When the Charter Amendments were being contemplated, one of the questions asked was, "Should a small rural county pay its County Administrator more than the Governor gets paid?" With the passage of the Charter Amendments and the hiring of Mike Thomas, that problem was fixed ... we only paid our new County Manager about as much as the Washington State Treasurer instead of the Governor. But apparently that's not enough because three weeks ago our Council gave Mike Thomas a 7% raise, about half of it retroactive to the beginning of the year (see image at the bottom of this post). That now makes our County Manager more highly paid than anyone in State government except for the Attorney General and the Governor.
And speaking of fiscal responsibility, wouldn't it be nice if someone ... anyone ... involved in the financial chaos of our county public institutions finally spoke up and admitted the faults that are so plain to outsiders?
Meet Bill Evans of Lopez who has been serving as the Lopez/Decatur Superintendent of Schools. Last year, the Lopez School District tried to get voter approval for a $15.5 million bond measure to renovate the Lopez school campus. The bond measure got crushed at the polls, and during the election campaign, the school board received howls of criticism for being financially irresponsible. At the next election, a slate of financial reform candidates ran for office ... but paradoxically, they lost. The "bond board" stayed in office.
In the past few days, the Lopez School Board announced the resignation of Bill Evans. Below is the text of Bill Evans' resignation letter. It's a doozy, but I hope it inspires other public servants to be honest with the public.
Thanks, Bill, for doing the right thing.
The District has suffered some unfortunate shortcomings of late in our human resources and financial oversight functions, involving potentially significant negative impact upon financial, management, and other resources. IRS reports and required fund deposits were not made in a timely manner, employee records have not been kept accurate, and payroll and benefits calculations have not been consistently accurate. The late IRS reports and deposits have resulted in potentially serious fines and penalties. The inaccuracy of personnel records has resulted in significant inconvenience and financial impact to individual employees. We have incurred significant consultant costs in attending to the problems we have discovered.
We have diligently and conscientiously attended to each negative issue as immediately as possible upon discovery. I am very impressed with the efforts of our current District Office staff and consultants in these efforts. We are moving forward with appropriate interventions and strategies to mitigate the negative effects of all of this, including aggressively appealing to the IRS for possible abatement of the fines and penalties.
Throughout my career as an educational leader I have tried to lead with integrity and an allegiance to an ethic of service. A cornerstone of that ethic of service is the conviction that I am ultimately responsible to the organization for its sustainability and continued growth. The buck does, indeed, stop with me. I am deeply sorry that these shortcomings have happened to the District on my watch and I accept responsibilities for them.
It is clear that the part-time model for the District Office that we have tried hard to implement, is not working as effectively as we have needed. We need to look at other options. We are currently aggressively exploring the idea of outsourcing appropriate elements of our financial requirements to experienced personnel and resources at one of the several ESD’s that have such technical services to provide. We are also looking at a different model of District leadership. In the face of ever-increasing demands of bureaucratic accountability and state and federal mandates, some serious decisions will need to be made about how to efficiently provide the management support this organization absolutely needs, while also striving to maximize resources to focus upon the academic side of the equation. It is clear that we must find the right service model for our District Office, to avoid future issues such as this.
To support full consideration of multiple options for a new model of leadership, and to provide flexibility to implement appropriate options, I have adjusted my long-term retirement plans and I am recommending to the Board that you accept my resignation from the District, as soon into SY 2014-15 as it takes to successfully hire and transition to a new Superintendent. It is the right thing to do for the District. By my stepping aside, the District will have an opportunity to seek new leadership, with a different skill set than I have to offer. We need a Superintendent whose skills include a high degree of financial savvy, to complement the outsourcing of financial services and provide the necessary oversight of that outsourcing. I pledge my full energies, for as many months as it takes into SY 2014-15, toward assisting in the transition and the restructuring and rebuilding of the District Office. It is my strong recommendation that we initiate posting for a new Superintendent/Finance Director position as soon as possible within the next few weeks.
I take responsibility for the current shortcomings and very much regret their happening on my watch. I believe my recommendations represent a positive action plan toward a preferred future. I recommend serious consideration of these recommendations and I hold great optimism for the opportunities afforded the District by these recommendations.