Beginning today, and only from Miss Fortune, insider secrets from the Steven Ingersoll trial...from the ultimate insider, Steven Ingersoll himself!
Are people who commit crimes different from those who don’t?
Short of a Harvard Medical School study, it would be nearly impossible to determine the nature of a criminal mind. But what if you could read a convicted criminal's thoughts, formerly secret thoughts shared with an associate who provided no criticism, only deference and constant praise?
Well, you can!
My recent Freedom of Information Act request to Lake Superior State University (LSSU) revealed a shocking series of emails between Steven Ingersoll and Bruce Harger, former head of LSSU’s Charter School office. (LSSU authorizes twenty-two Michigan charter schools, including the Grand Traverse Academy and the Bay City Academy.)
Rumbling on like the sound of Godzilla’s footsteps, Steven Ingersoll had a lot to say about his ongoing sentencing hearing, the state of local Bay City journalism, and the “disgraceful online behavior” of one “vicious and libelous blogger”, your truly, Miss Fortune.
And Harger was there, Bonnie to Ingersoll’s Clyde, enabling Ingersoll’s apparent lack of remorse, shame or guilt.
The FOIA’d emails begin October 19, 2015 (shortly before Harger’s own sentencing hearing testimony) and continue through April 27, 2016.
The April 27, 2016 email, sent by Ingersoll to Harger less than three weeks after his cardiac bypass surgery, reveals Ingersoll instructed Harger to contact the Michigan Board of Optometry and “email a letter saying they should not revoke my license mentioning Duane’s death, messed up bookkeeping, GTA’s support and my application of the principles of Optometry in the field of education.”
Featured in “I’m In Bed With My Authorizer”, (this first installment of my new exposé series, “My Bread Is Buttered On Both Sides: Emails From One White Guy To Another White Guy”), focuses on a series of October 2015 emails between convicted tax cheat Steven Ingersoll and former LSSU Charter Office head, Bruce Harger, along with Ingersoll's observation that “Cole Waterman and the Bay City Times have committed journalistic malpractice” giving rise to one “vicious and libelous blogger”.
In the first email, dated October 19, 2015, Harger notifies Ingersoll of his travel plans in anticipation of his October 21, 2015 sentencing hearing testimony. (Harger and his wife stayed at Steven and Deborah Ingersoll's Bay City B&B, the Webster House.)
In a follow-up email dated October 29, Harger appears to react to a sentencing hearing schedule update.
In another October 29 email, sent moments after Harger's, Ingersoll thanks Harger for his support, and attaches a summary of what he purports to be Judge Ludington's comments and their implications relative to 'hostile media'.
Harger's response comes later that afternoon (shown above), stating that “we hope that you will seek some satisfaction from Waterman and Senkowski”, and offering help “through testimony or otherwise”. (And just who is this 'we', white man?)
Harger asks Ingersoll if Judge Ludington will 'set aside' the March 2015 jury verdict.
In his response (shown below), Ingersoll posits a mistrial may be in the offing, while directly contradicting Brad Habermehl's October 21, 2015 testimony.
Ingersoll's commentary about two issues (this blog's supposed lack any coverage of Ludington dismissing a bank fraud charge during Ingersoll's trial and assertions of a 12 percent Smart Schools Management fee) are addressed below:
Ingersoll maintained the bank fraud “allegation was defeated at trial so soundly that Judge Ludington dismissed it mid-trial because the prosecution was unable to offer any proof that it had occurred, because in fact it had not. This highly unusual ruling should have been a tip off to anyone watching with any degree of attention. Yet this fact, central to the case, did not find its way into either Mr. Waterman's or Ms. Senkowski’s reporting.”
Ingersoll's criminal trial began on February 11, 2015, but the bank fraud charge was dismissed just before closing arguments, not mid-trial as Ingersoll erroneously asserted.
The March 5, 2015 dismissal of the charge by Ludington was reported on this blog March 6, 2015, March 9, 2015 and again on July 14, 2015.
The most troubling elements of Ingersoll's rant are the claims made about Judge Ludington, with Ingersoll's liberal use of 'paraphrased' statements:
"This week we have learned that Ingersoll's company Smart Schools (SSM) held a management contract entitling it to 12% of GTA's revenue which was later modified to state a reasonable sum not to exceed $2,000,000, annually. GTA subsequently needed financial support which was supplied by SSM through rebates of its earnings. When the auditor accepted the rebate as a proper GTA asset, SSM became legally liable for the rebated sum."
The Judge then concluded as follows: "I cannot see how the government's position of abuse of public trust can be supported unless a document exists that limits SSM's fees to an amount less than 12%."
A close examination of the official October 22, 2015 sentencing hearing transcript tells a radically different story.
THE COURT: Well, I've got a fairly busy afternoon this afternoon. That's why I think we kind of need to observe the 1:00 today, so you may step down at this stage.
THE WITNESS: Thank you.
THE COURT: But at least from the standpoint of where we are in proofs with respect to this one guideline variable, I can at least offer, as the finder of fact, at least the focus that I have in reaching some conclusions here.
What I think we have learned is that there was a point in time at which there was -- there were written contractual arrangements for SSM to be compensated for the operation of the GTA Academy -- or GT Academy at 12 percent, and it remained an aspirational goal, from what I've been able to determine from the present witness' testimony, prospectively.
There's an event that takes place someplace between 2005 and 2007, I believe based on the bond refinancing of a certain amount of debt, where there were some imposed covenant limitations on either the use or maintenance of funds.
Those covenants can take a number of different -- number of different forms, but it has been explained by a witness that a change needed to happen where the 12 percent could no longer be express, and as was emphasized by the witness here just a couple of moments ago, looking at a later agreement, that the agreement changed to a reasonable amount that remained informally and aspirationally at 12 percent but no greater than 2 million.
But there's also a period of time that we've not heard about where the school faced a deficit situation and had the 12 percent been fully enforced, and I think this is probably around 2005, where SSM had to make a concession, because if they got the full amount of the funds GTA – from GTA, they would be in a deficit circumstance; they would be in trouble with the state; they may likely have been insolvent, and it's at that juncture that concessions begin to be made.
Indeed, as I understand it, Mr. Ingersoll says, I'll concede my fee.
Ultimately we hear testimony that it has the net effect of reducing the fee to someplace in the range of 6 to 7 percent, and I'll concede that fee in the interest of the organization continuing. Indeed the present witness indicated that had he not done that, it was the board's view that the school would probably have collapsed at that period of time and never hit the -- hit its stride that it began to in approximately 2010, '11 and '12.
But the agreement that we have says nothing about the reduction in the fee, but at some point, Mr. Henning believes there's an amendment, at least he reaches that conclusion for purposes of accounting by 2005, and that's where he begins to record the account receivable and it ends up on the balance sheet, believing not only that the -- Mr. Ingersoll's conceding SSM's fee, but that SSM was actually going to write a check and not carry that as a receivable but actually pay it.
At least in my view at this stage, I have a hard time understanding how conceding the fee is in anyway a violation of a public or private trust, except if that was truly an amendment, an enforceable amendment, then not repaying the funds or paying -- placing them in a commercially difficult manner in which to recover might fit the variable.
Because if he agreed that he was obligated to repay that fee because of the amendment to his fee arrangement, he needed to repay them or not extract them from SSM such that GTA couldn't recover them in a commercially unreasonable way.
So prospectively, my focus is not on the initial arrangement but what the circumstances were relating to the amendment and how it was implemented, and then the last issue is what happened to those funds once they got to SSM? Were they extracted in a way that GTA could never sue and recover? Because there were certainly no arrangements with respect to, for example, collateral or any other commercial vehicle of which to make sure that those payments would be repaid, and those are areas that I think we need to focus on.
Boy, I don't see where Ludington determined the missing money (estimated at $5.0 million) was Ingersoll's to keep rightfully.
In fact, it appears to be just the opposite: Ludington's urging both the prosecution and defense to hone in on Ingersoll's fee payment pattern (taken by Ingersoll in a lump sum management fee at the beginning of the school year, before it was earned, based on an estimated budget), especially critical of the possibility that there may be no arrangements to make sure those overpayments would ever be repaid!
Here's one thing Steven Ingersoll's version of the story didn't tell you: although early management contracts between Steven Ingersoll's Smart Schools Management and the Grand Traverse Academy allowed Smart Schools to receive 12% of the Academy's gross revenues, that practice was suspended with a new management contract beginning July 1, 2009.
Yes, the 2007 bond issue actually required the Academy to balance its books, and Ingersoll's management agreement was modified to curtail the amount of money he was paid.
And even though on May 4, 2012 the Academy board passed a "reimbursement resolution" (shown at left), the board intended to "extend to Smart Schools Management, Inc. its financial resources in an amount equal to 12% of total revenue as financial conditions allow."
And finally Ingersoll, fabricating a quote, asserts there is no document limiting SSM's fees to less than 12%, conveniently forgetting his 2009 management agreement with the Grand Traverse Academy!
A search of the transcript reveals this statement by Ludington, contradicting Ingersoll's assertion:
“At least in my view at this stage, I have a hard time understanding how conceding the fee is in anyway a violation of a public or private trust, except if that was truly an amendment, an enforceable amendment, then not repaying the funds or paying -- placing them in a commercially difficult manner in which to recover might fit the variable. Because if he agreed that he was obligated to repay that fee because of the amendment to his fee arrangement, he needed to repay them or not extract them from SSM such that GTA couldn't recover them in a commercially unreasonable way.”
BRAD, STEVE & BRUCE ARE 3 OF THE 5! STEVE REPORTS FROM THE COURTROOM!
Coming Friday, July 15!