Seattle Schools superintendent could lose job over audit revelations

Feb 25, 2011

New details emerged today over allegations of internal fraud and management 'failures' within Seattle Public Schools, and they may cost Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson her job. Her firing is one of the options the school board is considering in the wake of reports delving into financial mismanagement of a district contracting program.  

The Seattle Times broke the story, and reports School Board President Steve Sundquist says "all options are the table," when asked if the revelations could lead to Goodloe-Johnson's ouster:

In an appearance before The Seattle Times editorial board, Sundquist said the findings in the newly released report "certainly undermine my confidence in the effectiveness of the management."

Reporters Linda Shaw and Steve Miletich write Sundquist would not directly answer whether there is a plan to buy out her contract, but told them the superintendent is working with a lawyer. 

Sundquist says he expects to the board to meet in executive session on Tuesday, and make some sort of public announcement Wednesday. 

Latest Investigation Cites Management Failures

Today's report was prepared by attorney Patty Eakes, a former prosecutor with King County, and presents a detailed examination of problems with the district's small business program, intended to assist minority and women-owned firms compete for contracts. The report compiled interviews showing poor managerial oversight, potentially fraudulent actions by the program manager, and a culture where potential whistle-blowers feared retaliation, despite protections in place.

KPLU's Charla Bear reported earlier this week about the Washington State Auditor's investigation into the program, which cited amounts of up to $1.8 million were spent on services not received or work that could have been done by current staff. 

Laying Responsibility

Eakes' investigation found Goodloe-Johnson and her Chief Financial and Operating Officer Don Kennedy to have limited knowledge of the troubles with the contracting program during the time in question, 2007 through 2009. According to The Times' story:

(The report) also found no evidence that anyone told the superintendent of their concerns about the program or its manager, Silas Potter, beyond an unfavorable review of the program in 2009 that led the district to reprimand Potter and strip him of part of his authority to award contracts.

But it did assert their responsiblity for not paying closer attention to a program whose practices were known to have been questioned by outside analyst, The Sutor Group, in 2009.

The report found oversight failures by former Facilities director Fred Stephens, who had responsibility over Potter. 

According to Seattlepi.com's Chris Grygiel and Scott Gutierrez, Potter resigned June 7th last year, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Stephens left the district, and now works for the U.S. Commerce Department.

A secret investigation by the King County Prosecutor's Office is ongoing.

Goodloe-Johnson began her work in Seattle as superintendent in 2007, and later hired Kennedy to lead the district's financial operations.