Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Was Kathy Korte bamboozled by the good ol' boys?

Was APS School Board Member Kathy Korte, link, bamboozled by the good ol' boys on the Albuquerque School Board?

Shortly after she was elected, I suggested that she was no match for the good ol' boys that run the APS; ... squashed like a bug was the metaphor that came to mind at the time.

I didn't want to be right, but it would appear that I am.

She had an opportunity to vote for increased transparency in the APS and voted instead to provide "only what the law requires"; the law being the lowest standards of conduct acceptable among civilized people.

The board recently voted on their open meetings rubric.
There is a rubric in state law; it is called the Open Meetings Act.
Like all laws, local bodies can adopt stricter but not more lenient standards than the state.

The "state law" on agendas is clear;

"Except in the case of an emergency, the agenda shall be available to the public at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting."
The "ethics" on agendas is just as clear;
Interest holders are entitled to all of the notice that they can be given.
The School Board could if they wanted, create a policy that requires agendas to be posted 48 hours in advance or, 72 hours in advance or, as they are built.

With all the lawyers in the room, at least one of whom claims to be an "open government" lawyer, it is strange that Kathy Korte came away from the discussion with the impression that the law would have to be changed before stakeholders could be given more than 24 hours notice on public meetings.

She wrote;
"I did some research on the open meetings act, including talking with FOG officials. 24 hours notice for posting an agenda falls within the law. Lawmakers must change that, not APS. ... I sought answers from FOG and journalism professionals. I voted based on my research."
If her "research" including reading the law, or asking an honest lawyer to read it for her, she would know that lawmakers determine only minimum notice, not maximum.

I think perhaps her research was limited to advice from a few people on the board, one of whom is a FOG "official". I can easily see him bamboozling her into voting to limit stakeholder access to board meetings to the bare minimum required by law.

She manifest even more confusion about the law when she wrote;
"Sometimes APS does post agendas earlier, if all parties presenting to the Board give the Board Services office their information. For example, the district relations agenda was posted Friday before last Monday's evening."
She is apparently under the impression that Friday to Monday is three days, when in fact, it is only one. Notice on Friday for a meeting Monday is 24 hours notice.

When Korte wrote;"24 hours notice for posting an agenda falls within the law," she violated the student standards of conduct, of which she is a role model. I reminded Korte that she was an executive role model of a standard of conduct that requires defending one's character by doing more than the law requires, and less than the law allows. She did not respond.

She wrote that several other members of the board were concerned about the COSO Analysis and Review. I asked her who, and she won't tell me.

I asked her, her intention with respect to acting on the findings of the COSO R&A.

She wrote; it is to wait until the findings in the COSO R&A "come up in discussion" to deal with them.

She wrote;
"When topics relating to the COSO report... arise, then I will address the related COSO recommendation. That's my method."
She will wait until;
  1. the absence of a periodically acknowledged code of conduct
  2. the absence of HR processes to address nepotism conflicts of interest
  3. apparent lack of accountability for the protection of district assets
  4. a lack of process to notify the State Auditor of the discovery of any violation of a criminal statute in connection with financial affairs
  5. lack of background checks on those in fiduciary positions
  6. a lack of communication of management responses to conduct/ethical lapses
  7. the Districts practices and processes are reactive in nature (v proactive)
  8. board policy and procedural directives are outdated and inconsistently written
  9. employee standards of conduct are sparsely worded; due care of District property is not stated
  10. no code of conduct is formally acknowledged (not since the leadership abandoned its obligations as role models of the Pillars of Character Counts!)
  11. the whistle blower program is highly utilized (but due process is still being denied to every single one of the complaints)
  12. management culture shows varying emphasis on integrity and ethics
  13. no formal metric for measuring management responses to problems
  14. District management's approach to allegations of nepotism, cronyism and protection of property needs improvement
  15. it is unclear whether the District has reported to the State Auditor discoveries of cash fraud and property losses, or that they intend to rectify this finding in the future
  16. a perception that management is ineffective or ambivalent about enforcing standards of conduct, and enforces rules inconsistently
  17. the school board is not focused on evaluating the effectiveness of "the tone at the top" (yet they have extended Winston Brooks contract three times, three years into the future)
  18. the district does not publish a code of conduct
  19. significant turnover in the Chief Financial Officer position (the district argued "individual circumstances" for turnover; the record indicates otherwise)
  20. District assets are not protected from unauthorized access or use
  21. the District doesn't benchmark supervisory ratios
  22. overtime for managers is not tracked
  23. specific delegations of authority are not defined
  24. individuals hired for similar positions with similar education receive widely different compensation
  25. there is no management-related training program
  26. no systematic confirmation that required performance reviews are actually done
  27. it is unclear whether specific promotion criteria are documented or understood (the Council of the Great City Schools auditors wrote; administrative evaluations are subjective and unrelated to promotion or step placement)
  28. promotion criteria do not include adherence to behavioral standards
  29. HR policy does not require scrutiny of job candidates with frequent job changes or gaps in employment history
  30. there is no stated policy requiring employees to report criminal convictions
  31. credit checks are not done on employees with fiduciary responsibilities who handle cash
  32. activity level objectives are not periodically reviewed for continued relevance
  33. a lack of specific performance objectives in activity areas
  34. there are no formal processes for periodic risk assessment or root cause analysis of recurring issues
  35. I. T. back up plans are not periodically tested
  36. formal identification of risks at the activity-level have not been performed
  37. information on the function of internal controls has not been developed
  38. APS does not maintain an Ombudsman function
  39. no formalized process for employees to provide recommendations for improvements
  40. suppliers, customers and others are not made aware of District standards and expectations
  41. such standards are not reinforced in routine dealings
  42. improprieties are not reported to appropriate personnel
  43. no documentation of closure of complaints made to the Service Center or to the Superintendent
  44. no clear metrics showing top management is aware of the volume or nature of complaints
  45. formal monitoring of internal controls needs improvement
  46. personnel are not periodically required to acknowledge compliance with the code of conduct
  47. the Internal Audit Department is understaffed and therefore consumed with property issues and activity accounts at the expense of systematic issues of risk.
  48. the District does not conduct formal self-assessments of control processes
  49. no evidence of a single process or clearinghouse for tracking issues and corrective actions
"come up in discussion" before she will do anything about any one of them.

Well guess what Ms Korte, they're not going to come up.
If these issues ever came up in honest discussions,
they wouldn't keep coming up in audit findings.

Stakeholders and interest holders in the APS have a right to honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence for administrators and board members within their public service. If a politician or public servant cannot, or will not provide for those standards and for that accountability, they should resign.

"And that's the best I can do for you whether you think
it's good enough or not." she wrote.

Sometimes your best just ain't good enough.

photo APS website
cc Korte upon posting

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Could you add to your list:
- No leadership program in place.
- No program in place for employee suggestions.

The report mentions both these items. r.