For example, there was a presentation to the Board in Jan. 2010 where the selection committee pointed out that neither First AME nor the CCC at MLK met the "special consideration" requirements to get the property at a lower cost (meaning, providing youth education activities). From the work product documents:
- After the selection committee finished their presentation, a board member was quoted as saying "we are not going to sell to a rich private school". We questioned Board member DeBell about this statement, and he could not recall whether a Board member made that statement or not.
What I find very odd is that district officials met with both the CCC at MLK and First AME to go over revisions to their proposals. Why district officials were giving this time to these groups - rather than just providing, in writing, the requirements - is unclear.
New twist - the district was hoping the City would buy the building (and the City would lease it long-term to some community-based group for youth education). That fell through apparently.
Then, the state legislature got in the act in 2010 and appropriated $1.5M for the acquisition of the building in addition to the $1M appropriated in the 2008 state budget. So that made for $2.5M for a community group to have to "buy" the building.
So then, when that was done, three legislators, Pettigrew, Tomiko Santos and Kline, wrote to the Superintendent, asking her to re-open the RFP process for the building. The district did so. Here's what the Auditor's work product says (bold mine):
[Auditor Note: The purpose of the RFP and selection process is to provide full and open competition, transparency, and accountability. While the District's RFP process was supposed to bring transparency and accountability to reassure citizens that the District complied with state law and was impartial throughout the entire process, it appears the District was being influenced or pressured by state legislators to award the sale of the MLK school to a community group instead of a private organization, (i.e. The Bush School).] Examples of this are documented at H.2.PS. This explains why the District asked the bidders to resubmit bids three times (i.e. the community groups needed to improve their bids if the District was to not take the highest bid), why the process came to a halt for four months between January and May of 2010 (i.e. the legislature had not appropriated enough money for the purchase of MLK School), and why three legislators requested the District to reopen the bid process once enough money was set aside in the state capital budget.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's decision (bold mine):
August 24, 2010, Ron English, Don Kennedy, Noel Treat, and the Superintendent met in the Superintendent's office to discuss staff recommendations. Ron and Noel told us in separate interviews that Ron's recommendation to the Superintendent was to seek the highest monetary amount, and sell the MLK School property to the Bush School. The Superintendent did not echo these sentiments, and rejected that recommendation. Based on interviews with Ron and Noel, we were told that the
Superintendent wanted to sell MLK School to First AME Church after running through the analysis one more time, saying something to the effect "we haven't done a lot of good things for the African American community lately, so let's give them this one." Ron updated his PowerPoint presentation based on the discussion with the Superintendent to include a staff recommendation to sell to FAME on the last slide.
Noel Treat was also present at that meeting and recalled the Superintendent saying something like "The African American Community has not been very happy with me as Superintendent, and maybe they will be surprised by this and be happy.” During an interview with the Superintendent, she said in reference to those statements "That's a lie".
That the both Ron English AND Noel Treat had very similar recollections of what was said and yet the Superintendent's answer was "that's a lie" and not "they mistook what I said" or "that's not my recollection" seems to be a very knee-jerk reaction. I am inclined to believe Mr. English and Mr. Treat given that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has not always been completely faithful to the truth. Mr. English later told the SAO that he did not believe this was just in context of supporting First AME or CCC@MLK specifically.
From the work product about the interviews with MGJ:
It was evident from the beginning of the interview that the former Superintendent would not be able
to provide us with any significant information about the sale of MLK School to First AME Church. Her answers were short and, for the most part, unresponsive.
She told us that she could not remember:
2. If she met with state legislators regarding the sale of MLK School. This is unusual because Duggan Harman told us that she attended at least one meeting with the Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Rep. Santos, Rep. Pettigrew, and Mayor McGinn. Also, based on our review of emails, she attended other meetings with legislators about the sale of MLK.
3. Forwarding an email to Fred Stephens about the sale of MLK School. We read the email verbatim during the interview, evidencing that she forwarded at least one email to Fred about the sale of MLK School after he is said to have removed himself from the process. After we read the email to her over the phone, she still said she did not remember sending him that email.
4. She told us "I don't Know" how and when Fred Stephens recused himself from the sale of MLK School process.
5. Why the process came to a halt in January 2010, and then reopened in May
6. In a private meeting, in her office on August 24, 2010, the staff recommendation was discussed and she told us she could not remember what the recommendation to the Board was that came out from that meeting, although she later gave us specific reasons for why the recommendation to FAME was made, in response to another of our questions.
The work product also confirms that Mr. English just didn't want to read the recommendation to the A&F Committee and merely showed them the slide that stated "Sell the property to First AME." Don Kennedy read the slide. But the A&F Committee said fine and sent it to the full Board for a vote. It is unclear whether the A&F Committee OR the full Board was ever apprised that the final recommendation was the Superintendent's alone and not that of the selection committee.
The one public member of the selection committee, Chanin Kelly-Rae (who had worked on the SUAC committee) had this to say to the SAO:
Chanin believed the strongest proposal came from the Bush School. She also believed that this would be a good deal for the District, especially since the District was in the process of making budget cuts.
Chanin said the selection committee met with the executive committee regarding the recommendation. She recalled the Chair of the Executive Committee (a Board member) saying something like “we are not going to sell to a rich private school”. She said they were sensitive around school closings and would rather keep it as a public trust.
Chanin said that Rep. Santos attended a SUAC meeting and told everyone that there was a commitment from the state that there would be enough money for a community group to purchase the MLK School to keep it in the public domain.
She said the Bush School did not have a chance (because they are a private school). There was too much public outcry coming from the School Board and CCC@MLK.
He stated that the idea for the entire program (selling the various school properties) was his. He said he is the one that convinced his colleagues to sell the properties in this manner, and to adopt the policy/procedure about special considerations.
He said he does not feel that the decision to sell the property was unduly influenced by state legislators.
He said the Board was not just thinking about maximizing the price.
Kathy Johnson (in Facilities):
Kathy said that Ron English drew a strict line of separation between her staff and Fred's staff when it came to the sale of the MLK property once the decision was made to go with an RFP process. She said that Ron made it very clear at a staff meeting, but that it was not put into writing.
However, she said it was common knowledge in the facilities department that Fred wanted the church to get the building. She said that it was no secret, and that Fred would sometimes speak about it during meetings in which the needs for existing buildings were discussed.
Noel Treat was only involved at the very end:
At the August 24, 2010 meeting, Noel said the Superintendent rejected Ron’s recommendation, and asked which community group should be awarded the sale of MLK School. Noel said Ron went over his analysis of the two proposals submitted by FAME and CCC@MLK, and under his analysis, he thought FAME would have the most benefit. Noel recalled the Superintendent saying let’s go with that then. As an afterthought, Noel said he remembers the Superintendent saying “The African American Community has not been very happy with me as Superintendent, and maybe they will be surprised by this and be happy.”
Email dated 12/11/09, sent from the District's lobbyist (Clifford Traisman) to Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Michael DeBell, Holly Ferguson, Ron English, and Don Kennedy, states in part, "I had a long meeting with Frank Chopp yesterday. He was adamant that the MLK selection be in the best interests of the community. He wants Rep. Pettigrew and Santos happy in the end, more than anything. We have meeting requests into the both of them and Senator Adam Kline as well. I shared more with Ron last night, but essentially if we end up holding abeyance any final decision for a year or two, that option would be fine with Frank.
Email dated 2/23/10, sent from the District's lobbyist (Clifford Traisman) to Maria Goodloe-Johnson & Holly Ferguson, "Maria, as Holly knows, I did know about the $2.5 million in the House budget for Seattle to purchase MLK prior to its release, but Holly and I never connected before the Mayor mentioned it this morning. I look forward to your coming down here on Friday to talk with Frank
Chopp and Reps. Santos and Pettigrew about it on Friday. We are also using the opportunity to spend an equal amount of time on the budget. Duggan will accompany us. Tying these two subjects together is in our best interest; we make them happy on MLK (theoretically) and they do more for us on the budget!"
On April 19, 2010 Ron responded to the 3/11/2010 email chain by sending an email to the District's lobbyist (Clifford Traisman) & Holly Ferguson: "We began a formal public process last August. No one has identified a single flaw in that process, yet we have been asked (read 'told') to reopen that process to allow a late bidder in. We need to explain why we are doing that. I thought the reason was that the legislation would state, through a formal legislative history, that the legislature wanted this. However, what we now have is an email from a staff individual, not the Speaker, which was not part of any record at any time, and even now is not part of the record. The email isn't even directed to us. So
I've trying to figure out how to write the letter to the disappointed bidders that explains why we are starting the process all over. What is that we would say? The legislature hasn't adopted this, or even included it in any sort of record. I believe we need to discuss this with the Board and ask whether that is what should happen."
Clifford responded to Ron's email, (copied were Holly Ferguson and Don Kennedy), and said "Ron, appreciate the concerns, but the Board Chair AND the Superintendent both gave their word to the Speaker and the delegation that we would be happy (very happy, in fact) to proceed long these lines, should additional dollars be appropriated. The dollars were then appropriated. There is no question to pose, legal or otherwise, as I see it, but the Board should be updated, of course, I agree. This is a very touchy issue. I suggest we open the process for whatever stated reason we choose; there are many I could come up with off the top of my head, mostly because we now have more state money.
Ron English responds:
"Clifford obviously feels everything is just fine, and we need to proceed on the basis of the email from the staff to Commerce, without any direct confirmation from the Speaker that this is requested by him. This is what they promised and have not delivered. I believe it is disingenuous to suggest (as
Clifford does) that the money is something new and unexpected, when in fact everyone has known for literally years that the new money was coming. The new information is that there is a new player, selected by the Speaker, who we need to reopen the competition for and give a chance to win. I would like direction. Do we: 1. Talk it over with the Board first? 2. Proceed without any further discussion. Holly, what is your input?"
Kind of like making hot dogs - you just don't want to know how it all happens. It's not pretty.
Still waiting for comment from Kline, Chopp, Pettigrew and Santos. Still not sure how much the Board understood what was going on and, if any of them did, why they didn't say more about it at the vote.