by Dr. Richard G. and Ruth B. Juve
Connoisseurs attend George’s diner. Rabble-rousers do not eat at George’s, and scandals do not occur in Meredith. The supply of political news is unprecedented and spread at the speed of light in my favorite eating house. The diner has old 50's charm. Squeeze in and join me for the gossip.
These are taxing times. The public has an appetite for news. I thought of myself as a peaceful reformer. The Sunshine Law RSA 91-A attempted to keep the public in the know. Our school board is a virtuous one and definitely not involved in facilitation payments. There are no allegations of bribery in connection with the biggest-ever bus contract. No one is piously going about denouncing sleaze and promising to tackle corruption "wherever we find it." No one is challenging the board on conniving behind closed doors or over the internet or the phone to ratify a secret school bus contract that was not competitively bid. Our School Board members are public officials. No one is alleging that they are engaging in doggy business practices. No one wants to harm relations between the School Board and the public.
Still suspicions linger about the motive to avoid competitive bidding and the embarrassing deletion of emails, lack of detailed minutes or failure to publish an agenda or advertisement on the transportation bus contract. When you fail to advertise an agenda item you are engaging in wrongdoing. And when a person knowingly destroys an email or any information with the purpose to prevent it from being inspected or disclosed that person is guilty of a misdemeanor (91-A:9)
The Board may face a tougher reception at the annual District Meeting. The Chairman may attempt to lecture the public on his efforts but Assistant Superintendent Temperino (she costs $101,000), Supt McCormack and the School Board have engaged in a practice that undermines the rule of good business. Their actions have jarred the public’s nerves. They have perpetrated a frivolous act which makes it harder to trust them. For what we pay Temporino and Mc Cormack, we would expect a much higher level of competency in long range planning and thorough contract investigation and negotiating, not simply rolling over like couple of whipped dogs to accept whatever the bus company is pleased to offer the town--if they can't perform to a higher level, the town should consider replacing them or cutting back their lucrative salaries to adjust to their lower level of competency.
If we get less, we should pay less! We want good governance and not controversial and frivolous acts. We ponder and discourage frivolity. The cynics say that it is business as usual. New Englanders and especially good citizens of Meredith are penny-pinching freedom loving people. They tighten their belts so that they can provide a superior education to their children. The wealthy may be able to go along with the secret deals but suspicion has been aroused. Faith has been broken. Doubts have been raised. We wonder if decisions were made above board. We don’t know if financial inducements were explicitly traded in return for an honor.
The public just sees that the contract was a flagrant sale of our faith in the administration. The episode will not go away, and the scrubbing and omissions of the Board minutes, along with deletions of emails only suggest that there is a murky world of board financing and deal making regarding a nearly one million dollar bus contract and an 18 million dollar school budget.
The Superintendent of schools (he costs us $133,000 per year) can not locate the Non-Default Certificate. This certificate must be provided by the British Contractor as a good business practice and is a part of the School Board’s discharge of its fiduciary duties. It is an exercise of due diligence by the Board in checking the vendor’s track record. It is a required part of standard practice in bidding all forms of contracts in both the public and private arenas. It substantiates one portion of the vendor’s qualifications to meet the standards necessary to be awarded a contract for the safe transportation of school district’s children.
Furthermore it substantiates whether or not other school districts have been satisfied with the vendor’s performance. Finally, if the vendor is unable to certify its non-default, the school district t can investigate reasons for the vendor’s inability to provide it. It is one element of disclosure by the vendor. This non-default statement is national in nature and not just for the state of NH. At the last School Board meeting, Ms Temperano, said she would have it. The Superintendent cannot locate it. Certainly our high priced administrators can do better than this.