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
Last night, the Kent County Democratic Committee hosted a forum for the Democrat candidates for State Auditor at the Kent County Levy Court in Dover. The well-attended debate was clearly won by candidate Kathleen Davies. Continue reading
The former Superintendent of Indian River School District who is now the Delaware Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, was well aware Patrick Miller, the former Indian River Chief Financial Officer, was stealing money. Despite telling the Auditor of Account’s office, Delaware media, and the staff of Indian River that she was shocked and had no clue about what Miller was doing, she knew. In fact, she knew going back to at least 2008. Continue reading
The Delaware News Journal came out with an article today about the ongoing battle between Kathleen Davies and the Office of the Auditor of Accounts. Even though the hearing with the Department of Labor ruled State Auditor Tom Wagner terminated Davies without cause, that only determined unemployment funding for Davies. Now the battle is heating up with the Delaware Merit Employee Review Board (MERB). But the News Journal article is missing or failed to report some vital facts. Continue reading
Kathleen Davies received the crown jewel of endorsements today when the Delaware State Education Association endorsed her!
Kathleen Davies has the experience needed to get done the critical work of the State Auditor’s office. With more than 25 years of auditing and accounting experience, Kathleen is the most qualified candidate with the skills needed to serve as a strong watchdog for Delaware’s taxpayers. DSEA members want an auditor who is going to hold state agencies and school districts accountable for taxpayer dollars. We enthusiastically recommend Kathleen for State Auditor and believe she’s the best choice for voters to make on September 6th.
This just adds to Davies’ growing list of endorsements and accomplishments in this race! On September 6th, vote Kathleen Davies! There are things going on in this state as I write this that will demand someone with the full capacity and knowledge to do this job. That is Kathleen Davies. We need her now more than ever!
Kathy McGuiness issued a victim shaming press release today against her State Auditor candidate, Kathleen Davies. Seeing this is showing McGuiness has to be worried about losing a primary (again) in September! In her latest stunt, she sent an email to her “supporters” today about the News Journal article on Davies that appeared online yesterday.
The urban dictionary describes victim shaming as this- “When the victim of an event is blamed, or partially blamed, for their own attack.”
While I first wrote about why Davies was unfairly dismissed from the Auditor’s office on June 5th, it took the News Journal twenty days to (finally) catch up with that news. But they didn’t assign a political reporter to the story, but rather an education reporter. Both of our articles were very similar in citing the unemployment hearing report. I did my thing but the News Journal did have some new information.
Bies wrote about an upcoming Merit Employee Review Hearing. This hearing will determine if Davies gets her job back. Bies did a good job at expressing Davies’ thoughts on the matter:
“Merit employees are subject to a process that is controlled and driven by the state,” she explained in an email. “Hence, I had to follow the state’s guidelines and processes, which meant I had to stay on paid leave as long as the state kept me there in order to exercise my merit and legal remedies. I and other merit employees have suffered through this process with no option other than to engage legal counsel and wait.”
“The state chose to keep me on paid leave for the 19 months before I could move forward with the merit and legal process,” Davies said. “My legal representation, as is the case with other merit employees, is at my own expense. Had I resigned from my position during the 19 months, I would have lost my rights to these remedies.”
But here comes Kathy McGuiness, sending out a VERY misleading email today, calling on Davies to make her merit hearing public AND to release a report that the Auditor’s office paid over $100,000.00 for. Yes, the Grant Thornton report. The same report that was incomplete at the unemployment hearing. Which begs some serious questions- why didn’t Wagner release the full report to the unemployment hearing officer? Were there allegations against Wagner himself in that report? Did Wagner’s office have the ability to edit that report or redact information since the full copy wasn’t released to the hearing officer?
The McGuiness campaign wrote the following “press release” today which is begging for a red-lining!
Kathy McGuiness, Democratic candidate for Auditor, responded to today’s News Journal report detailing the latest developments in Kathleen Davies’ dismissal from her post as Tom Wagner’s second-in-command and issued the following:
McGuiness acts like this has been in the press every single day for two years. It hasn’t. She wants to put a focus on something that was already solved. In short, Wagner screwed up!
“In two months, Democratic primary voters will be choosing their nominee for this critical state office and deserve to know what was found in the independent investigation leading to Kathleen Davies’ initial dismissal from the Auditor’s Office.
Wagner dismissed Davies before that investigation was even complete. Now if you are talking about the unwarranted and unethical “independent investigation” conducted by an audit manager in the office without any authority to do so, we can talk about that. Which led to Davies’ wrongful termination and was ruled by the unemployment hearing officer to be unethical.
Based on the News Journal account, the Wagner-Davies Auditor’s Office operated without leadership for years.
Actually, they did operate with leadership which most likely scared half the people in the office. All of a sudden, not long after Davies came aboard, that office was doing real audits that wound up resulting in real jail sentences for crooked charter school leaders. But apparently some didn’t like Davies in a leadership role so they trumped up bogus charges against her. It backfired. Davies proved she does have what it takes to get the job done!
The decision allowing her to receive unemployment insurance is only the first step of the investigation into Ms. Davies’ professional conduct while working for Tom Wagner.
Even though, based on testimony of others in that office, including Wagner himself, it was proven Davies professional conduct was above and beyond and she did her job. Okay. It seems like McGuiness is screaming about smoke but there is no fire.
The Auditor’s office has to operate transparently and maintain the public’s trust.
For someone who talks so much about transparency, why doesn’t McGuiness open up the books on her many years on Rehoboth City Council? Where is the Rehoboth City Council online checkbook? For a council she served on for so long, how come she never begged for that kind of transparency down there?
To have critical investigative information about a candidate for State Auditor withheld from the public and to have a hearing closed to the public, where serious accusations about her professional conduct while on the job is a disservice to voters and undermines the public’s confidence.
To see my own take on McGuiness, just look at this article. Yes, this is the same McGuiness who wanted LLCs to have voting rights. Who had to hire an attorney to figure out if she lived in Delaware or Utah in order for her to qualify as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Who changed her political party several times. For the record, Davies has not said one way or the other whether or not the hearing will be public. I would imagine she has a lawyer involved and she would make a decision based on her own legal counsel. And this hearing is NOT about the serious accusations about her professional conduct. It is about Davies serious accusations against the Auditor’s office which had a light as bright as the sun shining on Wagner’s office after the unemployment hearing. For McGuiness to sit there and victim shame Davies is very low, even for Delaware politics. But I guess you have to do what you can to win, right?
Because she is a candidate for public office, I call on Ms. Davies to authorize the Auditor’s office to release to the public, the content of the Grant Thornton investigation as well as any other pertinent information relating into her conduct as Tom Wagner’s top assistant, and permit her July hearing before the Merit Employees Relations Board to be open to the public, so voters have all the facts.”
You are assuming she has the ability to “authorize” the Auditor’s office to make a report they paid for public. Regarding a personnel issue. And once again, the same report that could very well have been doctored to such a degree to make Wagner try to look good. Which it failed to do at the unemployment hearing by the way. Even though the unemployment hearing report cleared Davies of the wrongdoing this “audit manager” trumped up against her, that isn’t enough for McGuiness. She wants this report released which would, in most likelihood, make Wagner look even worse than he already does.
What McGuiness failed to mention in her email is the heart of the News Journal article which was this- Tom Wagner unfairly terminated Davies. And it went on to state how it was unfair. Instead she is trying to make a “thing” out of something that was already solved when I put up my article three weeks ago. These are the actions of a desperate woman who thought she had a sure thing in running for State Auditor. Someone who likes to talk about transparency but doesn’t even release her own reimbursements with the City of Rehoboth.
But McGuiness doesn’t even bother to write how the Merit Employee Review Board deals with grievances Delaware state employees file against the agency they worked for. Davies isn’t the one on trial here. The purpose is to hear what Davies has to say in regards to the grievances she filed against Tom Wagner. I have no doubt she viewed Davies as a distant runner in the race and didn’t count on her being vindicated in the press. So she wants to attempt to stir up trouble instead of reaching out to a political candidate. The right thing for McGuiness to do would be to sympathize with Davies, woman to woman, and recognize that, yes, our state employee merit system is very jacked up. Nope, she wants to try to throw Davies under a victim shaming bus and that is just wrong.
Kathy McGuiness wants to talk on her campaign stops about diversity as she sits on the all-white and well-off Rehoboth City Council. She is just wrong for State Auditor and if that hasn’t become clear to anyone in Delaware yet, I strongly encourage you to look beyond the “image” of McGuiness. She will happily show up at any event in the First State and tell you why she should be State Auditor. But that doesn’t make her the real thing.
This is an ongoing issue between Davies and Wagner. Davies was cleared in the first round. That has been made public already. If McGuiness wants to victim blame another candidate to make herself look like a viable candidate, that is certainly her right but it is a new low. Which would make me very concerned about her ability to hold statewide office and how she would deal with those who cross her path in a way she doesn’t like. This is the Kathy McGuiness that, when she feels threatened, would victim shame a good and decent woman. While some in the Delaware Democrat party pledge allegiance to McGuiness, they are doing it for all the wrong reasons. And they know what those reasons are. They want McGuiness because she is malleable and will serve at their behest. But I can promise it will be a decision those Democrat power brokers would live to regret down the road. The optics of politics is a messy thing. Delaware deserves a State Auditor that is not malleable and will not serve power brokers. Delaware deserves Kathleen Davies.
**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
Delaware Representative John Kowalko issued the following statement this afternoon:
It is not often that I choose to make an endorsement in a primary election, but sometimes a candidate stands out from the rest and earns my recognition and support. An individual of impeccable integrity, experience and intelligence best describes Kathleen Davies. Ms. Davies stands above the others in my opinion and will administer the affairs and responsibilities of the Auditor’s office with an exceptional consideration for fairness and honesty.
I am proud to endorse Kathleen… Davies as the Democratic candidate for the office of State Auditor. Kathleen Davies has more than 25 years’ experience in state auditing with six years as the second-in-command at the Office of Auditor of Accounts. Davies has the expertise to perform independent evaluations of state funded programs. She will work to identify recommendations for process improvements including work to support quality education and to provide recommendations to advance public health and human services. Davies has the qualifications, experience, and commitment to providing transparent public reporting and fiscal accountability.
Representative John Kowalko
I couldn’t agree more Rep. Kowalko! There is only one choice for State Auditor in both the Primary AND the General Election, and that is Kathleen Davies! To see what Davies is all about, please go to her campaign website.
For over two years, Delaware citizens wondered why Kathleen Davies was put on leave by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner. Now, finally, the truth can be told. Continue reading
Who is Kathy McGuiness? Yes, she is running for State Auditor. But who is she really? Is she true Blue or is she Red for convenience sake? Who are her best friends and why would that make it VERY dangerous for her to win this election? She wants to be a state auditor. Someone whose job is making sure other state agencies don’t break the rules. But her alliances and allegiances beg the question and puts her on a very slippery slope. And I’m not just talking about the slopes in Park City, Utah. Continue reading
I just caught part of the Delaware United forum with the candidates for State Auditor and Attorney General. I heard Kathleen McGuiness babbling about her qualifications. She is NOT a certified accountant. She took some crash course in NY last year to be a “fraud investigator”. She is a pharmacist and a realtor. This would be like putting a crash-course Teach For America teacher as Secretary of Education. She is NOWHERE close to being qualified.
I understand the Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf, wants her. As well as other legislators who seem to think she would be the best. They aren’t basing that decision on any amount of qualification for the office but because Pete wants her. Because they are friends. It is Delaware politics at its worst!
For this office, we need someone who is qualified. We could argue whether that would be Kathleen Davies or Dennis Williams. For my money, I’m going with Davies. She worked in the Auditor’s office. She knows exactly what to do and how to do it. There would not be a “learning curve” that McGuiness would stumble through. Williams tends to tick off a lot of people. I agree the Auditor’s office should be independent of political party. But Williams already has a ton of burnt bridges which would not be helpful in getting things done.
Yes, there is a cloud with Davies. Why was she put on leave by Tom Wagner? I still firmly believe that was due to someone wanting her to shut up. I have never bought the bogus News Journal article from 2016 suggesting she was inappropriately reimbursing herself for travel expenses. I believe whatever happened was cooked up, kind of like McGuiness’ auditor campaign over the past year. I believe we will find out in due time what happened and I also believe it will come out that something was cooked up. Davies for State Auditor by a landslide!
If you really want to learn about Kathy McGuiness, just Google “Kathy McGuiness” and “Delaware Liberal” to get the scoop. There is plenty of stuff in there to keep you reading for hours!
Yesterday, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty sent a letter to parents advising them of all the education cuts since 2008. He also urged them to attend the Delaware PTA rally outside Legislative Hall next week to support basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.
I agree with a lot of what Merv said but then again I have to wonder about some of his logic. After all, Red Clay did purchase one-to-one devices for all their students which costs a pretty penny. As well, they are one of the few districts that still has Race To The Top administrators even though the funding for that horrible federal initiative ended years ago.
His language in the letter confused me a bit though because he asks parents to vote with public education funding in mind. Yes, the General Assembly decides the budget. But who is Merv asking these parents to vote for? State legislators? School board candidates? Should a school Superintendent be pushing parents toward certain votes? And that’s what happens when I don’t have my morning coffee before I write!
In terms of special education, I have supported any bill that gives that funding. This is the foundation of special education for these kids. It baffles me that our legislators will fund pre-school as much as they do but not provide this necessary and vital funding. They really don’t have any more excuses to justify their cowardice with special education funding. I highly salute the legislators who consistently support State Rep. Kim William’s bills to get this going. If you have the means, come down to Legislative Hall next Wednesday, May 9th, at 1:30pm, on the East steps.
I fully support public education funding but I also support the ability to properly audit those funds if need be. Last year, the State Auditor’s office released a report on education funds but since so many school districts code expenditures different the auditor couldn’t make heads or tails of the funding. So perhaps we should be making sure our vote for State Auditor is a sound one and not based on a popularity contest among certain legislators. If you are going to vote for a Kathy in September, make sure it is for Davies!
Things I like that are going on? Senator Dave Sokola’s bill for education funding transparency which could go a bit further than what it has in it now. I love the fact that people are waking up to education issues and speaking out. We may not always agree, but the discussion is healthy.
To read Merv’s letter to parents, please see below:
One of the biggest events next September will be the primary race for the Delaware State Auditor. Current State Auditor Wagner is retiring and so far, three have filed to run under the Democrat banner. Today, Kathleen Davies filed. Facing off against Kathleen McGuiness and Dennis Williams, I see Davies as the strongest candidate with experience that leap-frogs and catapults over the other two. She is EXACTLY what Delaware needs and will by far do the best job should she win.
While there are some unanswered questions regarding her paid leave from the Auditor’s office, you simply do not pay someone for that long if they did something as egregious as what appeared in the News Journal in 2016. I firmly believe there is much more to that than meets the eye and someone wanted her to shut up and took swift action. But it is a new day and a new administration in Delaware. It is past time the sun shined brightly on The First State and the best place for that is in the State Auditor’s office.
The loooooooong-time State Auditor, Tom Wagner, announced he was retiring last night at the annual Delaware GOP Lincoln Dinner. He couldn’t think of a single Republican to take his place. As many have suggested, the flip-flopper Kathy McGuiness should switch from Democrat to Republican since that is where her heart lies. Which would leave Dennis Williams as the sole filed Democrat. May I present a third option… Continue reading
What would you do with $145,000? Apparently, for Noel Rodriguez, it was whatever he wanted to do. But the money wasn’t his. Today, the former Principal of Academy of Dover pled guilty in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington according to Cris Barrish with WHYY.
Noel Rodriguez, 56, admitted in U.S. District Court in Wilmington that he stole in a number of ways, including charging personal expenses to four unauthorized school credit cards and a state credit card. He spent the money on electronics, travel, car expenses, gardening and camping equipment, home improvement items and a dog house.
According to the article, the newly christened U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, is in charge of Delaware when it comes to federal matters in court. Rodriguez got a $250,000 fine and will assuredly be facing jail time at his sentencing, up to ten years. What I would like to know is if part of that $250,000 fine goes back to Academy of Dover. I think it should. Taxpayers were robbed by Rodriguez, they deserve to have their tax money go back to what it was allocated for.
The article referenced the State Auditor of Accounts report, conducted by Kathleen Davies in 2014 and 2015.
“A major concern regarding the situation at the [school] is the length of time that passed without any intervention from oversight parties” the school board of directors and auditors, the Department of Education and the Charter School Accountability Committee, the report said.
It is my most fervent hope that all four of those entities know better now and this never happens again in Delaware.
Say, what about Providence Creek Academy? What is going on with their theft of school funds? Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington of Family Foundations Academy and now Rodriguez all pled guilty. What about PCA’s shenanigans? And the fact that one of the entities Davies slammed in her audit investigation just so happens to have PCA’s Head of School on it? The good old Charter School Accountability Committee. Word on the street is Chuck Taylor will be resigning soon and collecting that nice increased pension based on the past three years of service when he came back to rescue the school during the fall of 2014. Say, is that matter still under investigation?
For Rodriguez, this puts a capper on that shenanigan. As the article mentioned, Academy of Dover is still open and they actually increased their enrollment this year.
Delaware’s next General Election is still over a year away, but a surprise filing with the Department of Elections today made it very interesting. Kathleen Davies, the former Chief Administrative Auditor for State Auditor Thomas Wagner, is running for the elected position in 2018 as an Independent. To say this isn’t huge news would be an understatement. While Davies cannot publicly talk about why she was run out of the office in the Spring of 2016, the fact she is running for the State Auditor title shows there was definitely some funny business with her ouster.
I wrote extensively about the situations around her removal last year. I always knew there was more to it. The News Journal wrote a story involving Ann Visali and travel expenses that never made a lick of sense.
Tom Wagner, who has held the position of State Auditor for the last three decades, has not announced his intention to run again. A couple of weeks ago, former State Rep. Dennis Williams announced he would run but nothing has been heard about that since.
I know, without a moment of hesitation, that Kathleen Davies will get my vote on Election Day in 2018. Without a doubt in my mind. She is easily the most qualified and her resume involving work with state audit agencies goes beyond Delaware, to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I firmly believe Davies will one day be vindicated for the horrible treatment she received in the Spring of 2016. But even better, it is my fervent hope she will see that vindication while holding the office of State Auditor.
Change is needed in the Auditor’s office. That change was there when Davies held the title of Senior Audit Manager. She was the first to conduct audit investigations against Delaware charter schools. From Delaware Military Academy, to Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, and Providence Creek Academy. The last big audit she had a major role in was a September 30th Count audit inspection which found some pretty glaring errors with a few charters. That report was pulled from the State Auditor website the same time Davies was placed on administrative leave. Wagner released a new report a few months later but the actual procedures from the first audit were not used in the second report.
I can imagine some in the Delaware education world will begin rolling up their sleeves when they hear this news. My suggestion to the people of Delaware: ignore them. If you want an auditor who will serve that office above and beyond and believes in their work 100%, that person is Davies.
Kathleen Davies for Delaware State Auditor 2018!!!!!
No one seemed to be the center of controversy in Delaware education more than Head of School Greg Meece, the face of Newark Charter School. Greg Meece had a very busy year behind the scenes of many headlines. It almost seemed like the ongoing district and charter school war centers around NCS and the Christina School District. Here, in it’s entirety, is the story of Newark Charter School in 2016. There are still 27 days left, so I may have to put some updates in before 11:59pm on December 31st! If you see blue in the article, that is a link to an article I published on NCS or Greg Meece.
Before I get into the whole local funding formula fiasco, we need to look at other events Meece was involved in. Prior to this year, I really didn’t write about NCS that much. The school tends to keep things to themselves. What happens at NCS stays at NCS. That changed in February. On February 5th, it was announced NCS would get a “distinguished Title I” designation for their students outstanding scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The only problem? NCS isn’t really a Title I school. The reward was based on the district surrounding them which has Title I schools all over the place.
The next day, I posted how a special needs girl was denied an opportunity to participate in NCS’ lottery. This caused a massive outcry all over the state. The NCS board, the previous fall, said any child who turned six after a certain date would not be able to participate in the lottery. For children with developmental or other disabilities who may start school later, this would prevent those families for applying to NCS. I had people email Greg Meece. He responded to my email the next day. and it eventually caused the school to change their mind. The girl was let into the lottery but she did not win a placement.
A month later, I discovered NCS does not file IRS tax returns because of very vague loopholes from the IRS dating back to 1995. I sent a tip to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office on this. As well, I submitted a FOIA to NCS to which they responded very fast. Nearly ten months later and nothing has come of the tip to the auditor. I know they were investigating this because I received a call from the state auditor’s office about this. When I called over the summer to find out that status of the investigation, I never received a confirmation that it was being worked on.
Things stayed relatively quiet until shortly after the school year ended. Delaware Senator David Sokola nuked a great bill dealing with teacher evaluations in Delaware. House Bill 399 was meant to undo some of the very damaging practices thrust open teachers from the state. Sokola got involved with the bill and put an amendment on it. One of the aspects of the amendment, the addition of parent surveys at the pilot schools, is something Meece implemented at Newark Charter School. The ties between Sokola and NCS just kept opening up like a can of worms.
As folks were getting ready for the 4th of July, I thought out loud about NCS, Senator Sokola, and the missing Kathleen Davies. I wonder if NCS had anything to do with that. Davies disappearance from the Auditor’s office hit mainstream media with a lot of details missing. While NCS and Meece were not mentioned in that article, that didn’t rule them out on my suspect list for what happened to Davies. State Rep. Kim Williams broke the news in comments on Kavips blog about a petty cash audit Davies had been working on that disappeared as well. I went into a lot of detail and started naming suspects. A few months later the mystery deepened what the petty cash audit turned into petty cash warning letters but NCS wasn’t involved.
While the Kathleen Davies mystery was simmering, I discovered NCS did away with the age restriction for Kindergarten applicants but they came up with a new policy that students entering Kindergarten could only apply once. So if a child with developmental or other disabilities did spend another year in pre-school, and the parents applied to NCS before that, they could not apply the next year. It was the same discriminatory package decorated in different wrapping paper.
After I received detailed breakdowns of every school district and charter’s payment allocations for Fiscal Year 2016, I began to take a closer look at NCS payments. I found they spent an exorbitant amount on student body activities. Only one district was higher than them. This raised my suspicions that something funky was going on which led me to examine the funding for their “cafetorium” addition along with a STEM laboratory. I didn’t find anything conclusive, but it was very ironic how numbers matched with other things.
By the end of August, as the school year started off nice and quiet, all hell broke loose. The local funding formula was changing so charter schools would get more from the local districts. I immediately pegged Greg Meece as the catalyst for this and dumped my feelings about NCS throughout the article. Less than 24 hours later, Secretary Godowsky changed his mind on the change to the charter payments. The next day I posed my theories on who was responsible for this at the Delaware DOE and openly asked Meece many questions about NCS. I never did get a response from him. I can’t imagine he is my biggest fan. This led to a resurfacing of Greg Meece’s famous crab bucket analogy. While all this was going on, Senator Sokola wrote a letter to the News Journal on his latest “discovery” for education. Speaking of the News Journal, they wrote a very misleading article on the whole thing which prompted me to do even more research. The President of the Christina board gave me the official news there would be no changes to the formula the next day. But apparently Meece and NCS Board President had their own thoughts on the matter and wrote their version of events in a letter to NCS parents. The true shock came the next day when a Senator Sokola email defended NCS and cast blame on Christina but I debunked a lot of his theories. Then Christina sent a letter to parents. For a week, NCS parents were coming out to defend their school. Some of them got very nasty which prompted this response from me. After a long ten days, I had to recap the whole thing and give some new information about district exclusions. On September 7th, Christina held an open to the public legislative briefing to explain their side of the story and how the funding works with payments to charters. I attended the meeting and recorded it. Transcribing it was a bitch but it gave a ton of key information (which still makes my head hurt when the final outcome of this reached its climax this week). I’ll have to see if I still have the recording to transcribe Part 2 of this meeting. I assumed Christina argued their case so well it caused Secretary Godowsky to issue a letter to the legislators calling off the whole thing for this year. Many assumed nothing would happen on this until the legislators returned in January based on Godowsky’s letter.
In the Spring, the General Assembly finally passed the Kilroy-inspired “All school boards must record” legislation. For Newark Charter School’s very first audio recording, it was a whopping 16 minutes. You can’t make this stuff up. The next week, they won the Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. DOE for their “outstanding” test scores (smelling a theme here?). Senator Sokola got the spotlight treatment based on his upcoming General Election contest against Meredith Chapman so I felt obliged to showcase his very sad charter school legacy. Of course NCS got a nod.
One would think after such a crazy month, NCS would try to stay out of the news. Not the case. The school ended September with a student sit-in. Inspired by the U.S. Congress, students staged a sit-in when a teacher was fired over an incident with a student. Instead of getting barbecued by the parents, the students jumped in on the comment roasting of this blog. I actually admired the students for what some called “The Slappening”. The teacher got her job back a couple of weeks later as Earth started spinning on its axis again.
On October 5th, Delaware found out the charter school response to Secretary Godowsky not moving forward with the change in the charter school payments from Christina. 15 charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE. I got my hands on the actual filing which named all the schools and parties involved. By this point, everyone knew it was NCS who started this whole thing which they confirmed in another letter to NCS parents. I soon received the whole timeline for the shenanigans involving Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning. This prompted me to look at some things that were very peculiar about this lawsuit.
A couple of weeks later, Delaware United made a three-part video series where they interviewed Senator Sokola. Care to guess what the biggest topic was? Education and Newark Charter School!
At the end of October, I found out that Newark Charter School was supposed to have an outreach plan to get more sub-groups in their school. This was a condition of their major modification to start their new high school. We are still waiting for this.
Last week, the Charter School lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE came back in a big way. Christina’s board accepted a settlement with a 4-3 vote. By the end of the week, the settlement leaked out before all the signatures were on paper. Where did the leak come from? Governor Markell’s office!
So there you have it: Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. More controversy than Donald Trump at a rally for Democrats! More scandalous than… I can’t think of anything… I sure do hope 2017 is quieter for Newark Charter School. They lost their isolationism label this year!
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.
Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many. Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night. They showed some very extreme violations of state code. As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies. These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools: Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler). These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office. Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released. But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring. Now we can clearly see why.
Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive. The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”? That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.
We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well. We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either. State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office. It could be a combination of any of these people. It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.
Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection. That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett. When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders. Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity. Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School. Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security. Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware. Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican. Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters. I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.
Odyssey Charter School:
- petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
- 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
- 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83
Delaware Military Academy:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
- checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
- 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
- failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”
Charter School of Wilmington:
- had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
- had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11
- 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95
So let me get this straight. Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture? And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters? That were NEVER released to the public, until now? And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky. All charter school leaders and board presidents. My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools. As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office. As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program. But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:
We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible. Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.
So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable. She followed the procedure. Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless. Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock. A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well. But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner. And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky? How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law? Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner? This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.
This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware. They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues. We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb. One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas. They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders. They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that. If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.
This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula. I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course. As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit. They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen. Which they did. Delaware is a very corrupt state. If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked. There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt. If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.
But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit. One Kathleen Davies. The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections. One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS. While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed. Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions. NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out. It had to disappear. We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires. But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe. It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements. But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies. Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact. I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.
Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office. This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.
She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.
Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor. What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts. By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year. There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.
Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.
All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law. But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school. Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether. Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this. Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way. As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September. That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.
At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies. If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here. This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District. As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:
515 Oversight and revocation process.
(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.
(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.
Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner. Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware. Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing. Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality. They are what outside interests want. These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.
This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity. As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this. As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors? I believe it is time to find out. It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances. Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware. If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.
In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:
Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell
Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos
Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli
Tom Wagner, the elected Delaware State Auditor, issued a new September 30th inspect report from his office today. The original report, issued on May 4th of this year, was conducted by Kathleen Davies who was put on leave in Mid-May. Oddly enough, this report does not even appear on the state website but this was emailed to many state employees and legislators this morning.
I am presenting both the new report and the original so readers can compare the two.
To view the original point, go below:
In comparing the two documents, there are significant changes. Missing in the new report is a letter from Thomas Wagner to Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky. In the new report there is a new Appendix where the auditor’s office gave each charter school or district that received a finding to respond to the initial report issued on May 4th. There are key edits of certain sections. Especially when it revolves around the Delaware Department of Education. The changes appear to fluff up the DOE in certain instances. Almost as if the DOE had editing power over an audit approved by the State Auditor.
I resent this whole new report and the attempt to demean Kathleen Davies. No logical explanations have been provided by anyone on her situation. This smear campaign by the State Auditor’s office and the Office of Management and Budget needs something more than some bogus explanation provided by Ann Visalli. Wagner needs to step up for his employee who did her job faithfully for many years. Instead, just this new report alone looks like he is majorly kissing up to the Delaware DOE, led by Secretary Godowsky, who serves at the pleasure of Governor Markell.