Sunday, July 20, 2014

Phil's Still In the Dark on Expenses

Phil, Phil, Phil - you just don't get it, do you?

You are the President of the Board of Education, a trained lawyer, and you still haven't identified the central problem behind the Board members out of control spending?

Yes, you say that you are drafting a new policy on Board members "compensation and expense standards."  The draft policy will be discussed at the July 22, 2014 meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee for Review of Board Processes and Guidelines on Board Expenditures.

You can't even get past the title without making a mistake.  Compensation has no place in the policy.  You don't set the compensation standards.  Compensation is a matter of state law.  You are confused if you think that the expense reimbursement is part of the compensation package.  Its not.  BOE members are part time, not full time.  And therein lies your second mistake.  You don't let part timers spend taxpayer money as if they are employed full time.

Now, I've looked over your proposed policy, and, yes, I realize that you think this is just one of those pesky little administrative matters that doesn't need public input.  Here is your third mistake.  You are spending taxpayer dollars, and the taxpayers need to know how public funds are expended.  Every year we hear how the school system needs more money.  Our teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies, and kids come home from school with stories for example, that the school ran out of copy paper, textbooks, crayons, whatever.  Please can we have some more?  

Sorry, Phil.  You are now leading a group that is in crisis mode.  You collectively have not demonstrated the due care you owe to the public.  Time to start from scratch.  Be careful.  Go slowly.

I've marked up your policy, since you seem so intent on going down this path, but here are some overarching principles that you should adopt.

1.  Increase the transparency of the process.  Expenses should be approved in advance by the full board during the public portion of the meeting.  No more hiding in a conference room to discuss.  After the expense is reimbursed, post the transaction on the website for the public to see.

2.  Bring your own lunch, drive your own car, and sleep in your own bed.  If you get hungry and forget your lunch - don't skip a meal, but don't expect the taxpayers to pick up the tab.  Limit the reimbursement to the cost of a sandwich - we don't need to pay for fancy restaurants, you just want your tummies to not rumble.

3.  Cut the credit cards.  Collectively, a spenders anonymous program seems more in order than this new policy.  Pay cash, or use your personal card.  You need to exercise discretion as you would for your personal expenses.

4.  Limit the amount of meetings to two per year.  You are part time, right?  Go to what you absolutely need to attend.  For the rest?  Try Skype, use Adobe Connect, Google Chat - whatever technology, we seem to have a lot of it and its time you used what we already have inhouse.  And after that?  Spend your own dime, not mine.

5.  The approved  events list needs to be cut down.  This looks like you are still eating out on the taxpayer dime and having fun.  Go to the event, but leave before dinner or pay for your own. Again, if you really believe these events are important, I suggest limiting this to two events per member.  Only one member needs to represent the Board at any event.  Remove the County Executive Ball.  That leaves a list of 21 events and so if each of you attends two events, that only leaves three without an MCPS presence.  If you need to really go to the last three?  Pay your own way.

6.  Don't pay for home offices.  Who in 2014 doesn't have a computer, telephone, or the internet at home?  Who doesn't carry their own cell phone?  And, how do we know that the taxpayer funded home internet will only be used for official business?  We could probably scrounge up a laptop or IPAD from MCPS inventory, again, we seem to invest in a lot of technology already, no sense in buying more, but the rest?  You can always come in to Carver or go to your local library for internet access.  We don't need to have you set up at home for your part time job.

7.  Dispute resolution is not needed.  Denials of expenses or attendance at events when approved by the Board should not be appealed.  

8.  Finally, you also seem a bit confused about whether this policy also applies to Board staff.  Wrong again.  Board staff are not elected, and while some seem to have trouble with expenses and reimbursements, they need more than a paragraph (your paragraph 9), and should have their own policy.  More work for your committee, but its taxpayer money and we deserve to see that the spending is in line with the public good.

Phil, I stand ready to work with you but honestly?  You have a lot of work to do on this policy before you can hold the Board members accountable.  

In the interim?  The policy should be no reimbursement.  Pay your own way or stay at home until you can be responsible for expending taxpayer money.


  1. Your mark-up draft is great! I hope the BOE considers your changes.

  2. Is this within the attention span parameters?

  3. All Board of Education members and Board of Education staff should be required to follow the same procedures as all other MCPS employees.

  4. why the tone of sarcasm

  5. Why in the draft document to the Board does Phil Kauffman say they don't cover "pet care". Not only is the notion of covering "pet care" absurd, the statement seems out of sync with all the stuff they are talking about. Did some board member actually submit for reimbursement of Pet Care and we missed it in our review of Board Member charges? Or did some BOE member inquire as to the availability of Pet Care coverage?

    Bob Astrove

  6. Did you notice that the CSAAC gala is a permitted event? Why not the IVYMOUNT gala? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Board's chief of staff is on the CSAAC Board of Directors?

    Ikheloa is the current Vice President of the CSAAC Board of Directors and has served on the Board since 2004. Mr. Ikheloa is a veteran educational administrator with three decades of experience, mostly in public education (kindergarten to 12th grade). He currently serves as the Chief of Staff-Ombudsman to the Montgomery County Public Schools

  7. Here was the cost for the CSAAC gala last year: $175 per person, $325 per couple.
    Seriously???? If the BOE wants to go to the CSAAC gala they should pay their own way.
    And if they REALLY want to help individuals with autism, they could start by voting to provide a FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION to all students with disabilities in MCPS!


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