Saturday, February 18, 2006

School Board Association Backs Greed, Corruption

If the Tennessee State School Board Association is teaching by example, then the lessons for our children and our 100-plus state education boards to learn are that Greed is Good, that taxpayers are endless supplies of money and personal benefits.

I've posted here before about Dan Tollett, the former head of the TSBA, whose actions led to an investigative state audit in which nearly 2 dozen findings detail hundreds of thousands of dollars he received which may violate the law and the TSBA's own policies. More on that here.

But as noted this week by blogger Bob Krumm in several posts, the problem continues to simply expand and grow and feed the good ol' boy corruption like hogs feeding at the trough. Krumm notes:

For example, the leaders of the Tennessee School Board Association would have seen that, in the midst of statewide political scandals, and right after an audit found that a million dollars in public money had allegedly been used for personal purposes, it wasn't a smart time to just do more of the same.

But no, they couldn't help themselves. In an apparent mix of arrogance and political tone-deafness, the TSBA's Board of Directors appointed as replacement for the man who allegedly stole a half million dollars, that same man's personal lawyer: former Senator Bob Rochelle.

We've covered all this before. But there's more to the story of arrogance and tone-deafness at the TSBA.

There's the issue of TSBA (read that to mean "taxpayer") funds being used to pay for former Executive Director Dan Tollett's personal attorneys. One of those attorneys is no less than John Lyell, who in 1998 was named by the Tennessean as "the number one lobbyist in Tennessee."

Then there's the conflicts of interest. Simultaneously Dan Tollett was receiving a pension from TSBA, even while he was employed full time by the newly created, and wholly-TSBA-owned subsidiary "Center for Educational Leadership." Tollett was also the administrator of two of TSBA's divisions, the Risk Management Trust, and the Unemployment Compensation Trust at the same time. Quadruple-dipping. Because of his interconnected and overlapping (not to mention, probably illegal) areas of responsibility, "he was in a unique position to oversee, initiate, and control transactions between all the entities."

All of this was brought out in the State Comptroller's audit released in January. That report precipitated Monday's hearing before both the House and Senate Education Committees. And that's when stupid got even stupider. "
"Which brings me back to my original point about self-awareness. Tennessee's ruling political class is afflicted with a severe self-awareness problem. They hire connected cronies perilously close to the corruption they're supposed to fix. They keep corrupted officials on to manage their affairs. They hire the most insider of political insiders to fix a problem created by political insiders. And then they're dumbfounded when people question those actions. Heck, they should have at least had sense enough to know that you don't hire a crony legislator, in the midst of a state-wide legislative scandal that's all about corruption, connections, and cronyism."

Well said and Krumm's posts are well worth reading.

The same TSBA board recently praised Hamblen County's Board of Education as the best in the state. I suppose birds of a feather flock together. Let the taxpayer beware.


  1. prachy3:31 AM

    Birds of a feather flock together.

    The Hamblen County Board of Education and TSBA really do flock together...

    The audit of TSBA says that Dan Tollett "retired" from TSBA and was then immediately hired by TSBA under a separate contract for his services so he could draw a "retirement" check and continue to draw a "work" check from the taxpayers at the same time.

    The Hamblen County School Board did the same thing for a special employee at about the same time. Bob Howard "retired" from HCBOE and was immediately hired back under a separate contract for his services at pay of $52,000/year.

    For 3-1/2 years, Howard drew full "retirement" checks (unknown total) plus taxpayer-provided "work" checks (total of $182,000) at the same time.

    Face it, HCBOE members and TSBA directors don't think there is anything such as impropriety. If someone says you can "get away with it," then they do it.

    Impropriety? HCBOE and TSBA don't know the meaning of the word. Double-dipping? No such thing if it goes to a good-ole boy (or girl).

  2. And that's just one of the more obvious instances of how the local board behaves and drains dollars away from education programs.

    Zero accountability from the public and voters make such deceptions possible.