Trails in the Sand by Peter Traciet, the Street Detective
Tracing ain’t for the feeble and weak, but Ol’ Peter is up for the job. The Detective sat for two days in School Board meetings and watched in wonder as Superintendent Vickie Cartwright was fired, then considered for rehire, then confirmed as fired.
Detective Traceit felt dirty after sitting through the grit, slim and mudslinging of two pseudo audit reports around cap and gown purchases for graduating seniors. The favoritism and cronyism among Broward schools, principals and a particular vendor, Chuck Puleri of Herff Jones, were so disgusting, Ol’ Peter needed desperately to be hosed down with disinfectant.
Parents and their children were forced to deal with a singular vendor for graduation regalia, and they were overcharged with exorbitant fees for years.
Shockingly, the Board voted unanimously, 9-0, to sever ties with the Chuck Puleri and associates and Herff Jones. The swift, decisive action demonstrated by the Board had Traceit’s head swimming.
A third audit report was discussed regarding an anonymous letter that was sent to the Stare regarding inappropriate relationships among the Superintendent, district staff and a vendor, Jillian Haring, who works for the company PCG. The complaint alleged that these inappropriate relationships resulted in PCG being awarded contracts to deliver services that were lucrative beyond what is normal.
It appeared to Traceit that the school district auditor, Joris Jabouin, is not really good at his job or he is somehow confused about whom he works for. The complaint, as Peter understands it, was about improper relationships that impacted millions of dollars in contract awards to PCG. While emails and text messages were examined between and among Haring, the Superintendent, Board members and Executive Level staff, the audit findings did not focus on the appropriateness of these relationships. Further, Traceit learned from snooping that while this audit was going on for months, the cell phones from Board members had not been collected. Not even when four of them were removed from office on August 26 for incompetence, misfeasance and malfeasance, their cell phones were not collected as a part of their transition. Later, the auditor made a single phone call to former Board member, Donna Korn, to secure her phone and its records, to which Korn did not respond. Jabouin failed to follow up. Another removed Board member, Ann Murray, actually turned over her phone, but the phone data was wiped completely clean.
Peter also learned that while the Super’s relationship with Haring was positive enough for her to pen a reference letter to her boss detailing her work and value to the district, her email and phones were void of any correspondences that would support a budding professional or personal relationship. Really? Even Peter can surmise that someone eliminated email and text correspondences and if that is so, why? Where there is beach, there is sand. Jabouin, however, couldn’t see it.
Something in the sand wasn’t sifting through for some Board members either. A motion was made to fire Cartwright after clear corruption was made evident.
The vote to fire Cartwright went straight down gender lines with the Desantis-Five voting to sever ties and the “Trailing Ladies” voting against. The Desantis Five prevailed, though Reiter, Serrano and Tynan seemed unsure.
But Cartwright wouldn’t be Cartwright if she didn’t attempt to sway things back into her favor. The next day, Board member Debra Hixon introduced a motion to have the termination rescinded, but the motion failed down gender lines again.
Board Chair Alston presented a Board item to name the Great Dr. Earlean Smiley as the interim superintendent, and it was seconded by Nora Rupert. Minutes later, Rupert pulled back her second and the motion was then seconded by Daniel Foganholi. The motion failed 3-6 as two of the Desantis Five joined the Trailing Ladies in a dissent. This move gives a sign of hope to Cartwright. Not immediately naming an interim gives her hope.
So, this is what is up next. Traceit understands that four of the Desantis appointees will be gone in a week and the only one remaining is Board Chair Torey Alston. Alston has a steep hill to climb as only Brenda Fam seems to be aligned to the sort of cleanup of corruption that the Reform Board embarked upon.
New Board members: Jeff Holness, Rod Velez and Allan Zeman will more than likely have dissenting opinions.
Four of the Desantis Five and the Trailing Four left Cartwright another lifeline in their indecisiveness to relieve Cartwright effective immediately. They wanted to grant her the 90 days in her contract for transition. Peter warns this is a bad idea. Having the person who is fired to stay around for 90 days as you are trying to move forward out of a corrupt culture is a dirty proposition. The back door mudslinging and undermining of not only The Super, but staff she has hired will be of sand dune proportions. Traceit says, “wipe your hands clean of the dirt and move forward.”
The Detective is told that Super Cartwright is still holding one last card for her survival. She is hoping that when the new Board members are sworn in next week, they will call for a vote to reinstate her as superintendent. Ol’ Peter says, “Don’t get buried in the sand.” While the new Board members may not like the decisions that were made by the Desantis Five, they are probably not willing to endure the pressure of sand from the community that would shower down on them by bringing her back. The Detective predicts they will each make strong statements of disapproval but will all agree that moving forward is in the best interest of the students and community.
But Ol’ Tracy will keep digging through rubble to for news and clues.
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