Control Board memos may provide answers
Date: 8/16/2011Aug. 17, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD The fact that School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram announced his resignation on Aug. 15 doesn’t mute the interest that the two mayoral candidates have in the 40 boxes of agendas, memos and other documents from the years the Finance Control Board (FCB) was in charge of the city.
“Not at all,” City Council President and mayoral candidate Jose Tosado told Reminder Publications
when asked if Ingram’s resignation changes his interest in the documents. “This is an issue larger than Dr. Ingram. The Sarno Administration professes transparency when being cloaked in darkness.”
Robert Bliss, spokesman for the Department of Revenue (DOR), confirmed last week to Reminder Publications
the documents have been stored by the DOR and they would be transported to the office of City Solicitor Edward Pikula later this week.
Bliss said the collection even includes the hard drive from FCB Executive Director Stephen Lisauskas’ computer.
Pikula said that he would be determining what is a public document and what is a private document.
For Tosado and School Committee member Antonette Pepe, Ingram’s resignation did not come as a surprise and the announcement doesn’t affect their interest in determining how Ingram’s contract with its up-to-recently secret side agreements came about.
And both candidates are not pleased that Pikula will be vetting the documents.
“Here we go again,” Pepe said. “The fox is watching the hen house.”
She said that City Clerk Wayman Lee should be in charge of the documents as his office maintains the records of the city.
“The taxpayers have a right to know,” she asserted. She added that other people should be in the room when Pikula evaluates the documents.
Pepe said she was not surprised by Ingram’s resignation, which is effective at the end of this school year in 2012.
“He knew he was not going to get his contract renewed,” she said. “He didn’t have the votes [on the School Committee].”
Pepe was the public official who broke the story that Ingram’s contract included two side agreements that had not been made public knowledge. Mayor Domenic Sarno said he had been unaware of the existence of the side agreements and both candidates believe the FCB documents could confirm or deny the mayor’s statement.
City Councilor Tim Rooke has been a frequent critic of the Sarno Administration and said, “I think the documents become a critical piece of the puzzle because the public was never informed how the taxpayer’s money was being spent.”
Rooke had learned of the documents and was planning a trip to the DOR to review them himself, prior to the announcement they were coming to Springfield. Rooke concurred with Pepe that the city clerk should be in charge of the documents.
He said that some of the documents are already in the possession of the city in the form of a disc that he has been trying to see.
Tosado, as well, had been trying to look at the documents.
Tosado said, “For the city of Springfield to now be in possession of all documents; electronic, original and otherwise of the Finance Control Board, which was created by the state and was run by state employees is a decision I do not agree with. Furthermore, it was not until multiple requests to Department of Revenue to look at these files that City Hall made sure to get those files from Boston into their possession. Which now leaves us with the classic fox guarding the hen house scenario. In addition to the information surrounding the negotiation of Dr. Ingram’s contract, I believe the people of Springfield deserve to see any and all of the files that are contained in the 40 some odd boxes and any electronic files or communications during the entire time of Control Boards existence. Why not? It was a public entity and therefore all of its work should be subject to public records law. Lets see it. I hope and expect that my public records request to the city to view any and all document relating to the superintendent’s contract will be responded to promptly and ethically. If the mayor and the city solicitor give excuses legal or otherwise to why we cannot see this information; the logical question that will come from me and should come from the entire city is what are you hiding?”
This reporter contacted Sarno’s office for comment and in response the mayor issued the following statement: “‘I want to thank Dr. Ingram for his service to the City and the Springfield School Department and the thousands of student lives impacted by his work. Dr. Ingram’s public service career has been commendable and I wish him good health and well wishes with all his future endeavors.’’
The statement continued, “Dr. Ingram has made numerous changes to the school district, which I am hopeful will make positive changes for years to come; however, there is still much work to be done. Mayor Sarno looks forward to working with Dr. Ingram during the transition and calls upon School Committee members to set aside differences to work cooperatively to ensure the smoothest transition possible for the benefit of our students.
“Mayor Sarno will meet with the Springfield School Committee to discuss the assemblage of a search committee and development of an effective process to find a suitable replacement for the superintendent’s position.
“Mayor Sarno stated, ‘That the most critical piece is the education of our students. We cannot afford any distractions that would interrupt in that process, this must be our number one priority.’”
Ingram wrote in a press release that was issued on Aug. 15, “I am making this announcement at this time to provide our School Committee almost a full year to conduct a comprehensive search for the very best leader available which our children and dedicated staff deserve.
“Let me make it clear, I will be fully engaged as the leader of the Springfield schools through the conclusion of this coming school year. I will cooperate fully with the School Committee and my eventual successor in any way asked, to ensure a smooth transition in leadership.
“Finally, I want to say that over my first three years, I have been fully committed to and worked many long days and weekends on the resolution of the aforementioned challenges. In no instance did I ever apply for or even momentarily consider any other employment opportunity than the one I was hired to fulfill. In the coming year, however, I will do so.
“I am looking forward to a great new school year for the children of Springfield, and will be focused on and dedicated to making that happen.
“To that end, I will have no further comment on this topic, either now or in the future.”
Ingram did not comment in the resignation letter why he had never bought a home in Springfield, despite being given $30,000 to act as down payment. Although he was given the sum as part of one of the side agreements, his contract never required him to buy a home here.