HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

There's Something Rotten In The State of the BOE - EC

Yesterday's Eau Claire Leader-Telegram's lead story, page one. Headline: "Memo Skirted Board".

Former Eau Claire school board president Carol Olson signed and backdated a document at former Superintendent Bill Klaus' request that would have provided Klaus with a portion of his retirement payments before he was eligible to receive them. On February 5, 2007, the school board approved changes to Klaus' contract allowing him to become Northstar Middle School principal, but several board members who voted on the agreement said issuing the stipend to Klaus before age 55 and his retirement wasn't part of the deal.

Just before his move from superintendent to Northstar Middle School principal in July, Klaus, 53, asked Olson to sign a document stipulating he begin receiving those payments - totaling about $45,000 annually for five years - starting August 1.

The document signed by Olson was dated February 5, the same date the board approved Klaus' contract changes allowing him to become a middle school principal.

However, Klaus and Olson admitted the document WAS PLACED IN KLAUS' PERSONNEL FILE SOMETIME IN JUNE OR JULY AND BACKDATED, MAKING IT APPEAR AS IF IT WAS PART OF THE ORIGINAL AGREEMENT.

This was reported in a blog recently -- which prompted Klaus to threaten to sue.

It wasn't until the Leader-Telegram obtained the original document after filling out an "open records" request seeking information that this came to light.

Several board members said they were unaware of the document signed by Olson until it surfaced in October amid questions by the Leader-Telegram and district educators.

Board members said they were stunned when they discovered the documents signed by Olson had been made a part of the agreement without their knowledge. Several questioned why Klaus sought Olson to sign the document WHEN SHE HAD BEEN OFF THE BOARD FOR AT LEAST TWO MONTHS.

District Personnel Director Jim Kling said granting Klaus or any other administrator stipend payments before retirement is "highly unusual" -- Highly unusual??? How about downright illegal???

Klaus and Olson, of course, state that "they did not intend to circumvent terms of Klaus' contract." Instead, Klaus said their actions were a result of a misunderstanding about when he was to begin receiving stipend payments.

If this were true, why the subterfuge? Why is it that administrators of every ilk think they can treat us like mushrooms - keep us in the dark and feed us bull shit?

Klaus sunk himself deeper in the quick sand by saying: "In hindsight, we probably should have handled this differently. But the intent was not to do something illegal or secretive."

Again -- why the subterfuge and secretiveness?

And who does this remind you of???? This whole thing smells to high heaven of our present federal government administration's total disregard for the law.

So here's the ugly truth -- except for a few good souls, the Eau Claire Board of Education is another example of "Good- Ol'-Boy-ism".

The school board president himself fought to delay the release of the above.

And what will become of all this? Probably nothing. Business as usual.

Here is a part of the blog that got Klaus "steamed":

Folks,

The BAD NEWS:
The timing of the information I just posted on the blog (http://eauclaireschoolsmatter.blogspot.com/) is not good, but the BOE has only itself to blame for delaying the release of documents for MONTHS in hopes that President O'Brien could do The Big Skedaddle before any of this was made public.

The GOOD NEWS:
The recent posting has NOTHING to do with SEX.

The BOTTOM LINE:
Former Superintendent Klaus and Former BOE President Olson collaborated and created a document in the summer of 2007 that was intended to allow Dr. Klaus to collect his early retirement stipend while he was still working as a Principal. This document was backdated to Feb. 5, 2007 to agree with the dates on his legitimate contract. The document was inserted into Dr. Klaus' personnel file and then was used by him to try to increase his compensation. During the Fall of 2007 the current BOE members became aware of this attempt to falsify Board action and manipulate Dr. Klaus' compensation. It appears that NO DISCIPLINARY action was taken as Dr. Klaus is clearly still employed by the ECASD in a position of trust and high remuneration as a Principal. No legal action appears to have been taken against former BOE President Olson who created, backdated and signed a document that falsified action of elected officials.

Here's Maria's blog, in full: (well worth reading!):

They're Baaaaaaack!!!
The following post is LONG and goes back to events of several months ago only because definitive information verifying the "rumors" has been unavailable until recently. I believed that it was important enough to wait until the proper documents were available and reviewed before putting information into the public domain. Sadly, what was "rumored" was fully supported by actual documents recently received.

The BOTTOM LINE:

Former Superintendent Klaus and Former BOE President Olson collaborated and created a document in the summer of 2007 that was intended to allow Dr. Klaus to collect his early retirement stipend while he was still working as a Principal. This document was backdated to Feb. 5, 2007 to agree with the dates on his legitimate contract. The document was inserted into Dr. Klaus' personnel file and then was used by him to try to increase his compensation. During the Fall of 2007 the current BOE members became aware of this attempt to falsify Board action and manipulate Dr. Klaus' compensation. It appears that NO DISCIPLINARY action was taken as Dr. Klaus is clearly still employed by the ECASD in a position of trust and high remuneration as a Principal. No legal action appears to have been taken against former BOE President Olson who created, backdated and signed a document that falsified action of elected officials.

Accountability has flown the coop. Transparency is a pipe dream. Honesty is not part of the Core Values of the ECASD.


Just when we thought that Former Superintendent Bill Klaus and Former BOE President Carol Olson had done enough damage to our district and that they had "moved on", I heard rumors from community members in November 2007 (yup, 5 months ago) that they were doing some really naughty things! When I first heard this story I was absolutely flabbergasted as it sounded truly beyond belief. Again, even though my harshest criticism of our former leadership would include words like "incompetent" and "arrogant" I have NEVER believed that Klaus or Olson were downright greedy, unethical and, guilty of illegal acts. I was wrong.

Anyway, the short version of the story I heard in November was the following:

1. That former Supt. Klaus was expecting some form of "stipend" ($2,000/month) that he had in his position as Supt. to be continued in his position as a Principal which he started in July 2007.
2. That in July he spoke with former BOE Pres., Carol Olson, who apparently agreed that he was entitled to this compensation.
3. That in July 2007, after her tenure with the BOE was fully completed she signed and backdated some documents that would allow this stipend payment to continue.

Since this "news" seemed to be well circulated in the public I contacted Dr. Leary, Mr. VandeWater and Mr. Kling who would know about any such agreements or payments. I asked them to please "clarify this and put to rest this rumor as being NOT TRUE so we can get staff and citizens back to the business of focusing on the business of our district and with students." The silence was deafening. No response at all.

A few days later I received a phone call at my home with an ECASD "caller ID". I no longer have school age children at home so this was a little unusual. I answered the phone and the caller said: " Maria, this is Bill Klaus. I just got a phone call from a local attorney offering to defend me in a lawsuit against you." I asked him why he would sue me and he said that the attorney had just read him an e-mail from me. Hmmm....

The BOE was informed of this event on the day it happened (Dec. 3, 2007). On Dec. 6th I wrote another e-mail to follow-up with Dr. Leary, Mr. VandeWater and Mr. Kling that contained the following:

How does an e-mail from a citizen asking about serious legal and ethical questions regarding a current ECASD employee and the former Pres. of the BOE result in a not-so-thinly-veiled threat of legal action against the person asking the question?

In our telephone conversation Dr. Klaus did confirm that a document regarding his compensation was prepared in July/Aug. 2007 and signed by Former BOE Pres. Carol Olson (a timeframe when she had absolutely no legal authority for such action). He further stated that the date she signed on the document was Feb. 2007 which was a time that she was Pres. of the ECASD BOE.

Clearly, the actions of Dr. Klaus and Ms. Olson will be viewed by the public as an abuse of their former leadership positions in the ECASD. Any further erosion of public trust in the ECASD would be terribly destructive. However the response by the current leadership of the ECASD and the BOE has the potential to demonstrate to our community an absolute commitment to the expectation of honesty, fairness and transparency. (I ask you to consider the theoretical response of the leadership of the ECASD Administration and BOE to discovering that a teacher attempted to manipulate/increase their compensation in actions similar to those of Dr. Klaus and Ms. Olson.)

I think that it is clear that the seriousness of this has elevated and deserves a response. I respectfully ask the following:

1. Who else received a copy of the e-mail I sent to you?
2. Were any other ECASD employees involved in this incident?
3. Since these actions are now the subject of growing public discussion and dismay, what is the response to our community by the ECASD leadership and BOE?

I can assure you that I am completely committed to looking to the future of our district. Because of that, I think that it is crucial that leadership errors from the past be dealt with in a timely, fair and transparent manner.

Both Dr. Leary and Mr. VandeWater lateralled the ball to Mr. Kling who never responded at all.

Shortly after this my father died and I was out of town and busy with family and the Holidays and I did not do any additional follow up until January 2008. At this point I was aware that the LT and others were asking for copies of documents related to Dr. Klaus' compensation but they were all being stonewalled by the ECASD Administration and BOE leadership (Pres. O'Brien to be precise). Multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were filed with the district with no response or additional delays. Attorneys here in Eau Claire as well as Madison were consulted and the taxpayers of EC will be paying for all this needless legal wrangling and avoidance of just telling the truth.

Here is another instance of where Conflict of Interest is harmful to good decision-making: Pres. O'Brien's employer, the Weld Riley law firm, is also the legal counsel for the ECASD. When a legal sticky wicket like this shows up the complications of obtaining an INDEPENDENT legal opinion about possible unethical/illegal activity involving persons who have worked for years together (Klaus, Olson and the Weld, Riley attorneys) is completely compromised.

FINALLY on the Friday afternoon before Spring Break word was that the documents were available to review at the ECASD Main Office. I have no doubt that all of this delay was due to Mr. O'Brien's desire to avoid having to actually make a few tough decisions during his tenure as President of the BOE that might involve some legal unpleasantness with Mr. Klaus and Ms. Olson, his former BOE buddy. I have repeatedly indicated that one of the past leadership failings of the BOE has been the inappropriate chumminess with ECASD Administration that has left them without the proper independence in decision-making.

Anyway, we have the documents. I am too much a technological lame brain to be able to post them on the blog. I am consulting some technological whiz kids who might be able to get them posted here so the rest of you can see the sad truth. For now we just need to keep hoping that we will keep making progress in other ways and the lousy leadership of the past will not insert themselves into the present anymore!

1 comment:

mukesh said...

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