}

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ONE YEAR LATER: Miss Fortune Looks Back At Historic Hissy Fit...And What's Happened Since Then

“...dragged into an imaginary conspiracy by a cowardly muckraker without a clue.”

"I quite admire your witty wordplay and your tenacity. Unfortunately your 'investigative journalism' (ahemmm) is the stuff that unicorns are made of."


What a difference a year makes!

After being accused last May by a former Grand Traverse Academy board member of ginning up a controversy and creating an “alleged scandal” so that I can sell “a lot of blog posts”, Miss Fortune indulges in self-analysis...and reveals just how wrong that putz was.

(Maybe that's why his threatened "defamation suit" against Miss Fortune petered out.)

The subheads in this post come directly from last year's story, including this not-so-delicate description:

"YOUR STEAMING PILE OF 'CONSPIRACY' TALK IS SUBSTANCE-LESS GARBAGE!"

Au contraire, mon frère!

Although conforming to the dictates of small-town douchebaggery may be fun when everyone wears green pants to the golf course, it's completely different if that same group collectively waves its hands and insists that there's "nothing to see here" when millions of taxpayer dollars go missing under their watch.

Back on April 13, 2014, I broke the news that Steven Ingersoll's federal fraud indictment left the Grand Traverse Academy holding the bag for nearly $1.7 million dollars still owed to the charter school by Ingersoll.

In that story, I laid the blame for allowing Ingersoll's multi-million dollar misappropriation to occur squarely at the feet of the Grand Traverse Academy board.

Even Miss Fortune didn't know how right she was, even though various Academy spokesmodels worked furiously to convince those few paying attention that "our procedures and finances are appropriate and in order" and even publicly asserted that Ingersoll's Smart Schools "gave GTA $3.3 million".

But they all knew then what Miss Fortune didn't...until she discovered what they were hiding!

"YOU ARE A SKILLFUL ARTIST OF SLINGING INNUENDO–I SAY WE TURN IT UP A NOTCH"

Don't mind of I do!

On April 17, 2014, I began to explore the early-morning Grand Traverse Academy board meeting where its president, Mark Noss, was awarded a two-year contract for a newly-formed management company, Full Spectrum Management.

Although I didn't know then that Noss continued in a dual role (management company head and Grand Traverse Academy board member) for nearly two months after signing his management contract, I revealed that fact a few months later on September 12, 2014.

Official Academy board documents, obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, confirmed that while Noss submitted his resignation during that March 19, 2014 meeting, it was not effective immediately.

Noss remained on the board for another two months, wearing two hats (not so easy to do when you only have one head!). 

"I QUITE ADMIRE YOUR WITTY WORDPLAY AND TENACITY. UNFORTUNATELY YOUR 'INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM' (AHEMMM) IS THE STUFF THAT UNICORNS ARE MADE OF" 

Unicorns, eh?

Get ready to be gored!

On June 13, 2013, Traverse City attorney Doug Bishop, former counsel for the Grand Traverse Academy, issued a “demand letter” to Steven Ingersoll for the return of over $3.5 million.

In his letter, Bishop referenced the Academy's 2012 fiscal report in this statement: "It appears, at this point, that the amount due is at least $3,548,319.00, which, to our understanding, was a figure calculated by Dr. Ingersol (sic) as indicated to be due as of June 30, 2012."

Bishop was clearly referring to the 2012 audit financial note that revealed the "amounts receivable from related parties" was $3,548,319 and acknowledging that he and the Board knew the "party" was in fact Steven Ingersoll.

Within days of the letter being sent to Ingersoll and former Academy Board president Mark Noss, the 2013 fiscal year ended on June 30.
 


But even Miss Fortune didn't learn what happened in the weeks before Doug Bishop issued that demand letter to Steven Ingersoll until much later. 

Trust me, it was worth the wait!

PUT DOWN YOUR PINOT...I DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU'VE PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN. FACTS AND CONTENT MATTER. GET SOME.
  
(For the record, Miss Fortune won't touch any wine as ghastly as pinot, and only drinks Château Margaux.) 

Facts? You want facts?

I got your facts, right here!

In fact, I'll take your facts and raise you more facts. 

How about a stack of facts, including the sworn testimony of an attorney for the Grand Traverse Academy who dropped a real bombshell during Ingersoll's federal fraud trial?

On March 3, Meg Hackett, a Grand Rapids attorney representing the Grand Traverse Academy board, testified at Steven Ingersoll’s federal fraud trial that during a May 20, 2013 Academy board meeting, Ingersoll asked the board to characterize his $3.5 million dollar indebtedness to the charter school as a “loan”.

For years, the Grand Traverse Academy had carried Ingersoll’s growing debt on its books, characterizing it variously as either a receivable, a related party receivable or a prepaid expense.

Hackett testified that she was retained in 2009 by former Academy board president Mark Noss. Although Hackett did not describe work performed subsequent to that May 20 meeting, court documents indicated she later produced a May 30, 2013 legal opinion in a document described during Ingersoll's trial as the “Thrun Letter”, named after Hackett's law firm.

Facts? You want more facts?

When asked by the prosecution why Steven Ingersoll needed to have his debt “recharacterized”, Hackett said Ingersoll told her he “needed the sums characterized as a loan for reasons related to an IRS investigation and/or audit.”  (Ingersoll was clearly aware of the ongoing federal investigation into his finances.)

Discussing his $3.5 million dollar debt (and repeatedly referring to spreadsheets detailing the sums he had transferred from the Grand Traverse Academy's accounts to his personal bank accounts and those of Smart Schools Management), Hackett said Ingersoll told those in the meeting (including Mark Noss) that he “could not afford to pay that (his Academy debt) and his taxes all at the same time”, and needed to have the debt characterized as a loan.

It's crucial that I point out a publicly-funded charter school, like the Grand Traverse Academy, cannot legally make "loans", but that didn't stop Steven Ingersoll from asking...and that's a fact!

During her testimony, Hackett explained the structure of Smart Schools Management, Inc. (owned and operated by Steven Ingersoll) and its 2013 business relationship as the Grand Traverse Academy’s “contracted management company.” When asked by the government if the Grand Traverse Academy, as a public school academy, was even allowed to make a loan, Hackett said no.

Saying that the Grand Traverse Academy had “no legal authority” to loan money to Steven Ingersoll, Hackett explained that Michigan law prohibits a public body, like the appointed board of a charter school, from making any loans.
 


But that didn't stop Ingersoll from asking...or apparently the Grand Traverse Academy board calling the May 20, 2013 special board meeting as a favor to Ingersoll. 

Under cross examination by Martin E. Crandall, Steven Ingersoll’s $600.00 an hour criminal defense attorney, Hackett said among those attending the May 20, 2013 were its former board president Mark Noss, former Superintendent Kaye Mentley and its auditor, CPA Tony Henning.

When asked by Crandall to describe Ingersoll’s demeanor during the meeting, Hackett said that at times Ingersoll “seemed to be challenging the sums owed.” Admitting that Ingersoll’s request was the first time his debt was asked to be considered a loan, Hackett stated that the debt had been variously characterized in Grand Traverse Academy financial audits as either  “accounts receivable or a prepaid expense.”

Asked by Crandall to describe the amount Ingersoll owed, Hackett described the $3.5 million dollars as a “significant unauthorized transfer of funds.”


Crandall asked Hackett the reason for the May 20, 2013 meeting, and Hackett stated that Mark Noss had asked for the meeting (which lasted about two hours) on behalf of Steven Ingersoll since Ingersoll indicated that he “wanted to explain his view of his indebtedness” to the Grand Traverse Academy. Hackett met with Noss and Mentley separately for approximately an hour after Ingersoll left.

And those are the facts.

So will someone please explain to me why, nearly one year after that meeting, the Grand Traverse Academy board kept Steven Ingersoll and his management company on the public payroll for until shortly before he was federally indicted on multiple fraud counts?

And why the asinine attempt at “turd polishing”, insisting that Steven Ingersoll was a “philanthropist” whose multi-million dollar debt to the Grand Traverse Academy was in reality a promised “donation”?

And finally, why did the Academy hire an untested management company, headed by the guy who was Steven Ingersoll's business partner and demonstrated no grasp of financial transparency?
 


Now those are questions a real muckraker should answer...someone like Miss Fortune!

And I'll deliver those answers riding on a unicorn.