We, the taxpayers ofDeKalbCounty, have only ourselves to blame for the financial shenanigans and the failings of DeKalb County School System.
The difficulty, though, is that it is a full-time job to babysit the very people who are supposed to be managing our school system.
In last week’s Board of Education meeting, the BOE was asked to approve a $150,000+ expenditure for cold storage for the school nutrition program. A “motherhood and apple pie” expenditure with no real explanation for why that is needed – especially since all DeKalb County Schools have very large walk-in freezers and walk-in refrigerators. Further, there are many school buildings sitting empty that still have their electricity turned on (documented right here on this blog). That means their walk-in freezers and walk-in refrigerators are available for temporary food storage.
Setting those facts aside for the moment, it turns out that Boulevard Cold Storage (the “lowest responsive and responsible bidder”) is not and never has been registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
BOE member Sarah Copelin-Woods asked for an address for the business and was told it would be forthcoming. The requested address is not listed in the agenda for the March 12 meeting.
So we looked it up. The Street View photos accompanying Google map of the address make it look like a deserted and possibly abandoned building, not a thriving business.
This is interesting because Charles Waken, supposedly president of Boulevard Cold Storage, also operates Waken Meat Company, with the registered agent at the Boulevard Cold Storage location. Also located there is Waken Co. Three companies at one address that looks deserted.
Further, with more than 15 cold storage companies listed in the Atlanta area it is hard to believe that only one other company completed a bid on business from DeKalb County School System. It is especially odd that a large national corporation like Nordic Cold Storage, 4300 Pleasantdale Road, Atlanta, GA 30340 made rookie mistakes like not attaching references and Georgia Immigration documents.
Nordic Cold Storage is a registered corporation. Boulevard Cold Storage is not. Who forgot to ask for that bit of documentation?
Here is a very interesting article about cold storage issues in Boston schools. We would not be surprised if what is reported in this article is also happening right here in DeKalb.
Our interest piqued, we went to the DeKalb County Schools’ website > Departments > Purchasing. On the list of bids awarded there seemed to be far fewer than there should be. Each BOE meeting features a parade of department heads asking for approval of the “lowest responsive and responsible” bids. Further, while DCSS lists current open bid requests, they do not archive closed bid requests on the website.
The online list of bids awarded is so poorly done that it is impossible to make any comparisons or conclusions based on what is online. DCSS really should find someone on its staff who understands and can work properly with Microsoft Excel. Meanwhile, using Microsoft Office we converted the published list of awards into a somewhat understandable document.
Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions: DCSS Purchasing Bids Awarded 2006 – 2013. Find the list in the DeKalb School Watch archives.
We find it extremely interesting that of the nearly 200 companies listed as being awarded business by DCSS, approximately half of those companies are not registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. So, are those sham companies? And why are there multiple companies awarded a contract for the same item? Were all of those companies identical in their bids? So a single award was split between them?
At least one of these award dates goes back to 2006; many go back to 2007 and 2008. And some of those seem to be in perpetuity. One award date is even ahead of the curve: 2013. No competitive bidding?
For several years this blog has been calling for complete transparency in DeKalb County Schools’ financial matters – ALL financial matters. Our requests have been blithely ignored. The most recent $41 million shortfall – brushed off by Superintendent Atkinson as “something messed up, something happened” – makes it clear that experienced and qualified adults are needed to provide oversight for the billion dollar business that is DeKalb County School System.
A $41 shortfall is a “mistake.” A $41,000,000 shortfall is incompetence at best and fraud at worst.
We can’t know which until ALL DeKalb County Schools financial matters are completely transparent. Remember – transparency is not a threat to someone with nothing to hide.