Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Commissioner Ownby's battle with school officials over public records

Commissioner Ownby
Here’s a little bit of inside baseball that was partially discussed in public last night, but didn’t really make the main story, which you can find right smack here.

Anyhoo, the Knox County Commission during its Monday work session agreed to audit the school system’s Physical Plan Upgrades account, something that a number of commissioners say is nothing more than a "slush fund."

The move was actually spearheaded by Commissioner Jeff Ownby, who had to wait roughly 17 days for the school system to compile an open records request that he submitted regarding the account.

During Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Jim McIntyre took exception to the “salacious” allegations that the account was a slush fund and noted that “this is the first time I’ve head of some of the complaints.”

He also said if Ownby had a problem or question, then he should have called.

Well, Ownby isn’t too happy that the superintendent claims he wasn’t exactly kept in the loop. So, he sent me over some emails, detailing the records request.

You can find the emails right smack here.

Now, you’ll note, according to these emails, that Ownby on Feb. 24 asked for the records connected to three years’ worth of spending tied to the PPU account.  He submitted the request to schools finance director Rob McPherson.

Superintendent McIntyre
On Feb. 28, McPherson replied back to Ownby, noting that they were “coordinating” and “segregating” and doing all sorts of stuff to get him that information. Note, that McIntyre is copied on this email.

Ownby says McIntyre was well aware of what was going on.

Now, here’s where it gets ridiculous, and this is where the commissioner got upset.

Ownby didn’t receive his records until March 12 or 13. And, man, if you’ve seen what the school system gave him, you’d cry. Or laugh. Ownby called them “barely legible.” He’s being nice.

Thanks to mild mannered reporter, the good Gerald Witt (whose blog you can find right here), for providing copies of those documents.

You can find ‘em right smack here. (Bring a magnifying glass.)

If you can read them, you probably won’t be able to find any information about Northshore Elementary School. I’m told – and I’m not risking my eyesight to find out – that Northshore isn’t on there. Funny. That’s the info Ownby truly wanted.

So, I hear about all this, and kind of chuckle. Because, on Friday, March 14, I asked the county’s finance department for the exact same information, except I asked for it going back eight years – not just three. Do you know how long it took the county’s finance people to compile it?

Less than an hour.

I kid you not. They sent me over more than 400 pages of records, which included information on Northshore, and you can actually read them.



Unknown said...

Good article. I've said it time and time again, if you want to attack the credibility of a public official, make public records requests, specifically their emails. Perception is reality, and the reality is the KCS Administration is having some real problems. McIntyre now has a PR problem that he is being dishonest, out of touch, and incompetent. Administrations always think they are above the rest of their counterparts, but now with the "slush fund", the PR officials, and the ego, it's time for Jimmy to go home. You can't be hold teachers and student to a high standard, when you can't even meet that standard.

Unknown said...

I don't know if anyone else is watching, but we just caught the Superintendent in a lie: “Except for me, commissioner,” said McIntyre, who later said he was aware of the request but not of any concerns about it."

I also think the Superintendent is playing some politics of his own??