Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Sometimes it's not so nice to get the personal treatment: like when you're a Very Important Person being tailed by journalists snapping your picture and writing unflattering stories about you.

Most times, though, the personal treatment sounds like it might be quite nice. Like when you're trying on clothes at an expensive store, and the saleslady knows you have the cash to afford them. Or, when you're trying to get a job with an employer who belongs to the same philanthropic group as your father; your resume makes it to the top of the stack and you score an interview...in large part because Pop is a personal pal. On the convenience scale, I imagine a good personal shopper would rank just a notch or two below the household washer and drier; indeed, I am in a long-term, loving and committed relationship with each of my Kenmores. And for your personal honey-do's, a handyman is always a good thing - er, I mean person - to have around.

I suppose that, depending on the circumstances, one could have a personal back-scratcher, a personal accountant, a personal assistant; every service can be sold or bought and paid for. Indeed, they teach you in telemarketing training that so long as you smile, people will buy what you're selling. "Make it personal; let them hear the smile in your voice."

I haven't ever known the Gazette's education writer, Sue McMillin, to be much of a grinner...but frowning or otherwise, it's gotta be nice to have your own personal public apologist.

I sometimes wonder how word of my writing came to reach them; actually, I have to stop myself from thinking about it because it causes to make my head swell uncomfortably. So, never mind how the news traveled - what matters is that it arrived; and when it did, it was enough to illicit a joint response from Glenn Gustafson and Jan Tanner by way of their loyal mouthpiece, Ms. McMillin, who ran the story tucked away in a quiet corner of the Gazette's blogosphere.

I've researched this matter for eight months, and consider myself better informed than most of us on the outside looking in; so, let's parse out their statement, shall we?

McMillin states that the pizza contract originated in 1999 under Sodexo, and had been in place until July 2009 when it was finally sent out for bid. According to the Gazette, Dr. Norm Ridder's contract was year to year; Sharon Thomas' contract was for three years; heck, even members of the Board are elected for a four-year term. So, I gotta wonder - why was there a ten-year, no-competition arrangement with Jan's pizza company? Is their pizza so delicious, nutritious and inexpensive that there simply is no competition?

McMillin states that food service agreements typically are not matters for the Board to take under consideration; rather, they are usually an internal matter handled by the director of procurement (formerly John Elliott); does anyone else get a chance to give them the once over? Who has a regular familiarity with the details in this matter - the Board treasurer? Select members of the Board? Glenn?

McMillin mentions that the District has a similar arrangement with Sinton's Dairy; according to the accounts payable ledger, Sinton's received $700,000 from the District over a nine-month period last year. Now, please, do not misunderstand; I am not questioning the Sinton's contract per se...but think about it: we're talking about the milk that comes in those little personal-sized cartons: that is a whole lotta milk! Again, I am left to wonder: with food service contracts in such high amounts, why doesn't the Board review them every so often? Certainly, these food service contracts are of enough value to warrant at least occasional Board review and oversight.

Part of the reason I haven't looked at the Sinton's account is that, in contrast to Jan's pizza, (a) the milk deliveries went to all the schools in the District; and, (b) checks were cut on a once-monthly basis. , Jan's pizza was delivered to only a handful of schools: Doherty, Coronado, Mitchell, Mann, and Wasson. It is my understanding that at D#11, teachers, contractors, vendors - all are paid once monthly; in stark contrast, however, Jan received payment for her pizza much more frequently; at times, weekly. Why?

On several occasions, the Gazette has done features on one Anthony Mand (Coronado, class of '77; more on him in an upcoming post); most recently, marveling at his ability to recover from a financial situation that threatened to bankrupt him just one year ago. His company, "Mand Made Pizza," provided pizza to Palmer and North, and was paid once monthly; but a closer look reveals that in 2003, Mand formed a pizza partnership with Carl and Mark Tanner. On October 1, 2009, that partnership, DPMD, LLC, was suddenly dissolved - within days of my first post on this matter. How will Jan explain the circumstances surrounding this?

McMillin quibbles about when Tanner actually began to act in an official capacity for the Board. Tanner's official capacity with the Colorado Springs School District #11 Board of Educators commenced in November 2004, when Director Eric Christen was stripped of his duties as Board treasurer (more on this in a later post). The board treasurer accounts for all money in the district, reports to the board on expenditures and budget transactions and signs checks for the district. In a move described by the Gazette as "rare, but perfectly legal," Jan was specially appointed to assume these duties as treasurer.

According to the Gazette at the time, "Board President Sandy Shakes said Tanner tries to educate the board about policies and make sure policies are followed. 'She's going to check out the facts,' Shakes said...Tanner said an outside volunteer such as herself has more time to serve as treasurer than a board member. She estimated she puts five to six hours into the job in an average week." Tanner additionally gave reports to the public, as she did in the fall of 2006 at a public meeting to encourage voters to approve lifting a cap to allow the district to spend money from a $131.7 million bond. So plainly, she held considerable sway, despite the fact that she was a non-voting member of the Board.

Unlike Glenn Gustafson - who testified at length in Denver in opposition to legislation calling for greater financial transparency for school districts (more on this in a future post) - Tanner has repeatedly claimed to be a proponent of transparency and improved accountability. "Transparency is a good thing and people are going to ask questions...and they should. I hope people don't get all up in arms before they get their questions answered."

Well, actually, so much doesn't add up that I have a slew of questions. If indeed this purported conflict of interest document exists, then Glenn Gustafson personally drafted it; and if indeed Jan signed it, then it is proof positive that they were both fully aware that a conflict of interest existed long before Jan's election to the Board. That they didn't bring it to the Board's attention can only mean that Glenn and Jan, both separately and in concert, arranged to conceal the details in this matter from the rest of us. Why was this handled contrary to established Board policy? Why was Jan's public disclosure made in private? Jan's term on the Board doesn't end until 2011...and her husband's pizza enterprise has been a current event for more than a decade: so why was this document filed away somewhere? Why do they need time to produce it? Why was it never submitted to the Secretary of State? Now that questions about it have been raised, why hasn't either of them been forthright about it? Could this be the reason why Jan was specially appointed treasurer to begin with??

Through McMillin, Jan explained "that she didn't make a public announcement about the conflict of interest document because she didn't feel it was necessary because 'everyone' in the district knew that her husband owned the franchise. She still thinks that was the right call, but ensuring that the public knew might have staved off the blogger's attack (emphasis added)."

People: this most certainly is not about might; this is about right...as in the opposite of wrong. In documents then, as in documents now, Ms. Tanner is listed as a District #11 parent, citizen volunteer, and bookkeeper for "the family business"; but nowhere is there any mention of Jan in connection with pizza - and certainly none that would indicate the family business had anything to do with pizza...or even food, for that matter. Verily, I assure you that stumbling across the word Cheezer's, in all the volumes and volumes of documents I've perused over the past eight months, was the literal equivalent of a finding a needle stashed deeply inside of a haystack. It is insufficient for Jan, as an officer in her family's business, as a public official, and especially as a candidate for election, to now feign insouciance and make believe it was all simply common knowledge:

"Why, whatever do you mean? What pizza? Oh...do you mean this pizza, here? Ha ha, silly me - it's been there so long, I'd forgotten all about it! Besides...don't you know who I am? Don't you know who my husband is? Really, this is ancient history to everybody who's anybody."

Well, call me nobody. This arrangement was not above-board. I know it. You know it. Jan knows it. Glenn knows it. Tony knows it. Everyone with first-hand knowledge of it knows it. Anyone who happens to read this blog knows it. All of us who know about this knows it.

Really, it is just all so clear.

1 comment:

  1. Spydra, I have similar concerns. I am concerned that, let's say all was above board (no pun intended) before Jan joined the board, after Jan joined the board, why wasn't a public disclosure made AND here is my concern: were any D11 employees happen to know Tanner's family owned those businesses FEEL compelled to continue contracts? Also, could you tell us more about Mand? Who is this guy, the connections, why did he or D11 really stop the contracts? Can you ask him?