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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 28 years."


 

Anatomy of a disaster......When Lisa Rickert and Ken Bryant were first elected to the Fort Bend ISD school board two years ago, they have claimed in later communications that they were mistreated by the current board. They claim they were told to “sit down and shut up” every time they offered suggestions about improvements.

Yet casual observers of board meetings at that time didn’t notice any of this disdain on the part of the old board members. However, they did notice that Bryant and Rickert were often rude to then president Jane Clarke and then-superintendent Betty Baitland. I even quizzed some of the “old” board members I knew and asked them if Rickert/Bryant ever offered new ideas that were derided. This met with sincere denials all around. Somehow, from the open parts of the board meetings and from what my reporter told me, I believed the “old” board members.

Up jumps the devil......Then one year ago, two new board members were elected to the board--Stan Magee and Laurie Caldwell. Neither Magee nor Caldwell had ever attended many board meetings before their election, but did hold several meetings with Rickert/Bryant before being sworn in. Evidentially, Magee/Caldwell bought into the “mean, old board” because they quickly joined up with Rickert/Bryant. Magee/Cauldwell even went so far as to swear themselves in when their swearing in meeting was canceled due to the death of board president Jane Clarke’s son.

Magee, who is a former teacher and has no children, (and is married to a teacher) had his own personal reasons for running for the board anyway. He wanted to get rid of Betty Baitland who had forced the retirement of his dear friend Wayne Howard, who also ran for the board and lost narrowly.

So we have the new quartet of Rickert/Bryant/Magee/Cauldwell who stayed together and played together just long enough to get rid of the superintendent so it looked like they were really accomplishing something.

Let’s see. They have fired the superintendent, the district’s lawyers (probably for telling them “you can’t do that”), run off the director of finances, and several of the highly placed and highly regarded upper management of the district. They have replaced the superintendent with an unqualified (for superintendent) human resource head who spends a lot of her board meetings crying in closed session. According to records, they have spent $41,795.48 in the first quarter of 2006 on lawyer fees related to Board governance issues. In other words, the district has come apart at the seams and absolutely nothing has been done about the education of the students.

But as all agreements forged in the fires of personal agendas, this one has soon came apart. The fight to kick out the company who won the “Job order contract” and hire a new company has split the new board right down the middle. Lisa Rickert has been as unable to hold her group together as she has been in running the district. Second, several of the “new” board members are supporting different candidates in the upcoming board election. Rickert is heavily supporting and making telephone calls for Liz Mitton and Steve Dieu. Magee is still supporting Wayne Howard.

Catfight.....I am in possession of a email sent by FBISD board member Stan Magee to FBISD board president Lisa Rickert. The seven page email details Magee’s complaints about Rickert’s leadership and lends credence to many of the things we’ve been hearing and saying for several months. The letter was sent to Rickert and cc to all the other board members. There were 17 points that he made in this March 31, 2006 letter under the subject “leadership.”

I don’t have room to run the whole letter but it will be on our website (at FortBendStar.com) under “letters. “

Here is a short version of Magee’s concerns:

1. The JOC (job order contract) has become a personal crusade for Rickert since she voted against it in June, 2004.

2. Her involvement in a PAC or non-PAC in new Territory where she used her title as “Lisa Rickert, FBISD Board of Trustees.”

3. Unilateral postponement of the Feb. 27 board meeting and lack of continuation of the JOC contract at the next meeting.

4. Lack of knowledge about Roberts Rules of Order.

5. Arguments with other board members about placing item on the agenda.

6. Privileged communication about RHJ and their JOC was made public to the news media.

7. Personal involvement with board committees by managing from a distance without attending, telling committee chair who to include or exclude from the committee.

8. Informing all board member candidates NOT to campaign on school property, but indirectly inviting her candidate, Liz Mitton, to a political function held at Elkins High School.

9. Broke promise to notify board members on the Wed, prior to a board meeting, if anything went to outside legal counsel. Ignored staff attorney and incurred legal fees.

10. Possible violation of TOMA by discussing something in closed session not on the agenda, causing a board member to leave in order to not be in violation.

11. Allowed a vendor to make a presentation to the board when other vendors were not allowed to do so.

12. Re-visited an item on the agenda that had failed to get a second. Talked another board member into bringing it up later in the meeting to circumvent Robert’s Rules.

13. Refused to place items on a board retreat agenda, cut a board member off who was speaking, wouldn’t tell the other board members why two members wouldn’t come back the next day, and spent an inordinate amount of time huddling with someone in the audience instead of talking to other board members. (I have found out that was Liz Mitton-editor).

14. Allows outside legal counsel to sit in on closed sessions, act as 8th board member, even letting counsel tell board member how to vote in open session, refuse to refer things to in-house attorney, and told superintendent to not hire a permanent outside counsel yet.

15. Accused a board member, openly, of playing to the audience at a board meeting.

16. Blames board members for releasing sensitive information when she had released the same to her friend Liz Mitton. Discusses closed session items with others.

17. Sends email to chastise, demean, control and argue with board members. Overstepped her authority since May, 2005, and instead of bringing board unity, she has further divided the board, causing a splintering effect on many issues.

The full text of the letter, which practically everybody in Fort Bend has by now (laugh) is at www.Fortbendstar.com under “letters.”

Campaigning continued…


Here is a picture of the automobile of Miss Liz “I won’t take vendor money” Mitton. Unfortunately, it is parked in the Dulles Elementary parking lot during school hours and has affixed a huge sign about her candidacy.

And by the way, she has complained about her signs being attacked by box cutters and has made a police report because she said she paid $150 for each sign. If she paid that much for each sign, I fear her handling school finances because she could get about four of those signs for $150.

If Mitton wouldn’t put her signs in the public right-of-way, she might have a gripe coming but she, like many of her political peers, litter the r-o-w with their signs. Or place them where they don’t have the permission of the property owner.

Signs wars are an indication that a campaign is in full force. I’ve never covered an election when one side didn’t accuse the other of stealing/destroying their signs.

If I had the energy, I would go out in broad daylight and confiscate every sign in the r-o-w and just dare someone to stop me.

He’s not hiding.......Dave Wallace didn’t participate in a candidate forum in Harris County because neither he, nor Gary Gillen, nor Tom Campbell knew about it until the last minute. Then when Wallace asked to attend, he was told thus:

"The meeting will convene promptly at 1:00 p.m. and will adjourn at 6:00 p.m. Your interview is set to be from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. We apologize for the late appointment. There is a Justice Foundation dinner that same evening and we will try to get everyone out before it gets too late."

Let me get this straight. Wallace could come and attend but he was scheduled to speak AFTER the meeting was over? Wallace said he had a conflicting speech that same time.

Harris County did not let the press attend their precinct chairs meeting to interview candidates to replace DeLay, nor did they tell very many people it was happening, including candidates. So they have chosen to conduct their business behind closed doors.

Then in Fort Bend, a small group are complaining that former county chair Eric Thode spent $6,000 to poll voters and have an open process.

Somehow a small group have also decided that the mail-in ballot was designed to help Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace.

I don’t see it. Wallace was almost last on the list of a whole slew of maybe runs.

Maybe he was too busy......Fort Bend Commissioner Andy Meyers did show up for the Harris County interview but didn’t file his personal financial statement on time. This is a financial statement that many elected officials must file every year. Andy is the only one who hasn’t filed yet.

There have been many who questioned Meyers ability to seek the nod to be on the ballot in DeLay’s place while serving as a county commissioner. I checked with the attorney general and found a couple of opinions that said vying for a position on a ballot to replace someone was not tantamount to announcing for the position which would trigger an automatic resignation. Hummph. Seems like a bunch of malarky to me.

 

Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006