GEORGIA SCHOOL PRINCIPAL RESIGNS UNDER OFFICE-DEPOT PROBE
GEORGIA SCHOOL PRINCIPAL RESIGNS UNDER OFFICE-DEPOT PROBE
2009-06-16 at 3:39:48 pm #22070
Principal Resigns Under CRCT Probe
CBS Atlanta Investigates: School Waste,Uncovers Millions In Wasteful Spending
– A CBS Atlanta investigation has uncovered a $1.5 million waste of
school children’s money.Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman
exposed more abuse of your tax dollars and confronted school board
members about how they’re wasting your money.We’ve learned that not
only did Fulton County schools hire one of the most expensive companies
to provide the district’s school supplies, but now they’re being
School board members may be turning their heads, but we’re not turning ours.
county’s elected school board members slipped into meetings, ran into
bathrooms, and rushed out the door- doing just about everything they
could to dodge our questions.“I’m sorry, I need to get into the meeting
right now,” said board member Linda Schultz.“I don’t have a comment at
this point,” said board member Ashley Widener.“I’m returning from the
bathroom to do my job,” said board member Katie Reeves.What got these
school board members on the run?
A CBS Atlanta investigation
first exposed the school board’s questionable decision to hire Office
Depot for their school supply contract.Simple math showed that was a
costly choice. Another company offered the exact same supplies for $1.5
million less.”That’s the problem. They are not looking at these
contracts. And that’s what makes them look bad and they don’t want to
talk about it,” said independent office supply contractor Rick
Marlette. “They don’t want to see it. They don’t want to know about it.
They don’t want to hear about it.”If that wasn’t enough, with the help
of Marlette, CBS Atlanta has now identified more than 100 items the
school district paid more for than the general public- a clear
violation of their contract.Fulton County paid $249 apiece for 3
printers. The exact same printer cost the general public $199.Fulton
County also paid more for pencils, paper, and batteries. Marlette found
the school district was overcharged for 145 items.”The total comes out
to more than $3,400,” said Marlette.
That wasn’t the only
problem. The school district was also charged more than the
contractually agreed upon price for 95 items listed in Office Depot’s
bidThis isn’t an isolated incident. Office Depot is under investigation
in Georgia and across the country for over-charging state agencies for
hundreds of thousands of dollars.When we requested interviews with
Fulton County’s school board members, they all refused to speak with
us, so we went to the school board meeting to get answers.“Susan hale
has all the information for you,” said school board member Katie
Reeves.Board member Lynda Schultz got police protection from our
questions.“I have an appointment with a parent,” said Schultz as police
walked her to her car.
CBS Atlanta News tried to show the entire
board evidence the school district is being overcharged, but instead of
stopping, they tried to dodge us, asked for police escorts, and
directed our questions to school spokesperson Susan Hale.“We made a
statement with Susan Hale,” said Schultz.The problem is these school
board members are the ones who voted to award the contract to office
depot, one of the highest bidders – a decision that cost taxpayers $1.5
million.“The entire rubric is available for you from Ms. Hale,” said
Reeves.“But you voted for this. Why won’t you be held accountable,”
asked Saltzman.“I’m always held accountable,” said Reeves.
School board member Catherine Maddox, dodged our questions as well.
have made a statement and Ms. Hale has that statement for you,” said
Maddox.If all of the statements made sound too much alike, CBS Atlanta
knows why.They were told to avoid our tough questions.Instead of
answering our questions, they walked and talked in circles, and
directed us to Fulton County’s school spokesperson Susan Hale.
Atlanta got our hands on an email from Hale documenting their goal of
avoiding our questions about this waste of your money.Hale is paid with
your tax dollars to give the public information, so when we couldn’t
get any answers we wanted to know why.”You straight up told them not to
talk to us,” said Saltzman.”I did not tell them not to talk to you. I
said I did not, I’d prefer that they didn’t. That they had a business
meeting to run. And that’s what I did,” said Hale.But Hale’s scheme to
side-step our questions is outlined in an email which we obtained
through the open records laws. In it, Hale advised the board members
“the goal is to get away from [Wendy] (and her cameraman) as soon as
possible without seemingly running away.”Running was just what these
board members did – into bathrooms, and out the door. Some used police
protection in an attempt to evade us.
Hale’s advice continues,
“she will try to surprise you and catch you off balance. It will be
tempting to answer her questions. She will try to bait you and get you
riled up.”"When they are elected officials, why would you advise for
them not to speak with us,” asked Saltzman.“This was not the
appropriate time for them to speak. We did provide a statement, which
is a response,” said Hale.Hale advised board members to “keep from
saying anything on camera that could come across as flustered, nervous,
or guilty looking.”In fact, they were told not to say anything at all,
except “Susan hale has provided us with a statement.””How much money
are we paying you for you to provide us with information,” Saltzman
asked Hale.”You may file an open records request for that information,”
said Hale.So we did. And how much does it cost you to pay Hale to keep
information public information private from the taxpayers?
Hale’s salary is $76,000.
Superintendent Dr. Cindy Loe has now ordered an internal audit of those
pricing discrepancies and she’s demanding Office Depot refund the
schools money.But now, the school board isn’t just asking for a refund.
They may be ousting Office Depot from their school supply contract.”We
may decide that we want to go with another supplier,” said Loe. “Every
penny counts and the board takes this very seriously. Obviously we’re
looking into this.Loe is now organizing an action team to review the
entire school supply contract as a result of our report.”We are very
concerned that we need to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars,”
said Loe. “As soon as you made us aware of your concerns we started
looking into it and we expressed our concern to Office Depot.That
review also has the full support of school board chairman Linda
Bryant.”After we do this investigation, we will definitely sit down and
fix those problems,” said Bryant.
Bryant sat down with CBS
Atlanta News to thank us for our investigation and to promise the
taxpayers the school district will get their money back.“This board has
been and is, good stewards of the taxpayers money,” said Bryant. “We
try to make sure that our children get every dime in the classroom. If
there is a problem, we are going to fix it.The team will report back to
the school board in 60-90 days.We have made multiple attempts to
interview Office Depot, but they have declined our repeated requests.