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 user 2009-06-16 at 3:39:48 pm Views: 73
  • #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.