Williams home be a permanent adjustment?

When the blog rolled into town and started asking questions, the Superintendent changed his story. Someone must have told him how difficult it would be to redefine director districts because now he was citing the recommendations drafted by a professional association. Board members can seek re-election from an address in their director district, and can move to another director district at any time after the election. Unfortunately, Bruce Williams moved prior to the election and the Superintendent knew this to be the case because he tried to make a boundary adjustment to keep his favorite board member in compliance.

The blog defines this string of circumstances as election fraud. It would be amusing to discover what the Edmonds School District calls it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Informative entries should be shared with others.

Fortunately, we live in a world where communicating couldn't be any easier. With the click of a button, information can move from one computer to another - or several others. It is through free-flowing information that others can become more involved in their community and more engaged in the real issues that matter to real people.

This blog site has been chugging away for more than 14 months and is rapidly approaching 500 entries. The Navigational Labels to the right make the evaluation of data quick and easy. If you select a topic and read the entries contained therein, you will be well positioned to effectively consider both sides of district issues - the standard drivel flowing from the Community Relations spigot and the more powerfully dissected assessments from this blog and its many contributors.

Sharing is free and simple. At the bottom of each entry is an icon that resembles an envelope. With one simple click you can send our entries to your Aunt in Kansas, your Brother in California or your half-sister's ex-husband in Ephrata. Of course, they can also be sent locally, to concerned parents in our district.

Please take a few minutes and send your favorite entries to your favorite people. Informed people make better voters. Informed parents make better PTAs. Informed district staff may tell you not to preach to the choir.

Thank you again for your support.

Mark Zandberg

Friday, August 22, 2008

Diagnostic survey results now available.

While Nick may have complained bitterly that the State Auditor's diagnostic survey would be tainted by having been posted on this blog site, the results were compiled with copies sent to the District. Of course, no one at the District was inclined to share the results with others - except in limited circumstances, heavily-summarized and among select members of district administration.

The blog believes in providing information to anyone, at any time, for any reason. It is only through free-flowing information that an organization can learn, change and grow. The Edmonds School District is all about learning, needs to change and growth wouldn't hurt.

The results are available in two sections.

Section one provides demographic information regarding respondents, response rates, questions and the responses. SA+A: Strongly Agree & Agree, D+SD: Disagree & Strongly Disagree, the remainder represents the proportion without an opinion.
Letter sized sheets (pdf)
Legal sized sheets (pdf)

Section two contains the actual narrative responses.
Letter sized sheets (pdf)

Here is my personal favorite:

The Edmonds School District has once again become top-heavy. In the most recent round of budget cutting, personnel reductions focused almost exclusively on cutting classroom teacher positions while the number of district administrators remained constant, despite a projected decline in student enrollment. The overabundance of central district administrators would be more palatable if they provided some kind of tangible leadership, but the Edmonds School District nominally practices site-based management, leaving difficult decisions to building-level leadership, while central district managers control the funds. This arrangement makes no sense fiscally or educationally. At the central district level, Edmonds is full to the brim with managers, but sorely lacking in leaders. District administrators assiduously avoid facing difficult facts or accepting responsibility for the few meaningful decisions they have made, such as the IEP Online boondoggle. And no one in a district leadership position would ever suggest an administrative shake-up or downsizing, which is what the district desperately needs. Finally, the school board's too-cozy relationship with district administration has thwarted its proper role providing financial and educational oversight. Although Washington state's chronic under-funding of basic education caused the educational crisis we find ourselves in, district-level mismanagement exacerbates it.

If you have trouble accessing the links, email me and I will send you the files as an attachment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Enriching another friend of management.

Here is another clear case of playing favorites, Edmonds School District style.

An employee in Maintenance, we'll call her PM, sought and received permission from her supervisor to work a peculiar shift. Apparently, she worked the first full week and every Friday of each month. Our staff is still reviewing the details, but so far, the records provided by the Auditor appear to substantiate this.

When her hours were counted, it was determined that in some months she worked less than she was paid and in other months she worked more than she was paid. The net impact was a few thousand dollars in her favor, so the District placed her on administrative leave while they investigated the matter further. The end result was that her job was eliminated, she was required to repay the deficit and work the remaining days of her employment without pay.

Another employee in Human Resources, we'll call her NB, took an extended leave of absence. During this leave of absence, she received payment from AFLAC to alleviate some of the pressure of meeting financial obligations without working. In order to receive this service, participants normally pay premiums in advance of collecting the benefit. However, no premiums have ever been paid by the employee and it was only as she was departing employment for her leave of absence that she claimed to be covered by AFLAC.

The District apparently never contributed to AFLAC on behalf of NB. The District never deducted the premiums from her paycheck. NB never noticed that her pay stub showed no evidence of payment for these premiums. But somehow, the District agreed to pay all of NB's past premiums with the intention of seeking reimbursement from NB. But of course, no such reimbursement has taken place.

So, why would the District go out of their way to seek reimbursement from one employee and not another? The State Auditor even recommended the District contact the police and file a report regarding the overpayment of wages, but the AFLAC issue has yet to be reported to anyone.

Maybe it isn't true. Maybe it was an honest mistake. Maybe a plan has been hatched. Maybe somebody should ask district management. The blog can't ask all of the questions.

Blog: We are not the only ones that don't trust the District.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The number "4" has never been so costly.

From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:43 PM
To: @Office Mgrs; @P- 12
Subject: New Facility Use Procedures and Rates Posted to District Website

Good afternoon,

Electronic access to the new facility use procedures (board policy 9200 R-1) is now up and running, with many, many thanks to JoAnn Kerns and Jennifer Aaby! The following link will take you to the revised procedures and updated rate schedules:

The new Facility Use Permit (Form A-170) is on schedule to be printed and ready to distribute by September 1 (thank you, Eddie!) -- we will get the updated forms to you just as soon as possible. Clint Goodison is also preparing electronic access to the list of organizations and vendors with current insurance certificates on file with the District; we will let you know just as soon as that information is available on-line.

Thanks again for all your suggestions and help in consistently implementing these facility use procedures and fees across the District. If you have questions, or would like us to set up a meeting to go over the procedures, please let Stephanie Hall, Brian Harding, or me know.

Have a great day,


I have a question. Why would members of the community have to call the Director of Facilities and Operations to schedule a parking lot? The time it takes him to reach for the telephone would already burn more than the $5.00 the District would earn in providing the parking lot.

The following is pulled directly from the
District's website:

To arrange for the use of a school, please contact the school directly. If you would like to rent fields, please contact Athletics at (425) 431-7153. Parking is handled through Property Management at (425) 431-7334. You may also email either department via the following links: Athletics & Property Management.

The blog recommends changing the contact number to (425) 431-7331.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Muffins and Cheese Sandwiches.

District Letter regarding new school lunch prices.

Like many people in the Edmonds School District, I was under the impression that Food Services was an "Enterprise Program", meaning they were responsible for generating their own profits to cover operational costs. At least, that was the excuse we were provided when the espresso machine issue surfaced in the Seattle Times. If they are, in fact, an "Enterprise Program", why would the General Fund accumulate deficits because customers refuse or are unable to pay their bill?

It looks as though this "Enterprise Program" is actually a subsidized business. They are allowed to make their own profit while their losses are covered by the District. This business cannot possibly be allowed to fail because it would have a detrimental effect upon consumers and the marketplace. People may find alternatives and become less dependent upon this business. Upper management makes enviable wages and carries no fear of suffering when times get tough.

Why am I reminded of Bear Stearns?

Maybe the real solution is to have kids earn their meal through some form of community service. When lunch is being served, perhaps the kids that are over their $10 limit can line up to wash dishes, serve food or help traffic flow in the cafeteria. From what I can recall, there is much to do when so many kids gather together to eat a meal in a single room. A few days of effort could motivate these kids to remember to bring in their lunch money to school. For those that have no lunch money at home, they can plan their day around a period of community service. Nothing fosters ingenuity like a little too much elbow grease.

Blog: How long would it take before students intentionally run up a $10 debt to tap the free muffins and cheese sandwiches to supplement their packed meals from home?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A few important facts about the new administration site.

In response to the entry mentioning the New Administration site.

Fact: the new administration site was formerly a landfill used to dispose all kinds of debris as I-5 was constructed through the county.

Fact: The site directly north of the New Administration site, known as Center 5000, is on the Department of Ecology List of contaminated sites. It too was used as a landfill for I-5 construction debris.

Fact: Preliminary sampling at the New Administration site did show poly nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons above Model Toxic Control Act (MTCA) regulatory levels and traces of pesticides.

Fact: Hazardous waste is defined by certain physical characteristics (e.g.flammability, reactivity, corrosivity) or by levels of chemicals.

Fact: Levels of chemicals in soil that pose health risks under MTCA are well under the levels for allowed in hazardous waste. Saying there is no hazardous waste at the New Administration site does not mean there are no chemical contaminants present. What is important are their levels and if they controlled to prevent exposure.

Fact: For better or worse, determination by the Department of Ecology for No Further Action on the new administration site was based on a review of the available data.

Fact: No comprehensive sampling and analysis was completed that statistically shows that the site is devoid of any pockets of contamination above regulatory levels. That, of course, would take money and since the District gave away 2.3 million they cannot pay for the randomized sampling at various depths checking for the full list of hazardous analytes. There is no way of knowing why lies beneath the surface.

Fact: The ESC is scheduled to become the new Scriber Lake High School. It was never intended to be a school. Yet it will be if the new administration site ever gets the funding to be built.

Fact: The New Administration site is not intended to be school. But what if it turns out there is a new boondoggle to be had and a school is put there? In the age of bisphenol in baby bottles, lead in toys and diacetyl in microwave popcorn, I guess one more sleeping dog does not matter. After all, there are plenty of other things to bite you.

Claire Olsovsky, MA, MS
Former Loss Control Safety Specialist, 2000-2005

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Friend" enriched through "poorly written" lease.

There are a few subtle problems with the manner in which the Auditor conducts their evaluations. While they are overly-focused on the technical nuances regarding this transaction, they fail to realize that the seller of these pianos is a friend of Tam Osborne and Marla Miller. With very little effort, public employees funneled business to a friend and propped up the entire transaction on shoddy work from legal counsel.

As one of our readers mentioned earlier, the District fully-intended to receive pianos from Seattle Piano Gallery. The "Lease" was the weapon through which funds were ripped from the hands of taxpayers.

What is also rather sad and pathetic is the second payment that was made "in error". This payment was intentional and the claim that it was made "in error" was to conceal an obvious violation in bid processes. [Just how easy do you think it is to get a check from Business Services for $40,000.00?]

Whether it's corruption or incompetence, the outcome remains the same. One of the District's friends made off with $109,511.00 in special treatment.

The following is from the State Auditor.

Piano Lease

The District was not able to ensure that they received the lowest reasonable price for 13 pianos the District received. The District entered into a lease agreement with the intent to receive 14 pianos for use during the 2006 – 2007 school year, and receive reimbursement for the full amount initially paid for the pianos. The District paid a total of $109,511 and were able to obtain possession of the pianos following the bankruptcy of the piano distributor, as agreed upon in the lease. Included in the total paid was a payment of $39,748 that should not have been paid. Due to miscommunication at the District this amount was paid and could not be recovered. Though the District is in compliance with the lease agreement they can not ensure that they received the lowest reasonable price for the pianos because they did not go through the bid process.

I talked to Marta [DeLeon] about this item as I was concerned that based on what they paid they were not in compliance with bid law. She looked over all the information and said that though the lease was poorly written they were technically in compliance with bid law requirements, but based on how they handled this situation they can not ensure that the lowest price was received. She didn’t feel comfortable reporting it as a finding, but was ok with a ML or an exit item. Based on the dollar amount paid, I thought a ML was appropriate, but wanted to confirm with you that that reporting level is consistent.

Courtney Amonsen
Assistant Audit Manager
Washington State Auditor's Office
3501 Colby Avenue, Suite 100B
Everett, WA 98201-4794
(425) 257-2137 - Main Line
(425) 257-2149 - Fax

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reader struggles to make sense of facts.

If you are truly interested in uncovering unlawful or unethical actions, why can't you be factual in your reporting. The information posted conflicts with your statement about Gary Noble. The only facts I see in the "Board Policies: Conflict of Interest" is they identified a conflict between the two policies. One policy prohibits employment of Board member spouses and the other allows exemptions as prescribed by law. Where does it say "The State Auditor "recommends" that either Gary Noble resign or that Board Policies be revised to allow this conflict of interest to occur."

I am sorry. I should have been clearer. Kay Noble could resign. It would have to be a resignation since a “Leave of Absence” does not constitute termination of service. With a leave of absence, she would technically still be an employee.

As for the Conflict of Interest issue, one board policy says that employees cannot be the spouse or dependent of a board member (BP 6810) while the other essentially states that board members (or spouse/dependents) cannot be employed by companies doing business with the District (BP 1260). While I fail to see the conflict between the two policies, it is clear when the Auditor decided to over-simplify and side-step the real issue, he actually made matters worse for the Nobles. The more “stringent” policy would be to eliminate Kay Noble’s employment or Gary Noble's status as Board Member.

If you are going to be some advocate, quit misrespresenting the facts. Most of what you report is taken out of context and doesn't report all the facts, which does nothing but undermine your creditability. Sure the office was redesigned and it cost ten thousand dollars, but you didn't report the rest of the facts, such as the decision and contract to revise the cubicles was made prior to the decision to combine 2 manager jobs. The staff reporting to the new warehouse manager asked to be moved to the warehouse after the fact. You didn't report the cost savings the district will incurr by combining the warehouse manager position with another manager position. You only choose to report what serves your vindictve motives.

I am guessing you mean “office” in the global departmental sense, because seven cubicles were reconfigured for $11,000.00. No hard walled offices were modified during the departmental reconfiguration.

I agree that by eliminating a Warehouse Manager, the District saved the value of his salary and the potential damage from the problems that were brewing. It was a wise move by the District. However, when the Custodial Manager assumed responsibility for the Warehouse was it really necessary to relocate Custodial Services? I suspect if you knew what you were talking about and actually spoke to the people involved in the move, you would find the real motive for their relocation.

As for “creditability”, I am not seeking validation from the blind allies of district administration. The 123,000 page views, averaging nearly 10,000 a month is validation enough.

Have you ever reported that the infamous property the District purchased did was tested several times and found not to have hazardous waste present. No I didn't think so.

The blog mentions a few test pits, but since the site was an informal public dump, the test pits were too few in number and not effectively placed to serve the interests of the public. Have you read the volumes of reports generated by Raskin’s consultants? Have you reviewed the reasons why the District rejected this site twice before? I have confidence in the blog and so do many others.

You write as if you are so pure. Fact is you used confidential information you gained as the property manager for ESD to write a letter to the editor as a private citizen and then got upset when the district tried to reign you in. Grow up and taking your consences like any 5 year old would.

What “confidential” information are you referring to? Assuming there was confidential information, just how long are public processes supposed to be kept from the public? The property transaction was completed long before my letter was ever submitted to the Beacon. Besides, the Letter to the Editor has nothing to do with the blog. The blog is about public accountability, not reigning in staff or shutting them down.

What is a “consences” and why would a five year old take them?

I agree with holding public officials accountable, but I also believe in honest, factual reporting. I don't believe in selective fact reporting to misrepsresnt the truth of the matter.

Selective reporting is precisely what the District has been doing for years and they have been doing it so effectively, they clearly have you convinced. The blog offers an opposing view. Accept or reject it, at least you have been exposed and can decide what to believe based upon your ability to process information.

I won't leave my name, because Lord knows you would just manipulate that and be even more vindictive.

That would be a District tactic and not one supported by the blog. I appreciate your perspective and you have my respect for speaking out. I would not target you for expressing your views nor do I expect to be targeted for expressing mine.

A concerned citizen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Exit Items" reveal that Gary Noble must go.

There was an Exit Conference on April 23, 2008, where the Edmonds School District was notified of the following Exit Items. Among them is the issue regarding Gary Noble and his status on the Board.

The State Auditor "recommends" that either Gary Noble resign or that Board Policies be revised to allow this conflict of interest to occur.

Exit Items

General Disbursements - Segregation of Duties

The system where purchase requisitions and purchase orders are created (WESPAC) allows an individual with Level 2 Authority to both create and approve purchase orders. Additionally, those with the ability to approve may edit a Purchase Order created by another individual and approve the purchase order without a second level of review.

We recommend additional controls be implemented to create a segregation of duties between who creates and approves a purchase order.

Procurement Card Procedures

Credit card reconciliations and supporting documentation are not all reviewed by each employee's supervisor prior to payment, as required by District policy. The District's policy does not outline the maximum amount for meal expenses while an employee is in travel status, nor are there guidelines regarding maximum meal expenses allowed. Finally, online procedures do not always agree with the procedures in practice.

We recommend that each employee's supervisor review supporting documentation such as invoices, receipts and credit card statements and sign the credit card reconciliation before payment. We recommend that the District implement a policy outlining maximum amounts for meal expenses while in travel status and that the estimated meal expense is included on the B-100 Travel Authorization. We also recommend that procedures be followed or revised.

Board Policies: Conflict of Interest

Board Policies 6810 and 1260 conflict with each other. Policy 6810 allows no person to be employed by the District if they are a spouse of a Board Member while 1260 allows for exceptions as prescribed by law.

We recommend that the most stringent policy be followed or policies be revised.


The District is not correctly calculating FTE based on minutes of instruction and passing time, but is currently in the process of addressing the issue.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Auditor violates confidentiality, exposes whistleblower.

From: Sadie Armijo
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 7:31 AM
To: 'Miller, Marla (ESC)'
Cc: Courtney Amonsen
Subject: RE: Questionable Property Decisions at


Thank you for forwarding this information in case our office gets calls on this issue. I am sorry to hear that a disgruntled employee is causing you so much trouble.
But I appreciate you forwarding this message. On his blog he mentioned our office. Since he mentioned us on his blog, I can tell you he did contact our office regarding the Old Woodway property sale, but as we have previously discussed we did not find any problems with the sale of that property. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, I would gladly discuss it over the phone with you. I can be reached today at 425-257-2137.

Again thank you for forwarding this information.

Sadie Armijo
Audit Manager, Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office
3501 Colby Avenue, Suite 100B
Everett, WA 98201-4794
(425) 257-2137

The blog was only two entries old at the time this email was sent to Marla. While I did mention the State Auditor, that does not seem to justify a violation of confidentiality.

Read the first two entries and see for yourself:

Blogging for a better tomorrow
Sunday, June 17, 2007 6:25 AM

Mark Zandberg & Hansa
Saturday, June 23, 2007 7:56 PM

How can the State Auditor reveal the identity of a whistleblower and still expect others to step forward. Sure, Marla may have suspected the source, but why confirm her suspicions?

Thanks, Sadie, I owe you one.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tech savvy, disgruntled employee wreaking havoc.

From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 8:27 AM
To: Christopher Cortines; Lou Adams
Cc: Sadie Armijo
Subject: FW: Regarding Diagnostic Survey

Good Morning, Chris and Lou,

I would appreciate your review and intervention in a situation regarding the diagnostic survey for Edmonds School District's performance audit. I'm forwarding to you an email correspondence our superintendent has had with Tatia, and would welcome an opportunity to talk with you sometime today, if possible.

Lou, I tried calling your number just now and received your voicemail message that you will be out of the office until next Monday. Chris, could you perhaps help take a look at this with me?

We have a tech savvy, disgruntled employee who has been wreaking havoc with the district since last June. He has a few supporters within the district office, and every e-mail sent to all employees is being posted on his blog, with sarcastic and ridiculous inferences. He has posted the link to the survey, and we do not believe the survey has integrity at this time.

Please feel free to look at the blog - a lot of it includes allegations about me that are not true, and I have no problem with anyone asking legitimate questions about the issues he raises. I have received numerous public records requests as a result of his unhappiness and his blog, and have responded to some but also am still pulling together documents for others. We are trying to get school open at the same time!

At any rate, I appreciate any help you can provide. My number is 425.431.7036. The blog is at

I'll be in a meeting for a couple of hours this morning, but if you get this and have time to call, please contact my assistant Sherri at 425.431.7052, and she will pull me out of the meeting and I'll call you right back.

Thanks for any guidance and assistance you can provide. The employee currently has filed a claim and wants to be paid money by the district - I believe it's called blackmail, and we are not buying it. Our Risk Pool has gotten involved.


Cc: Sadie Armijo, Audit Manager

Blog: I find it perplexing how someone could claim they are being blackmailed when the potentially injurious revelations may have already been revealed. Blackmail normally involves the suppression of information in exchange for something of material value. Is there a correlation between the manner in which I was constructively terminated and the information revealed in this blog? Would payment of any kind result in the end of this blog?

Brossoit wanted diagnostic survey thrown out.

From: Brossoit, Nick []
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2007 5:41 PM
To: Tatia Prieto; Bonseiro, Francis C.; Miller, Marla (ESC)
Subject: RE: Regarding Diagnostic Survey

September 14, 2007

Tatia and Frank,

To give you some idea of the danger of this blog site to the integrity of the performance audit. The web blog is hosted by a former and very disgruntled employee who features anonymous postings, many of which he creates and which report inaccurate information about the district and employees. He is very anti-district administration. He currently has filed a claim with the district which is being addressed by our district administration and Risk Management Pool legal counsel. His blog with this survey link creates a situation which allows unauthorized people to complete surveys and contaminate or distort input of the performance audit process. How do we address this in a responsive manner?



From: Brossoit, Nick
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2007 5:40 PM
To: Tatia Prieto; Miller, Marla (ESC)
Cc: 'Linda Recio'
Subject: RE: Regarding Diagnostic Survey


This helps to understand how the survey data is used by you the contractor for the process, and we welcome any inquiry into any aspects of the district administration and operations. However, it is very troubling that this level of security and survey contamination by the non-employee "blog" link appears to be passing through into the process. If it is 1, 10 or 20 surveys that were not to be included due to the motive of the author(s), we would like some type of technological screen if you can do it to identify and exclude those from this source. I personally have 24 years of service in public education in the state of Washington with the most recent now going on 14 years as a well respected superintendent. I am not perfect and always open to have any constructive feedback for myself, any of the staff under my supervision, or for any system in which I serve. However, to consider that the performance audit survey results for our district will include the input from this former employee who has a claim filed against the district and who is promoting false and very disrespectful comments from anonymous sources about district employees, it is simply not acceptable to have the survey results in any form made public. Who is it with the SAO office that I would need to press this concern? I can understand the contractor doing other research in person with folks, that makes sense. I cannot understand how the contractor would allow any of the survey results to be posted. I also would think that the SAO office would take legal action against the owner of the "blog" for contaminating a state funded, and state controlled audit process. Please forward this to the SAO administrator responsible for the performance audit. If I need to take the matter to Brian Sontag or seek legislative intervention into this process to have this blog issue addressed as it has impacted our survey, I am very willing to move that direction.


Blog: Just to be clear, Brossoit believes the survey results are contaminated but the new administration site isn't. I will post a pdf of the email traffic shortly. It contains these messages and several more.

Auditor dismisses whistleblower as disgruntled.

From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2007 8:05 PM
To: Hughes Val; Brossoit, Nick; Carter, Debby (ESC)
Subject: FW: [BULK] Questionable Property Decisions at
Importance: Low

Just got a call on this ... Val, your colleague is working on a letter telling Mark to cease and desist using the website. We may need to expedite that notification.


From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 6:42 AM
Sadie Armijo; Courtney Amonsen
FW: [BULK] Questionable Property Decisions at

Dear Sadie and Courtney,

I wanted to make you aware of a situation that is percolating here at the Edmonds School District. A disgruntled employee is using the Internet to cast wide allegations regarding district finances and the propriety of property transactions. He is mad at me for a personnel action.

I have issue the email message, below, to encourage people to go to the source regarding the audit review. I appreciate your work, and am sorry to have added to your load this spring. If you have any concerns or suggestions, please don't hesitate to let me know.

I will forward the e-mail that prompted my message, so you can see that as well. Nick asked that I send out a response to point people in the right direction.

Take care, and thanks again for your work in the district,


From: Miller, Marla (ESC)
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 6:43 AM
To: Sadie Armijo; Courtney Amonsen
Subject: FW: [BULK] Questionable Property Decisions at
Importance: Low

FYI, and as referenced in my last message.


From: Sadie Armijo
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 7:31 AM
To: 'Miller, Marla (ESC)'
Cc: Courtney Amonsen
Subject: RE: Questionable Property Decisions at


Thank you for forwarding this information in case our office gets calls on this issue. I am sorry to hear that a disgruntled employee is causing you so much trouble.
But I appreciate you forwarding this message. On his blog he mentioned our office. Since he mentioned us on his blog, I can tell you he did contact our office regarding the Old Woodway property sale, but as we have previously discussed we did not find any problems with the sale of that property. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, I would gladly discuss it over the phone with you. I can be reached today at 425-257-2137.

Again thank you for forwarding this information.

Sadie Armijo
Audit Manager, Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office
3501 Colby Avenue, Suite 100B
Everett, WA 98201-4794
(425) 257-2137

Blog: What sort of investigation is going to occur when the Audit Manager is referring to the whistleblower as "disgruntled" within months of receiving the formal complaint and prior to an objective review of facts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

And another embezzler missed by Brian Sonntag.

Seattle - An assistant fire chief with South King Fire and Rescue is accused of stealing approximately $500,000 from the department.

"I think our entire department feels betrayed," said Chief Al Church.

Grant Gaspard was pulled over by federal agents in Fife Thursday morning and arrested without incident. At the same time, FBI agents were searching Gaspard's home in Olympia.

He is charged with three counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud.

According to an FBI affidavit, prosecutors say Gaspard used his position as chief financial officer with the fire district to initiate and approve phony invoices and purchase orders over a period of several years. Gaspard, 51, also allegedly submitted fraudulent documentation in support of thousands of dollars worth of improper purchases on his district-issued credit card.

His boss says he also admitted to buying high-end electronics, cameras and police-grade assault rifles for himself.

Prosecutors say the activity has been going on since 2005.

"The allegations are serious and so he takes them very seriously and we'll take a look at what the evidence is and go from there," said Brett Purtzer, Gaspard's attorney.

Gaspard was placed on leave and subsequently resigned on July 31. In a written statement, South King Fire and Rescue Chief Allen D. Church says the department is audited annually and that state auditors found no irregularities this past June.

Read more great articles at King by clicking here.

Blog: Another "Friend of Brian".

Thursday, August 07, 2008

State Auditor fails to detect another embezzler.

ARLINGTON -- A recently retired Arlington city employee is under investigation for allegedly stealing nearly $800,000 from the city during the past six years.

Snohomish County sheriff's detectives are investigating the Arlington woman for possible first-degree identity theft, first-degree theft and forgery, Arlington city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

"Everyone is just reeling from this," Banfield said. "It's a violation of the trust that the public puts in us. It's also a violation of the trust that we as employees put in each other."

The woman, 56, worked for Arlington for 30 years. She is a relative of at least one high-ranking city employee. Only the former employee is under investigation, Banfield said. All other city employees were cleared by police of any wrongdoing.

The woman allegedly spent part of her time on the job altering as many as 103 checks, depositing them into her own bank account, according to a search warrant filed Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court. Detectives also found evidence of a hidden marijuana-growing operation at her home.

Between February 2002 and June 2008, the woman is suspected of taking $775,753.98 from the city's general fund, the documents said.

Investigators believe the woman forged signatures and created false supporting documents that made it appear the checks were for employee retirement and other benefit accounts.

After the bank returned the checks, the woman at times used a typewriter to change whom the check was written to, detectives allege.

"It is clear this was a complex ongoing crime to defraud the city of Arlington," Snohomish County sheriff's detective Thomas Koziol wrote in the affidavit.

The woman is not under arrest and no charges have been filed. She could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

On Monday, detectives served search warrants at the woman's bank and her home.

In addition to bank and investment records, computers and other evidence, police also allegedly seized marijuana plants, scales and a ledger listing apparent drug sales, according to documents.

The Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force has assisted in the investigation because its detectives have expertise in sophisticated financial investigations, sheriff's Lt. Mark Richardson said.

While working for Arlington, the woman split her time between human resource work and finance functions, Banfield said. She retired at the end of May. On July 11, a city accountant found a suspicious check for $10,065.15 made out to the woman and notified supervisors.

At first, the employee believed the check was payout for unused sick time and vacation, but quickly learned no such payout had been made.

An investigation began and the city called state auditors, Banfield said.

Read the entire article at the Herald by clicking

Jackson Holtz
Herald Writer

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

County Auditor doesn't actually "audit" anything

If you look up the term "audit" in any dictionary, there is nothing there that even remotely describes the role performed by Snohomish County's Auditor. You may see expressions like "official examination and verification of financial accounts", "critical assessment of financial status and decision-making activities", or "evaluation of buildings or facilities to improve safety, efficiency or the like".

The Snohomish County Auditor, by her own admission in a recent interview on Engaging our Communities, tracks marriages and pet licenses. She also manages the elections process and supervises animal control activities for the County.

The following is from the Snohomish County Auditor's website:

Rather than conducting financial or performance based audits as the name implies, my office provides regional services to the entire county in the areas of Licensing, Elections and Voter Registration and Document Recording. This wide range of services impacts more citizens of the county than any other county office.

The most compelling definition of what the Snohomish County Auditor does is reminiscent of my years in college. "Audit" can also mean "to attend classes without expectation of a grade or academic accountability".

So, for those of you relying on the Snohomish County "Auditor" to provide guidance into the manner in which public funds are expended locally, look elsewhere. There is no one providing oversight into how the Edmonds School District spends public funds, aside from the State Auditor, and the blog has already established how woefully insufficient that "oversight" has been.

Blog: To avoid confusion, it would be a good idea to remove the misleading title of "Auditor" from the realm of County government. Perhaps County Recorder would dispel any confusion.

Monday, August 04, 2008

State Auditor protecting District from public scrutiny.

August 1, 2008

Mark Zandberg

Dear Mr. Zandberg:

Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding Edmonds School District. Specifically, you request whether our Office will be reviewing additional concerns you have regarding the District.

It recently was brought to the attention of our Office that you are in litigation with the District. It is the policy of this Office not to interfere in matters being reviewed by the court system.

Thank you again for contacting the State Auditor’s Office with your concerns.



JJ:jc H-2007-132

August 4, 2008

Jan Jutte

Dear Ms. Jutte,

Thank you for your letter dated August 1, 2008. I find it mildly bewildering as to why you would send the letter to an email account that I have never used in communicating with your office. I have always used and recommend that your office reply to the same address where an inquiry originates.

To be clear, the State Auditor is now opting to no longer investigate any whistle blower complaints levied against the Edmonds School District because of pending litigation not involving your office. The legal case filed in Federal Court pertains to wrongful termination and suppression of free speech by the Edmonds School District. It does not involve any of the items mentioned in the long list of concerns forwarded to your office.

In essence, you seek to defer the completion of your work to accommodate the needs of a public agency. More simply, you have decided to place the interests of a publicly-supported school district ahead of the public.

You also mention that it is the policy of your office to not "interfere in matters being reviewed by the court system". Withholding documents and refusing to investigate corruption and misconduct is clearly interfering with the mission of your office. It would appear that your refusal to provide requested information is clearly interfering with matters of importance to the public, like accountability.

Additionally, if the State Auditor applied this "policy" uniformly, it would appear that very few public agencies will actually ever be audited because so many of them are involved in litigation. Of particular interest is the legal case filed on behalf of the Edmonds School District against the State of Washington for the State's refusal to fully fund school districts. Perhaps this is the litigation to which you refer.

Furthermore, is it safe to conclude that the public records I have previously requested (and your office committed to provide by August 28th) will still be provided at that date or does this "policy" include all matters that may eventually hold public agencies accountable?


Mark Zandberg