Thursday, March 31, 2011

Refuting the Lies Told By Plymouth School Superintendent Dan Tyree to a Radio Station Audience

Dan Tyree
I was tipped off that Plymouth School Superintendent Dan Tyree would be addressing concerns related to the roofing materials controversy via a local radio talk show this morning.  I'm glad I tuned into the program; otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity to refute the lies coming from this charlatan's mouth.

The first words out of Tyree's mouth were boldface lies.  Not realizing that I was listening from afar, he began by making fun of my surname and pretending not to know how to pronounce it, even though we had communicated several times.

He laughed at his own joke after referring to me as "Miami Vice."  Tyree had also recently initiated a friendship request with me via Facebook and sent me a private message asking if I'd keep anything he told me confidential.  I soon realized that he was not interested in pursuing the truth and deleted his two-faced friendship from my Facebook account.

After attempting to convince the radio listeners that I was linked to a particular school corporation critic, he went on to accuse me of plagiarizing my Plymouth-related blog posts.  The big whopper of a lie that Tyree told was that he had sent me public records to prove that the school corporation legally bid the roofing materials.

I imagine that Tyree was shocked when I called into the program to confront the falsehoods that he told.

First of all, Tyree knows that he never sent me a single public document.  I had requested the bidding documents, but after corresponding via email and speaking with the assistant superintendent on the phone, they agreed to make the documents available for me to inspect, and I was to call when I would be in the Plymouth area.

Secondly, I relayed the fact that I wrote my own blog material, and that when I first raised this issue, I had never heard of the woman whom I was accused of being associated with.  Tyree accused me of cutting and pasting my material from this woman's writings; however, the only thing I have ever cut and pasted were the Indiana Code references for the laws that have been flaunted by the school district.

Tyree's attempt at attacking the messenger, because he didn't like the message, fell flat.  How can anyone trust a man who will be so bold as to lie about someone in an attempt to discredit them?

Tyree continued spinning a web of lies and deceit.  He told the audience that the materials were put out for public bid.  Had he forgotten about the February 3, 2011 email he sent me in response to my question about the no-bid purchase?

I had asked him to clarify information that Assistant Superintendent Rodger Smith relayed to me via the phone wherein he said that the school district did not purchase the materials via a public bid process, but rather from the GSA procurement process.

"We purchase products through state-sponsored programs whenever we can," wrote Tyree.  "The Governor has suggested strongly that we use state bid programs whenever we can."

This was after I was told by the assistant superintendent that they were "required" to buy proprietary materials for the type of roof they had.  This is total hog wash, and they know it!

Blaming the governor won't work either, Mr. Tyree!  

Tyree told quite a number of stories about the no-bid purchase to the radio audience today, and I'm here to set the record straight.  I do appreciate the publicity, because I'm getting more hits from the Plymouth area than I can keep up with because of it.

After being confronted with the facts that he paid exorbitant prices for roofing materials that could have been purchased for much less, Tyree tried to justify the expense by saying they purchased a quality roof and that he would offer no apologies for spending more money for it.  He made an analogy of purchasing a Lincoln rather than an inferior model car.

Are you really that dumb to believe such a thing, Mr. Tyree?  It just isn't true, but I suspect you already know that.  You're caught in a position now of having to explain to school patrons why you made such a foolish purchase.  

I responded by saying that the same quality products could have been purchased from Johns Manville or Firestone for much less while supporting Indiana business interests.  Plymouth tax dollars were sent to an Ohio-based roofing manufacturer while Indiana manufacturers were shut out of the competition.

Let's assume for a moment that it was a legal purchase.  Giving you the benefit of the doubt, it still doesn't clear up the stupidity of paying $108,000 more for two products that could have been purchased from a Indiana-based manufacturer with a stellar reputation for turning out top-of-line roofing products.  Imagine how much could have been saved for the entire purchase!

In addition, I offered information that Johns Manville has three manufacturing plants in Indiana, and had plans to build an additional plant, but because they are being shut out of the competition by these nonsensical no-bid purchases by school corporations, it was consequently moved to a neighboring state along with hundreds of jobs.

Firestone, a world-wide manufacturer of roofing products, is also being shut out of the competition, and its world headquarters is located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I explained to the listeners that this issue is currently a topic of concern with Indiana business executives, who have turned to legislators and government officials for help in eliminating what they deem to be unfair business practices.

Taxpayers are also complaining since they are the ones who are continuing to get hosed.

I don't expect people like Dan Tyree to agree with everything I say, but is it too much to expect that he at least act like a professional in public?  I was appalled by his unprofessional behavior and arrogant attitude, and it's just more proof that educators are not competent or capable of running multi-million dollar corporations.

When Tyree and others treat taxpayers rudely by attacking them personally, and when they make unsound business decisions, such as the one described, it's time to reconsider the idea of replacing them with real businessmen.

If Donald Trump were running the Plymouth School District, I have no doubt that Daniel Tyree would be fired!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plymouth School Board Member Admits to Conflict-of-Interest for Roofing Project. Taxpayers Ask for Investigation

Todd Samuelson
Taxpayers who foot the bills at Plymouth Schools are questioning an admitted conflict-of-interest involving one of its school board members and a Tremco roofing project.

The project has recently come under fire after it was discovered that $400,000 worth of roofing materials were purchased without going through a required bidding process.

Taxpayers say the materials could have been purchased for much less had the superintendent and school board followed the state's strict bidding laws.  They wondered why school board members would be willing to spend money so foolishly in these tough economic times.

Could the answer be found in the November 18, 2010 school board minutes where it was noted that School Board Secretary Todd Samuelson admitted to a conflict-of-interest as a partner with Umbaugh & Associates?  According to the minutes, Samuelson's firm was hired to prepare a PowerPoint presentation touting the Tremco roof job proposal, which leads to other important questions.  How much did the firm get paid, and just how involved are they in this project?

"Dr. R Smith, Mr. D Schoof and Mr. Doug Copley, of Tremco Corporation reported on the proposed project.  A PowerPoint presentation was made by Dr. R Smith which was prepared by Umbaugh & Associates outlining the proposed capital improvements....Member L Pinkerton made a motion to approve the Project Resolution.  Member L Holloway seconded the motion...Secretary T Samuelson again voiced his conflict with Umbaugh & Associates as an employee and stated he was still going to vote given this association with Umbaugh & Associates was stated into the record...The motion passed unanimously," read an excerpt from the minutes.

That's pretty brazen since Indiana Statutes define Conflict-of Interest as a Class D felony.

IC 35-44-1-3 says that "A public servant who knowingly or intentionally has a pecuniary interest in; or derives a profit from a contract or purchase connected with an action by the governmental entity served by the public servant commits conflict of interest, a Class D felony."

The law also requires that a public servant put their conflict-of-interest disclosures in writing.
"A disclosure required by this section must (1) be in writing; (2) describe the contract or purchase to be made by the governmental entity; (3) describe the pecuniary interest that the public servant has in the contract or purchase; (4) be affirmed under penalty of perjury; (5) be submitted to the governmental entity and be accepted by the governmental entity in a public meeting of the governmental entity prior to the final action on the contract or purchase...and (6) be filed within fifteen (15) days after final action on the contract or purchase with the state board of accounts..."
Clearly, Todd Samuelson should have recused himself from any discussion for the roofing project, and he most certainly should not have cast a vote in the matter.

This blogger has requested public records from the school district that may shed light on a few of the other details, including how much money was paid to Umbaugh & Associates, and whether or not this is the only conflict-of-interest involving Samuelson and his partnered firm.

A description from Samuelson's company's website makes it clear that a conflict-of-interest for the type of work that his firm is engaged in would be blaring.

Experience

Todd A. Samuelson works with cities, towns, counties, school corporations, libraries and utilities on comprehensive financial planning, bond issues and economic development. He also assists numerous clients with budgeting, forecasting and strategic planning.

Samuelson worked with White County, Indiana on an alternative energy economic development project which will become the largest wind farm development in Indiana. In addition he has worked on economic development packages in Whitley County, Indiana for Steel Dynamics; a county corrections complex and strategic planning for Elkhart County, Indiana; and bond issues for major facility improvements for the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Samuelson has provided expert testimony at local and state public hearings on capital projects, tax increment financing (TIF), property and income tax matters and issuance of tax-exempt bonds. He also has been a speaker on numerous occasions for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT), the Association of Indiana Counties, the Indiana Association of County Commissioners (IACC), the Indiana Library Federation, the Michigan Library Federation, the Michigan School Business Officials and the Indiana League of Municipal Clerk Treasurers.

Samuelson is a member of the Indiana, Michigan and Illinois CPA Societies and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. A 1987 graduate of DePauw University, Samuelson was a senior accountant and financial advisor with Arthur Andersen & Company in Chicago before joining Umbaugh in 1989. He is based in Umbaugh’s Plymouth office.
Taxpayers intend to ask the State Board of Accounts to conduct an audit into the matter, and they also intend to ask the Attorney General to look into this matter as well as other areas of concern.

After reading through public board minutes for the district, I was surprised to read that a Plymouth taxpayer was subjected to public humiliation for filing complaints with the Public Access Counselor after she was denied public records.  How shameful that taxpayers in Plymouth are treated with such disrespect, especially since they are the ones footing the bills for these types of shenanigans.

Perhaps a little sunlight should be shed on these and other grievances.  It's true that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and based on what I've been hearing from worn-out taxpayers in Plymouth, the school district needs a heavy dose of it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plymouth School Taxpayers Prepare to Challenge School Officials for Wasting Tax Dollars & Shutting Out Competition for Roof Projects. State Board of Accounts Asked to Investigate Alleged Illegal Activity by School Officials.

Superintendent Dan Tyree
I'm still getting numerous hits for a story that was published March 10, 2011 entitled, "Plymouth Schools Shut Out Indiana Competition While Shamefully Wasting Scarce Tax Dollars!"

I've also been receiving phone calls from angry Plymouth taxpayers who all have an array of stories to tell about alleged corruption within the school district involving alleged illegal computer tampering by school officials, violations of bidding laws, and conflicts-of-interest, to name a few. 

While those stories are being investigated, I wanted to take a closer look at the roofing materials controversy since it's one that is currently raising eyebrows from onlookers and news reporters throughout the state.  Taxpayers are also considering filing a legal challenge to the controversial actions and have asked the State Board of Accounts to investigate.

Surely Superintendent Dan Tyree is aware of prior controversies involving the no-bid, anti-competitive roofing scheme that received intense scrutiny a few years ago from taxpayers, state auditors, government officials, and state legislators.  It resulted in a legal opinion being issued by the Attorney General that declared the actions of school officials to be illegal.  Officials from the Wilson Education Center declared that they were abandoning their illegal practices.

So, why has this problem reared its ugly head again in Northern Indiana?  Why is Superintendent Dan Tyree willing to risk his reputation by placing the school district in legal jeopardy with the purchase of $400,000 worth of roofing products without putting them out for public bid?

Why is he illegally shutting out competition by using an out-of-state corporation to make this controversial purchase?  Why are other superintendents in Northern Indiana reportedly doing the same thing using the same out-of-state vendor?  Why wouldn't they want to save money in these tough economic times? 

I've already directed Tyree to state audit reports, including one conducted for the Wilson Education Center, one of nine ESC's in the state, but apparently he's thumbing his nose at hard evidence and ignoring repeated warnings that he may be opening the school district up to enormous legal liability.

Taxpayers aren't the only ones complaining.  Roofing manufacturers have entered the fray, and are contacting state officials to ask them to look into several projects throughout the state that were not properly bid, including the ones at Plymouth High School, Lincoln Middle School, and Jefferson Elementary School.

One Indiana roofing manufacturer has enlisted the support of state legislators to put a stop to these alleged illegal practices, and those efforts seem to be gaining momentum at the state house despite attempts from out-of-state lobbyists to thwart the endeavors.

Taxpayers have already been down this road.  State auditors and the Attorney General have already declared these types of actions to be illegal.  The following excerpts are taken from the audit report for the Wilson Education Center dated February 5, 2010.

"It is the opinion of this Office that school corporations are covered by the public work statute and are subject to the procedures for bids and quotes whenever they contract for public work even when the public work is contracted through an educational service center.  The process required to award a contract for a particular public work project is determined by the cost of the project except in the event of a declared emergency.  The definition of 'public work' includes repairs to a roof, including those made to a portion of a roof."

The report goes on to discuss Indiana statutes as it pertains to roofing products since some schools were purchasing roofing materials separately from service and installation. According to the State Board of Accounts, school corporations are not exempt from state bidding laws for these purchases as outlined in the audit report.

     "The Wilson Education Center adopted specifications approved by the AEPA...to solicit bids for various bid categories for products that do not include the cost of installation (products only).
     The Invitation to Bid requires bidders to be able to provide products and service of their products in all of the AEPA Member States.
     No information was presented for examination showing that a process was in place which ensured the multi-state service requirement did not eliminate bidders that were qualified to provide products and service of their products within the State of Indiana except for the 'office/classroom suppplies' bid category.
     IC 5-22-5-3 (Public Purchasing Law) states: 'A specification must do the following: (1) Promote overall economy for the purposes intended.  (2) Encourage competition in satisfying the governmental body's needs.
     IC 5-22-4-7(b) states: This article applies to the purchases made by a cooperative purchasing organization."

We can stop here for a moment to highlight the fact that Superintendent Tyree did not follow these statutes when entering into a purchase agreement for $400,000 worth of roofing materials that could have been purchased for much less had the items been put out for public bid.

It is also clear that he cannot pass off his careless actions by claiming that the governor encourages schools to participate in buying co-ops whenever possible.  The purpose of volume purchasing contracts is to save money, not waste it, and the use of these programs are subject to Indiana's public purchasing laws as outlined by the State Board of Accounts.

Mr. Tyree, you and your cohorts are not above the law no matter how you want to spin this story!

The lengthy audit report used an example from a Penn High School project to show that this type of practice is illegal in Indiana.  Auditors compared several non-bid items from the project to determine the amount of money that could have been saved had the project been legally bid.

It should also be noted that Penn-Harris School officials used the same out-of-state company to illegally purchase its roofing materials that Plymouth school officials are currently using.

State auditors concluded, "Our comparison showed that the Weatherproofing Technology, Inc. (WTI) [TREMCO] had the lowest costs for purchases subject to the price survey for 42% of the project costs.  However, Johns Manville (JM) had the lowest costs for 58% of the project costs and lower overall project costs in the amount of $68,122 as shown in the following schedule..."

The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township also engaged in illegal bidding practices according to the same audit report.  This project notably referred to roofing materials only, the same practice currently being employed by Plymouth school officials.

School officials were admonished by auditors in the report.

"However, no information was presented for examination showing there was a documented process whereby a comparison was made between bidders' discounted prices for 'roofing materials only.'  Without a price comparison in place, we were unable to determine that an objectively measurable basis was used to allow the contract to be awarded to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder in accordance with IC 5-22-7-8 and/or IC 26-1-12-4(b)(8) and to encourage competition in accordance with IC 5-22-5-3 and/or IC 36-1-12-4(b)(1).  The following is an example of 'roofing materials only' purchased by MSDWT that were not subject o price comparisons..."

Where are your price comparisons, Mr. Tyree?  It appears that none were made; therefore, taxpayers have done a job that should have been performed by school officials.  A price comparison made for two products that you purchased revealed that $108,308 could have been saved on those alone!  Imagine the cost savings had a cost comparison been done and the items put out for public bid!

There's no excuse for this type of mismanagement.  No amount of public spin can extract Plymouth School officials from the web of deceit that they are caught in.  Taxpayers have already asked the State Board of Accounts to investigate these questionable actions.  Stay tuned...