Monday, October 15, 2007

Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest - Latest follies from Howell Schools

I got a major league test coming up in a few days, so there will be minimal posting activity here until after this is done.

As the residents here in Livingston County know, Howell's in the news again. This time over the dustup caused by the leaking of an email. I divided theses sections into three areas. Dumb, dumber, and dumbest.

Dumb - Vicki Fyke sent this email to three school board members. Wendy Day, Phil Westmoreland, and Dean Miller (known on the Argus storychat and Wendy's blog as "Puppet Watcher"). It listed some strategies that Vicki wanted considered to drive the super Chuck Breiner to resign so he would not have to be bought out of his contract if the board decides to fire him. I listed this under "dumb" for two reasons. 1. Based on the amount of legal knowledge I have off the top of my head(Disclaimer - I'm not an attorney nor have taken a labor law class), it is probably illegal if the board does this. 2. I do not understand why Vicki would send an extremely controversial email to Dean Miller who flat out despises her. There's nothing secret or confidential about emails. It's one reason I don't send a lot of them.

Dumber - Dean Miller was the individual who leaked the email to the press. There is no good reason for this email to have been leaked. Dean's reason was because Vicky was applying for the open seat on the board. It's a BS reason. Why? Because the board appoints replacements until the next election. There is no way Vicki would be appointed to the board by the current board. Sharing the emails with the rest of the board is appropiate, but sending this to the story was simply pushing to take a shot at an individual and give Howell some bad press. Sending the email was dumb, leaking it to the press was dumber.

Dumbest - How can anyone in a position of authority not read an employment contract before signing it? As the Detroit News states:

A firing could cost the district nearly $1 million because of a clause in the five-year contract terms that extends it annually unless the board takes action.

Breiner earns a $140,000 base salary with annual annuity and longevity compensation of $13,400, a $500 monthly car allowance, fully paid medical insurance and district-paid retirement contributions.

Another clause calls for a payout at termination that would give the superintendent the difference between his salary and his successor's during the first year.

"I think what that means is, if we hired someone at $170,000 and his salary is $140,000 we'd have to pay him $30,000," said Vice President Jeanine Pratt, the only member of the school board remaining from the 2005 board that approved the contract.

Although Pratt's signature is on the contract as the 2005 board secretary, she did not know about the clauses until two weeks ago, she said. A compensation committee made up of Dymond, Drazic and former board member Ted Parsons, along with legal counsel reviewed the contract and recommended approval, she said.

"I did not look at it and neither did anyone else, apparently. When I realized this two weeks ago, I couldn't believe it. I never had any reason to believe anyone would be dishonest with me."
"Do I feel horrible about it? You bet I do," she added.

Nobody on that entire board read the contract or discussed it? No attorney looked at it? Where's the oversight? There's dumb and dumber, but this is reserved for dumbest. It's not just Ms. Pratt there, but everybody involved with that contract. No wonder why Howell Schools are in so much controversy today.


Communications guru said...

You really missed the boat on this one. First, Vicki Fyke’s email should be listed as dumbest, and Miller’s email should not be on the list at all. In case people are not aware that Ms. Fyke is the leader of an anti-gay hate group that led a misguided and publicly embarrassing book banning campaign, with this email they really know what she’s about. Cleary, she should not be on the board.

I don’t see how you call Miller releasing a public document “leaking.” It’s my understanding that elected officials correspondence is subject disclosure via a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request. It would see he did the right thing. How can you call it leaking when you yourself said thee is “nothing secret or confidential about emails/”

Dan said...

1st. Count the votes (the cop was appointed). You know, I know, and everyone else knew that Vicki was not going to get appointed by the current members of the board. Especially after the email that was sent to the board.

As far as the leak goes, nothing productive came from it. It wasn't going to affect the appointment, and Vicki is not going to run for any office anytime soon from what I've heard. All it did was give Howell another black eye.
My comment on emails is that many people think they are private and many are intended to be. However it being a permananent record shows that it isn't always the case.

As far as the appointment of the cop, I don't know enough about him to have an informed opinion. Wait and see.

Communications guru said...

I have to disagree. I don’t see the good that can come from hiding a public document. You are probably correct that many people think emails are private, but they are wrong. Also, email never goes way even if you delete it.

I don’t see how exposing what Ms. Fyke is really about gives Howell a black eye. The fact that the board refuses to appoint a someone like her speaks volumes.

Unknown said...

KevinS is right about the email moving into the public domain once Vicki sent it to public officials, but that doesn't mean that Miller had to call the newspaper about it. He could have sent a reply telling Vicki it was a dumb idea and then moved on to other business. I agree with Dan that Miller's actions served no constructive purpose but did increase tensions, and was very unprofessional besides. There was never any chance of Vicki getting appointed to the board and with all the bad publicity she has had she probably couldn't get elected either. Also, Dan is right, it IS a bad idea. If implemented it almost certainly would have led to a lawsuit against the school board.

Kevin, I do have to wonder about why you liberals love to use the word "hate" so much. Just because someone has different values and opinions doesn't mean they hate you. Vicki has an unfortunate knack for sticking her foot in her mouth but that doesn't mean that she is evil, only that she has has never learned to be diplomatic.

Chetly Zarko said...

I'm somewhat with CG on this one, shockingly. Miller's "leak" is quasi-appropriate (really, the Board should publish all its e-mail regularly, so to the extent that this is a "special release," I guess there is a tiny criticism there), but should have been done in a better way. More importantly, "sharing it with other board members" I believe has not only FOIA questions attached, but also Open Meetings Act questions attached. Given the board is now 5 members (even with 6, three is still constructive quorum to deny a motion), if my count is right, a constructive quorum related to selecting two members is three. That means the email went to a quorum - any e-mail interaction they had on the subject of her e-mail would constitute a special meeting. In that vein, I do criticize Miller for not immediately sending it to Counsel and EQUALLY RELEASING it to the media. I'm on the media press release and open meetings announcement list - having not received this equally to the Livingston Press may be a violation of the Open Meetings Act notification requirements, and violates at least the spirit of the equal protection clause.

Still, Keith is right. The dumbest part of the whole show is the fleecing that the board took on the contract.

And CG, if you don't see the good that can come of hiding public documents, why the objection to my FOIAs. Don't answer - I already know that you'll say the union owns them privately. Another attempted fleecing of taxpayer resources by contract (but, fortunately, the contract doesn't say it, and a contract can't by law negate FOIA anyway).

tom barnett said...

I saw these hilarious Michigan T-Shirts. They show the entire state "For Sale" with the words "Call Governor for Appt"

These shorts are cool and I have ordered several for holiday gifts.