When you have family in the same fire company as Patrick Miller, the fraud/theft king of Delaware, your perspective might be a bit off. For State Representative Stephen Smyk, he might as well give up his seat in the House chamber to Patrick Miller after what he said on the radio this morning!
In a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, State Representatives John Kowalko and Kim Williams are urging Denn to investigate the controversial leak from the Auditor of Accounts office. On August 8th, the News Journal “obtained” a report from AOA regarding a personnel matter with Kathleen Davies. While the validity of the report has yet to be determined, especially since it wasn’t even used in Davies unemployment hearing, the report was leaked from AOA.
The News Journal based an entire article, online and in print, on the report. I find it ironic that a cabal of folks at AOA, who falsely went after Davies over sending a draft copy of an audit to Kim Williams (which was found to be perfectly okay), seem to think it is okay to send out a confidential employee report that very same office may have had the ability to edit themselves. Talk about sheer hypocrisy! Political motivation during an election? You better believe it! Reports have come out of that office where employees would spend their time on political campaigns in the last election. I don’t mind any citizen helping out with elections and all that, but not while you are on the clock for the state!
To read the letter from Rep. Kowalko and Rep. Williams, please see below:
Last night, I sent an email to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn about the ongoing problem in Delaware concerning fraud and theft of taxpayer funds in Delaware from various state agencies and organizations dependent on state funding. Today, Sonia Augusthy, the head of the Civil Rights and Public Trust division sent me an email regarding my concerns. She sent me a list of what that division has done since they were created in 2015. I was shocked at the amount of names but since I primarily write about education, it is sad to see how rampant fraud and theft is across the state. I was not away Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy had been indicted and is awaiting prosecution. This is the email sent to me from Sonia Augusthy: Continue reading
Jessica Bies with the News Journal wrote an article about State Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies and willfully withheld information provided to her that would have drastically changed her article. There is absolutely no credible reason for Bies to withhold crucial information like that. Continue reading
Brandywine School District. Indian River School District. Indian River Volunteer Fire Company. What do all three of these have in common? Patrick Miller. A man accused of financial fraud in the two districts who is not behind bars. High crimes and misdemeanors indeed! But he is a free man. How is that even possible? Continue reading
In December of 2016, days before a crucial referendum, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released a scathing audit inspection of the Indian River School District. The number one culprit of shenanigans in the district was their former Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Miller. What is Miller up to these days? Continue reading
**UPDATED BELOW WITH NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ONE DISTRICT**
Two years ago, letters went out to five charter schools from State Auditor Tom Wagner letting them know they were in violation of Delaware’s Budget and Accounting Manual (BAM). For the purposes of this article, I looked to see how many districts and charters violated BAM in one area. That was where they write checks from petty cash accounts for more than $500.00. That is a big no-no according to BAM. I looked in both FY2017 and FY2018 up until May 31st. There were many offenders, including two who were included in the 2016 letters! The reason I started with FY2017 was to give the benefit of the doubt just in case districts and charters were not clear of the rule before that fiscal year. This isn’t just a few districts and charter schools. Continue reading
For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education. When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there. You will find out why shortly. I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode. The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself. Different names are thrown around in these emails. Going back and reading these is always fun! The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review. The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails. I wish I could have met Dave in person. I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me. I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it. Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons. That’s my business! Continue reading
On Facebook today, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced he will not be seeking reelection for Attorney General in 2018. I was shocked to say the least. This is a man who has dedicated the last 14 years to public service and won every election that came his way. But I get his reasons: he wants to spend more time with his family. Because that’s who Matt is above everything else: a father and a husband. His kids always come first.
I first met Matt at the first IEP Task Force meeting three years ago. It feels like an eternity ago. Since then, I’ve contacted him about various education issues in the First State. Not only did Matt chair the IEP Task Force, but he also recorded the meetings and put the audio recordings on a website so ALL parents could listen to what was discussed. That is very unusual for a task force, but Matt knew parents wanted to know what was going on. Throughout the task force, Matt fought for parent rights when it comes to their child’s Individualized Education Program.
A couple of years ago, I publicly asked Matt to run for Governor in 2016. He obviously declined my request. I don’t always agree with the legal opinions that come out of Matt’s office, but I respect that I have a right to request one. At heart, Matt is a good guy. He cares about people. Even yesterday, he released a video about school bullying urging kids to not bully others.
Now the hunt for a new Attorney General begins! I am sure the Delaware Democrats and Republicans are already making calls. I have one person who I would LOVE to see as the AG, but I will refrain from saying who my pick would be just yet. But in all seriousness Matt, and I know you still have a lot of time left in office, I for one will miss you after January 2019!
I sent an email to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn and Governor Carney a few seconds ago alleging the legal opinion in regards to my FOIA complaint about the Family Services Cabinet Council was false in nature. Since the Council disburses funds, they fit the category of a public body.
§ 1605A Prevention component.
The Family Services Cabinet Council (Council), with the Department of Education and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families acting as lead agencies, shall administer a program to offer prevention-related student support services (prevention services) to students to prevent them from becoming discipline problems and from failing academically in our schools. Within the limits of appropriations made for this purpose, the Council shall provide rules and regulations for the award of prevention grants and the conduct of prevention programs authorized under this section, subject to the following limitations:
(1) The Council shall issue prevention funding to local school districts proposing to establish an integrated plan to deliver prevention services including, but not limited to, academic tutoring and student mentoring programs to provide at-risk students with the extra help they may need to succeed academically and with positive adult role models; outreach programs to promote parental, family and community involvement in students’ academic studies and in reducing and resolving school discipline problems; school-linked support services to help students with family or health problems that may be adversely affecting their academic performance and their conduct at school; training to help students and school personnel resolve conflicts peacefully and non-disruptively; and assistance to help teachers better manage the behavior of students in their classrooms.
(2) Applications for funding pursuant to this section shall be made by school districts in accordance with procedures and standards established by the Council. Each applicant shall set forth an integrated plan to provide prevention services consistent with paragraph (1) of this section. To avoid duplication of effort, maximize the impact of limited resources, and increase the effect of efforts by state, local, community and private, nonprofit agencies through increased coordination and cooperation, the Council shall give preference to applications which:
a. Are submitted by 2 or more school districts working in concert, where appropriate;
b. Include private, nonprofit agencies and community organizations as partners in the application, and identify the roles those agencies and organizations are to play in delivering prevention services in the community;
c. Indicate how grants from the federal government and foundations will be used or sought to help deliver prevention services in the community; and
d. Identify the roles state and local agencies are to play in delivering prevention services in the community.
(3) The Council shall provide technical assistance to districts preparing applications and ongoing assistance to districts awarded funding pursuant to this section.
(4) The Council shall establish a timetable for the award of grants pursuant to this section which shall provide, at minimum, for a period of 1 month for joint planning between the Council and the applicants that the Counsel selects as finalists eligible for a funding award. During such joint planning, the Council and the applicant shall refine the applicant’s prevention plan, ensure that the plan makes cost-effective use of the resources and services of state, local, community and private, nonprofit agencies, and consider the incorporation of successful elements of other districts’ prevention programs into the applicant’s plans. Final awards shall be made by the Council on or before January 15 of each year for the subsequent school year, contingent upon the appropriation of funds for such purpose in the annual appropriations act.
70 Del. Laws, c. 215, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 92.;
any regulatory, administrative, advisory, executive, appointive or legislative body of the State, or of any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to, any board, bureau, commission, department, agency, committee, ad hoc committee, special committee, temporary committee, advisory board and committee, subcommittee, legislative committee, association, group, panel, council or any other entity or body established by an act of the General Assembly of the State, or established by any body established by the General Assembly of the State, or appointed by any body or public official of the State or otherwise empowered by any state governmental entity, which:(1) Is supported in whole or in part by any public funds; or
(2) Expends or disburses any public funds, including grants, gifts or other similar disbursals and distributions; or
(3) Is impliedly or specifically charged by any other public official, body, or agency to advise or to make reports, investigations or recommendations.
Carve me up and serve me on a platter! I have seen a lot in Delaware the past few years, but this one takes the proverbial cake! On May 26th, I submitted a FOIA complaint against Early College High School regarding their Board of Director meetings. It was three-fold. The Delaware Attorney General’s office responded today. I get what they were saying regarding my first two complaints. But the third one. Oh. My. God. This is stuff kids on Romper Room know about FOIA! Continue reading
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85. Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.
Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85. Things just got very real with this legislation. If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it. The five mile radius was bad enough. But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this. It isn’t too late though. Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students. Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation. We all know it.
I will not bend to any political request on this legislation. I will not back away from what I originally published. To me, I could really care less about the politics. I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple. If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead. But I will not change my stance on this. Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge. It is about doing what is right, for ALL students. Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough. We can agree to disagree on that. But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal. It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article. Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look. I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation. I was there for the whole thing. I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released. It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing. It is a student thing. It is an equity thing. It is the right thing.
The Delaware Auditor of Accounts office released a report today on School District Tax Rates for the past two school years, Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016. It shows many school districts receiving more in taxes than they were allowed based on the tax warrants. While these were not huge amounts in many cases, a few districts raised red flags in my book.
But why is the tuition tax not included in this report? Why is their no inspection by the Auditor’s office to make sure those funds are allocated where they are supposed to and not elsewhere? This report is lacking in many details. While it caught a few things, it is not enough. Under Delaware state code, the Auditor’s office is failing in their fiduciary duty to perform what is required by the law. You can blame that on funding and staffing issues for the Auditor of Accounts office but if Delaware State Code indicates a state office must perform a duty necessary to adhere to state law, the General Assembly MUST fund that office so they are able to carry out those duties. Since they haven’t been, the General Assembly has been derelict in their duty.
What kills me is the end of the report:
This information is intended solely for the information and use of DOE and the management of the school districts. It is not intended to be, and should not be, used by anyone other than these specified parties. However, under 29 Del. C. 10002(1), this report is a public record and its distribution is not limited. This report, as required by statute, was provided to the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Controller General, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of Management and Budget.
So how many reports are out there that the public has not seen? I have a feeling it is quite a lot. I smell a FOIA coming because I want to see ALL the reports that are considered public but are not listed on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts website…
Updated, 3:13pm: This is listed on the auditor’s website, but after State Rep. Earl Jaques admission that he has seen annual audits performed by the Auditor’s office for each district, I have to believe there are a ton of reports the public never sees. Why all the secrecy?
A pungent stench is coming from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act. When the Delaware Attorney General’s office gets the facts wrong on a response to a FOIA complaint, the only way for a Delaware citizen to correct those errors is to file with the Superior Court. Which costs money and fills the state coffers. Can someone please remind me why I pay taxes for a state where our Governor feels “sunshine is the best disinfectant“?
The response I received two days ago from Matt Denn’s office stems from my FOIA complaint and the Delaware Dept. of Justice’s response to that FOIA which came out on October 28th. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee did not publish their first meeting anywhere and I filed a complaint. Considering the DOJ is still working on a FOIA complaint I submitted last March, it seems there was a rush to put the matter concerning Governor Markell’s Executive Ordered Delaware Pathways Steering Committee to bed.
When I emailed Denn’s office to reevaluate the FOIA response the same day, I didn’t hear back from anyone. On Tuesday I sent an email to Matt Denn asking for any type of response to my October 28th request. On Wednesday, I received the below email from Kim Siegel, Denn’s FOIA Coordinator. I did edit out part of the email which covered a separate matter I am working on with Denn’s office.
From: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 4:04 PM
Subject: October 28, 2016 determination
Dear Mr. Ohlandt,
Attorney General Denn has asked me to respond to the issues raised in your December 6, 2016 e-mail. Your e-mail makes reference to an October 28, 2016 determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General in response to a FOIA petition regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee. Under the Delaware Code, a petitioner who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a FOIA determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General may “appeal the matter on the record to Superior Court.” Therefore, if you wish to appeal the determination, that is the mechanism under Delaware law by which to do so.
Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager
Delaware Department of Justice
So if I am understanding this correctly, when a citizen alleges a public body has violated FOIA, which is the law, the public body can skirt around the law and give false information. But when the citizen calls them out on it, through a request for appeal, suddenly the DOJ decides the law is important. The mechanism for appeal is not fair at all to a citizen looking for transparency.
What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act request if the agency looking at it refuses to look at all the facts from both sides? This is typically how it is done- a party files a complaint with the facts as they know them, the DOJ sends the complaint to the party that had the FOIA complaint filed against them, the defending party sends a response, the DOJ sends the defendant agency’s response to the accuser, and then the DOJ rules on the complaint. I have had FOIA complaints in the past that dragged out because the DOJ wanted more information. Apparently, that was not the case with this complaint. The DOJ Chief Deputy Attorney General came out with this FOIA response in record time without any chance of obtaining more information on the matter.
So if I want to take this matter further, I have to file with the Superior Court. How much would that cost? According to the Superior Court website, it wouldn’t be cheap!
- $10.00 Court Security Assessment Fee
- $190.00 for the first 40 filings of an action
- $150.00 for request for a trial date which is non-refundable
- Fees do not include advertising costs which shall be billed directly to the filing party.
So right off the bat, filing an appeal against a FOIA response from Matt Denn’s office would cost me $350.00 which I would not get back no matter how the Superior Court ruled. I could do this without an attorney and most likely get chewed alive by the DOJ’s attorney. So I would probably have to get my attorney. That would cost well over $1,000.00. And that number would climb once it went to trial.
The transparency racket in Delaware is almost criminal. In essence, it is a money-maker for the state in many situations. I don’t have that kind of money. Most Delawareans don’t. Which is exactly what they count on. When you file a FOIA complaint against a state agency asking for emails, the state agency knows they can say they don’t have the emails. At that point, the state agency responds they don’t have them but the requesting party can file a $250.00 fee with the Department of Technology and Information to do a search for those emails. Most people don’t have $250.00 they can just fork over like that. And then the fees associated with reviewing the information. Depending on what the party is looking for, this can climb into the four figure amount quickly.
Here is the bottom line: people don’t file FOIA requests if they think everything is hunky-dory. They believe something illegal happened or is about to happen. While FOIA responses from the DOJ don’t always rule there was a FOIA violation in a complaint, at times their reasoning is subjective. The DOJ is not going to sue another state agency. So if a citizen wants to take that extra step, they have to pay. Even if the DOJ’s office gets information wrong, they appear to be above the law unless you take them to court.
It is the Department of Justice, not the Department of Covering Other State Agencies Asses. But transparency is a fickle beast depending on who you want it from. I guess us taxpaying citizens are not meant to know the truth about matters in Delaware. It is bad enough Governor Markell can evade transparency by including a member of the General Assembly on an email (no member of the General Assembly is subject to FOIA), but it appears FOIA in and of itself is not freedom of information. It should be called DOIA, the Denial of Information Act.
Last year, Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn sponsored legislation which would have lifted the FOIA ban on the General Assembly. It went nowhere. Far too many of our legislators hide behind that privilege and are able to operate with no transparency. And our state leaders take full advantage of this when possible. The way Delaware code is set up it makes it impossible for a citizen to find out matters in the public interest. When a citizen files a FOIA complaint with the DOJ, that office makes it impossible for a citizen to appeal that decision unless they pay money to the state. Even if that citizen produces contradictory information which could easily give the matter further merit.
Until our legislators stop playing games with the truth, nothing will change with FOIA in Delaware. We are just the pawns too many of them suck up to when they need our vote. Once again, I say this with the caveat that there are some legislators who are good people. But it rests with the leadership of the House and Senate as well as the committee Chairs. If you have nothing to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with making FOIA easier. But it is more clear that fraud and cover-up exists at the highest levels of Delaware. And when an education-sucking vampire like the Rodel Foundation gets thrown into the mix, all bets are off.
This is the email I sent to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn when I submitted a request for appeal on the FOIA response from October 28th:
From: Kevin Ohlandt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <email@example.com>
Cc: Siegel Kim (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <email@example.com>; OpenGovernment <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2016 4:47 PM
Subject: This FOIA Complaint legal opinion issued today is just wrong.
I am openly and publicly asking you to respond to this opinion issued from your office today acknowledging ALL the facts I presented in this article as well as the questions posed at the end of the article:
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, along with the AGs from Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for the upcoming special education case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court. The Endrew F. v Douglas County School District is a case which can change the face of special education. But what about my kid right here in Delaware Matt Denn? The one who was kicked out of a special education program at a Delaware private school last Friday with no due process, no advance notification to the parents about the true purpose of the meeting, and no chance for my son’s voice to be heard?
For the most part, I like Matt Denn. I think he can be an excellent advocate for students with disabilities. But sadly, what he wants and what we have in Delaware are two very different things. I wish Denn could help my own son the way he is helping this child in Colorado. I understand the implications of this case and what it can do for special education if they rule in favor of the student. That would be a very good thing. But there are far too many students here in Delaware that are now suffering with special education. My own son Jacob included. If Delaware’s special education is supposed to be so great, why isn’t it Matt? We both know the answer to that. But why should my kid have to go through all venues of education in this state and still not have schools understand his needs? Charter, district, private school, private school homeschool-coop program. None have worked Matt. None. They may be great at other things, but they have all failed my son. As one father to another father, I’m asking you to do something here, in Delaware. In your state. Not later, not down the road, but now. I don’t know if I can get my son back on track. There has been so much damage done to him. By adults who think power is more important than what is right. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your own child’s spirit break time and time again. I truly hope you don’t. But I’m just one of many parents who has to pick up the pieces of a child’s shattered life again and again while the system fails him time and time again. It doesn’t matter what kind of school it is. I don’t care about all this fancy legal stuff. I just want consistency and best practices with my son, with all the special needs kids in this state. We are destroying lives here Matt. What are you going to do about that?
Talk is on thing but actions speak louder than words. How many more Jacobs do we have to have in this state Matt? How many more tears have to be shed before something is done? How many families have to deal with turmoil you can’t even begin to imagine Matt? How many more children have to be psychologically beaten down before you do something?
Delaware Files Amicus Brief Supporting a Colorado Student’s Claim on Behalf of Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, joined by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed a formal brief Monday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the appeal of a Colorado public school student with disabilities who claims that his school district has not complied with federal law in meeting his educational needs. The brief filed by Delaware urges the United States Supreme Court to adopt a higher national standard for the services that U.S. schools must provide, and articulates that the standard reflected in Delaware state law, rather than the lower standard used in Colorado and many other states, is the proper standard to measure the provision of such services.
The brief was written by Delaware State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein and Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Davis and Laura Makransky. The brief states that the three Attorneys General “implore this Court to find that the highest level of educational benefit for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts of appeal is the correct level for all of the nation’s children with disabilities in order to ensure that the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]’s ideals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are fulfilled.”
Although Attorney General Denn has joined other briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court since taking office in January of 2015, this is the first United States Supreme Court brief that his office has authored since he took office. “We chose this issue to seek to be heard with the United States Supreme Court,” Denn said, “because it is fundamentally important to the future of every child with a disability in our nation’s public schools. We also sought to be heard because how the Supreme Court phrases its opinion could also have a direct impact on students with disabilities in Delaware public schools.”
It sounds like Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is finally clearing up the lingering messes from the charter school financial scandals. Dr. Tennell Brewington, the co-director of Family Foundations Academy, was arrested and charged on October 24th according to Jennifer Flueckiger with WMDT.
A Public Information Officer from the Delaware DOJ told 47ABC that Brewington was arrested on October 24, 2016, and charged with two counts of theft greater than $1500, two counts of unlawful use of a credit card greater than $1500, one count of unlawful use of a payment card less than $1500, and one count of official misconduct.
Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice dealt with a guilty plea from the other co-director of FFA, Sean Moore. He faces a potential prison term of thirty years. If I had to guess, Brewington’s charges from Delaware couldn’t come until she was cleared of any potential federal charges. Or perhaps they were waiting on Moore to give information when he was arrested in another state.
There is no word yet on Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy. State audit investigations found they too stole money from schools. Justice may be slow at times, but it does happen eventually!
22 months after serious allegations arose regarding theft of school funds, justice finally caught up with Sean Moore. The former Family Foundations Academy co-director faced a federal judge today and said he was guilty. When any public schools gets federal funds and some of those federal funds are stolen, the feds get first dibs on prosecution. But Moore made it easy for them by pleading guilty today. He faces sentencing on March 2nd, 2017.
The Family Foundations Academy was probably my first really big investigative piece. It began during their charter renewal process in December of 2014 and stretched out the next few months. I don’t know how much my initial reporting on Moore and fellow co-director Tennell Brewington’s activities led to what happened today. The feds rolled these charges down a couple of months ago. So why did it take so long for Moore to enter a plea? From what I’m hearing, they had to find him first. That took some doing.
Moore’s fellow co-director, Tennell Brewington, is gainfully employed in Delaware. She was terminated from Family Foundations Academy when Moore took over the school during his brief coup-detat but she too was found to have stolen money from the school. Initial reports indicated she did not take as much money as Moore, but if she used any federal funds she too would face a federal judge. If not, I’m still waiting on Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to do something. And what about Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover? I guess these things take time.
From the United States Department of Justice:
WILMINGTON, Del. – Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Sean Moore, age 43, of New Castle, Del., pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews. Moore is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.
According to court records and statements made in open court, between July 1, 2011 and January 31, 2015, while serving as the Director of Finance and Operations for the Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, Del., Moore embezzled $161,871 from the school.
Moore accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways. First, Moore charged personal expenses to an unauthorized credit card he opened in the name of the school. Moore also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies. In addition, Moore stole money from the school’s fundraising account, which consisted of money collected from parents of school students, local sponsors, and an after-school program. Moore also took money from the school’s construction loan account.
Moore used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as retail purchases, home improvement purchases, electronics, auto loan payments, auto services and accessories, federal tax payments, groceries, entertainment, food, gas, travel, gifts and collectibles, shoes, hotels, jewelry, train tickets, and video games.
During this time, the Family Foundations Academy received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges. The maximum penalty for each count is ten years in prison followed by a three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
I would like to know how Moore could settle with the Board of Directors at FFA over stolen funds. If he stole $161k in funds and settled with them for $67k, as per WDEL, that is $94,000 in lost education funding for Delaware kids. That is some serious coin. And Moore only paid back $13k of that settlement amount. But he will face jail time. That is all but a guarantee.
On October 7th, the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee held their first meeting with no public notice or an agenda put up 7 days prior to the meeting as required by Delaware state code. In August, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued an Executive Order creating this public body. The only reason I found out about it was due to tweets from the Rodel Foundation and Mark Brainard of Delaware Tech. I promptly filed a FOIA complaint on October 11th. Seventeen days later, the Delaware Attorney General’s office has already responded to the FOIA complaint. To put this in perspective, I filed a FOIA complaint last March which just had the Attorney General opinion issued last week. BI submitted another FOIA complaint around that same time period and there has been no official opinion released from the Attorney General’s office. But Alison May from the Delaware DOE did respond in record time with their side of the complaint, but she has before. So why was this FOIA complaint rushed?
Below is my original request, the acknowledgment from the Attorney General’s office, the Delaware DOE’s response to the complaint, and the opinion on the FOIA complaint issued today. As well, I am including an email that was still in draft form disputing the facts provided by Alison May in the Delaware DOE’s response. I truly believed I had more time given the turnaround time on FOIA complaints coming out of the AG’s office but this one had a lightning fast response. Given the below findings and other inconsistencies with their opinion, I believe this was a very rushed job they wanted to put to bed fast. But that opens up a whole other can of worms…
Original FOIA Complaint, issued 10/11/16
From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 9:23 AM
To: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
Subject: FOIA Complaint
I am submitting a FOIA complaint in regards to the newly created Pathways Steering Committee. This body came out of Executive Order #61, issued by Governor Markell on Thursday, August 11th, 2016. While there was nothing anywhere indicating they were holding a meeting, tweets appeared on October 7th suggesting the body met as a group. This is a state group, created by an elected official. Yet there was no posting of the meeting or an agenda. Attached are screen shots of the tweets posted by Mark Brainard and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.
I take this violation very seriously. For a group that is supposed to be all about students, I find it ironic they would operate in secrecy with no ability for the public to attend. This does not translate into anything close to an open government.
9 Crosley Court
Dover, DE 19904
On October 12th, the Delaware Attorney General acknowledged receipt of my FOIA Complaint
October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee
Mr. Kevin Ohlandt
9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904
RE: October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee
Dear Mr. Ohlandt:
This will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee (the “Committee”), received on October 11, 2016, alleging certain violations of the open meetings provisions of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. §§ 10001-10007 (“FOIA”). We treat your correspondence as a petition for determination pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005. We are forwarding your correspondence to the Committee’s counsel, asking that they respond to your allegations by October 19, 2016. When we have received the Committee’s response, we will determine whether additional information from either party is required and decide what further action, if any, is appropriate.
Very truly yours,
/s/ Kim Siegel
cc: Danielle Gibbs, Chief Deputy Attorney General (via email)
Michelle E. Whalen, Deputy Attorney General (via email)
Meredith S. Tweedie, Esq. (via email)
The Delaware Department of Education’s Response to the FOIA Complaint, 10/19/16
Issued today was the official opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:
16-IB23 10/28/2016 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee
This is the draft I was working on to send to the Attorney General’s office that I believed I had more time to formulate:
October 26th, 2016
Good afternoon Ms. Siegel,
In reviewing Alison May from the Dept. of Education’s response to my FOIA complaint from October 11th, in the letter provided from her on October 19th, she states the following:
…and the draft minutes of the October 7th meeting (attached hereto, along with the other documents discussed at the meeting) will be posted online by the end of this week.
The DOE provided no explanation as to why the notices and agendas were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings, and it concedes that the postings did not comply with FOIA. The DOE also explained that no action was taken by the AFWG at either meeting. The DOE apologized and said it would “endeavor to determine the agenda of any future AFWG meetings as of the time of any required public notice of them, and include the agenda in any such required notice.
By letters dated July 31 and August 1, 2012, the Governor extended invitations to a number of individuals to participate in the Working Group as representatives of several public bodies, including the General Assembly, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and various private stakeholder groups (the “Invitations”).
On June 10, 2013, you filed this appeal seeking access to the Working Group’s meeting minutes. We received a response on July 11, 2013. The response indicates that the Working Group did not consider itself to be a “public body” within the meaning of section 10002(h), due primarily to the informal nature of the Working Group.
FOIA, with certain exceptions not relevant here, establishes a public right to inspect all “public records” and requires that all meetings of public bodies be open to the public.4 FOIA’s “open meeting” provisions call for advance notice to the public of all public meetings and require public bodies to prepare and make available to the public agendas for and minutes of their public meetings.5
Section 10002(h) provides substantial guidance as to the types of entities and bodies encompassed within the phrase “body of the State.” That concept, as used in FOIA, includes, among other things, any “group . . . appointed by any . . . public official of the State” that was “impliedly or specifically charged” with making recommendations.9 The Working Group was a “body of the State” within the meaning of section 10002(h).
But the key part from this opinion rests on the following and is key to my own FOIA complaint:
First, this Office consistently has rejected arguments that FOIA’s applicability hinges on adherence to formalities in the creation of a public body, lest FOIA’s goals of openness and government accountability be subverted.14
This was where my draft ended which I fully intended on doing further research on in the next week.
Now here are my issues with the Attorney General’s response to the FOIA complaint. First off, in Alison May’s response from the Delaware DOE, she said it was under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s control to issue the agenda. However, in the link on the FOIA complaint, we see an Agenda created on 10/17/16, ten days after the meeting, and it was issued from Governor Markell’s office, not the Delaware DOE. Furthermore, if this was indeed a public body, why was there no agenda item for public comment? As well, the minutes submitted by Alison May in the DOE’s response to the FOIA complaint are actually different than those that appear on the Googledrive website.
In the original minutes, submitted with Alison May in the Delaware DOE response to my FOIA complaint, it states the following:
Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;
Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
Mr. Rhine will conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;Mr. Rhine will develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
Moreover, as you note in your Petition, certain members of the Committee published photographs of its meeting on social media either, contemporaneously or immediately following the meeting. We find this to be inconsistent with an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. We see no evidence of an intent – by the Governor or any other Committee member – to circumvent FOIA. Nor do we see an ongoing pattern of FOIA non-compliance which might warrant extreme remedy.
Here is a newsflash for the Attorney General’s office: having a non-profit foundation and a member of the committee post tweets about a non-transparent meeting of a public body issued by a Governor’s Executive Order, does not point either way towards an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. What it shows is someone tweeting. So to give this extra bearing in a legal opinion about something that was already established to be under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s responsibility is misleading at best.
It’s about time! After almost two years of waiting for Sean Moore to get charged with something, information comes out that he is being charged by the feds for theft. This very quick blurb in the News Journal states Moore has three federal counts against him. As most folks in Delaware know, Moore, along with his co-charter leader/co-conspirator Dr. Tennell Brewington, both formerly with Family Foundations Academy in New Castle, DE, got busted after a forensic audit showed they spent over $150,000 in school funds for personal use. They were terminated and the school could have closed if a nearby charter school didn’t essentially take them over.
I was curious why Moore was charged by the feds and not Brewington. Either they haven’t announced anything for her yet or her theft of taxpayer money for personal use didn’t involve anything with federal dollars.
Now we just have to wait for the other former charter thieves, Noel Rodriguez of Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens of Providence Creek Academy, to get their charges. Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn hinted to me almost a year ago that “other parties” were looking at these situations. As I waited and waited, with nothing coming out, I took it upon myself to contact the FBI about this earlier in the spring. I imagine Denn’s hands were tied once the feds became involved and he obviously couldn’t say anything concrete about it. I’m glad he was on the up and up about it though.
This is the only information I could find on these charges, but it looks like the Associated Press picked up on it because the same story appears in the Washington Post and many other media outlets. There is an important lesson here: don’t steal from kids. This is what happens when you get caught! As more information on this becomes available I will certainly give updates. I can’t find the actual court filing yet, but once information becomes available, you will know!