Archive for the ‘Conflicts of Interest’ Category

Salt Lake Tribune rolls over and takes a nap on HB 477

"That Becky Lockhart sure makes great cigars!!"

What in the world are the editors at the Salt Lake Tribune smoking?

Yesterday afternoon they published a ludicrous article filed by reporter Lee Davidson under the headline: Legislature votes to delay open records law changes.  Davidson, working together with Robert Gehrke and David Montero collected copious quotes from legislators who all support the bill (HB 477) to conceal government records from the public, and not a single one from anyone who can see this maneuver exactly for what it is, a tried and true tactic that will leave HB 477 in place while handing a fig leaf to the governor in order to avoid a veto.

The public isn’t fooled – as of this moment, 282 acid comments have been posted by readers below the Tribune‘s story with more coming in every second – so what exactly is the problem with the Tribune‘s editors?

Once again, I’ll try to make it simple.

1. HB 477 has passed. Continue reading

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Howard Stephenson and PCE’s Judi Clark, pushing the vouchers you can’t refuse

Don Corleone

Virtual Vouchers and the key to the public treasury

Early in 2010 when the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) pirates began planning their 2011 campaign to sneak education vouchers through Utah’s back door, they knew they’d need a little more than a hijacked charter school association and a lobbying hitman to get their legislation passed.  Two strategies were crucial.  The first would be to split their wishlist into as many different moving targets as possible, but the second would be to have a legislator who could be trusted to shepherd the whole project to conclusion.

Utah Sen. Howard Stephenson - photo: Brian Nicholson, Des. News

After Sheldon Killpack, the Utah legislator and charter school go-to guy was suddenly indisposed last spring, PCE would be forced to turn to Utah’s lobbyist/legislator godfather, next to whom PCE/UAPCS lobbyist Chris Bleak is a mere piker.  I’m talking of course, about Howard Stephenson.

Stephenson, the Utah Taxpayer Association Don who is famous for never having seen a piece of pro-business legislation he didn’t like, and whose answer to the immigration debate is a full-employment act for bounty hunters funded by the runaway slaves themselves, wasted no time.  With PCE’s Judi Clark doing the drafting and Killpack’s abandoned campaign war-chest to draw from (Killpack donated an astonishing $4,000 to Stephenson in 2010), the result was a fistful of bills friendly to charters and hostile to school districts. Continue reading

Utah legislators Greg Hughes & John Dougall: BFFs setting up the Real Gravy Train at UTA

Word on the street is that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Board is the hot place to be in these recessionary times.

Business is hard all over, especially if you have no knack at all for it to begin with.  UTA Board membership solves that problem.  Board membership means you’ll get inside information on where the next phenomenally useless and costly rail hub will be planted, and if you didn’t buy property in time near the hub, no problem, because your board membership means that you can swing other board members to move the hub closer to where it will benefit you.  No kidding.  This actually has happened.

But what if people were to go, hmm…  Might there be some conflicts here?  We’ve already discussed conflicts in Utah, and how those with the conflicts have an uncanny ability to NOT recognize them, but just in case, Utah Representative and UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes and Best Friend Forever John Dougall (also Utah rep, just not on the UTA Board, yet) have figured out a solution for that too.

Secrecy is key

Companion bills SB 222 (Sponsor: Bramble) which guts the measly conflict of interest language currently in UTA’s statute, and Dougall’s own HB 477,  which erases public access to government records through the Government Records and Management Act – GRAMA – ensure that UTA board members will have a free pass to profiteer. Continue reading

Parents for Choice one step away from obtaining Vouchers Plus

A Cruel Joke

Merlynn Newbold

Parents for Choice in Education‘s Charter School funding bill, HB 313, sponsored by Merlynn Newbold, passed out of the House Education Committee this morning by a narrow margin. So score one for the resurrected Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and their KSL.com hire, über-lobbyist Chris Bleak, tasked with getting vouchers passed this session, come hell or high water.  It’s not for nothing that he’s been running a full time shop at the Capitol for the last four months running.

But the path to this morning’s rigged vote on the bill actually started more than four months ago.  More like 14 months ago, when PCE, tactically and conceptually trashed from its 2007 voucher campaign, decided it needed a facelift to make another run at vouchers.  The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) was selected as the ideal victim vehicle, but first there was the inconvenient matter of its director, Steve Winitzky, being a wee bit hostile to PCE.  Suddenly, late in 2009, two vacancies appeared on the UAPCS board when two board members resigned for unrelated reasons. PCE saw its opening and pounced. Continue reading

PCE pirates “search” for Captain to steer UAPCS rig

After Cap’n Steve Winitzky was marched down the Parents for Choice in Education/Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (PCE/UAPCS) gangplank back in May – followed shortly thereafter by his hapless crew – it became obvious that sooner or later, he’d have to be replaced. Kim Frank had certainly performed a useful function as an accomplice, but beyond that, the skill set was somewhat limited.

Finally, nearly 3 rudderless months after prodding Winitzky with the cutlass, PCE/UAPCS issued a job announcement.  On the UAPCS website?  Surely you jest.  On monster.com?  Not bloody likely.  CareerbuilderUtah Non-Profits Association?  Oh, let’s just cut to the chase.

The job announcement was posted on that site better known as Utah’s very own homegrown version of Craigslist, somewhere between the used sofas and homeless parakeets.  That’s right: KSL.com. Continue reading

PCE pirates strike back

It seems that Utah Gravy Train has struck a nerve at the new UAPCS/PCE brain trust.

Accidental Lobbyist/UAPCS Interim Executive Director Kim Frank sent out an uncharacteristically verbose email to the charter faithful this week, denying the voucher bodysnatcher charge and insisting that there was nothing screwy about the cancelled member vote.  She helpfully attached minutes from UAPCS board meetings between November 2009 and April 2010. Unfortunately, minutes from the May and June board meetings remain AWOL.

The newly liberated minutes cleared up at least one mystery: in his interview with Paul Rolly, UAPCS board chair Mark Cluff mentioned that the board “openings had been well known for months, but only three people applied. The two who were appointed were chosen unanimously by the existing board.”

We’d been wondering about that third person and what happened to her.  Was she eliminated in a runoff vote? Hardly.  Remember, these people have a mortal terror of losing elections (Robyn Bagley knows how it feels) so when they cannot avoid them by canceling them completely, they set them up so that they face no competition on the ballot.  They’re all about choice except when there’s a chance they won’t be chosen.  Don’t accuse Utah Gravy Train of making up a conspiracy where there is none – it’s all there in black and white in the minutes. Continue reading

Questions, we’ve got questions

Paul Rolly’s story on the hostile takeover at the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) was a good start.  Here’s a little more …

1. UAPCS Board Chair & PCE Board Member Mark Cluff told Rolly that the annual meeting was simply moved to October so that the bylaws could be re-written.  But this is not a simple delay.  It is a cancellation.  By precedent, UAPCS held its annual vote in May, prior to a fiscal year that begins in July.  If there was a vote in May 2009 and no vote in May 2010, then by definition, the vote for the 2009/2010 year was cancelled.

2. What exactly is the horrendous problem with the UAPCS bylaws that requires six months to repair and necessitates the cancellation of a simple unrelated vote on a board of directors?  If member schools can’t even understand it, perhaps Rolly could ask Cluff to explain?

The association just held its annual statewide conference this week at the Provo Marriott, two entire months after the April member meeting where the cancellation of the May vote was first announced.  What about that venue was not seen as convenient and by whom?  Perhaps the PCE/for-profit consulting junta running the UAPCS board was a tad nervous about whether or not they’d be endorsed unless they had time to run a campaign?  How much time would they need?  Would six months spiced with a little fearmongering about upcoming anti-charter legislation do the trick? Continue reading