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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

FOIA THIS!: Open Meetings...And Not-So-Open Meetings

Has A Compulsive Quest to Kneecap TCAPS Undercut The Traverse City Record-Eagle's Journalistic Credibility?

Go to Google, search Record-Eagle TCAPS FOIA” and then compare the result with those of this search query: Record-Eagle Grand Traverse Academy FOIA”.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Didn't find anything on the second one, did you?

Neither did I, even after comparing the results with Google's red-headed stepchild, Bing.

The Record-Eagle's recent article about a $60,000 TCAPS embezzlement, which is alleged to have taken place over an eight-year period, is another in a string of Record-Eagle reports I like to call “tempest in a C-cup” stories—jiggle TV-style journalism for people who are tired of socially conscious efforts to dig up meaningful information.

Granted, the allegations surrounding former West Middle School administrative assistant Mary Gillison's money-handling are serious, and the case is moving through the legal system.

But here's the thing: even though Traverse City Area Public Schools interim Superintendent Paul Soma and then-purchasing director Ken O'Brien may have mishandled the early stages of the inquiry, TCAPS Human Resources Director Cindy Berck's email (quoting the Record-Eagle) “to Soma struck TCAPS finance officials like a lightning bolt. Almost immediately, district officials' interest in Gillison shifted from seeming benign neglect to full-steam-ahead investigative mode. Gillison, 50, resigned less than a week later and now stands accused of felony embezzlement and illegal use of a financial transaction device for allegedly stealing from the district and from fellow West Middle School students and staff.”

From the information presented, it appears that TCAPS never tried to cover up its mistakes, and instead has been transparent in its investigative process.

Compare that with Steven Ingersoll's ongoing federal fraud case, focused on activities in Bay City and at Traverse City's Grand Traverse Academy, and you'll see a significant difference.

With a reported debt to the Grand Traverse Academy estimated over $3.5 million dollars, and a demand letter from the Academy's former attorney, Doug Bishop, Steven Ingersoll's fraud case is moving to its federal trial beginning February 10.

But the Record-Eagle seems more interested in skewering Paul Soma and TCAPS than reporting on what the Bridge Magazine called “the most significant federal criminal case in the history of Michigan’s 20-year-old charter school industry”. 

Ask yourself this question: where was the Record-Eagle when the Grand Traverse Academy board entered into a closed session during its July 18 meeting—after its president Brad Habermehl read a laudatory statement about Steven Ingersoll into the meeting recordto discuss the disposition of a non-spendable $1.6 million dollar asset? 

Any FOIA requests?

Didn't think so.

So, Record-Eagle, here's your assignment: why not FOIA this list of Steven Ingersoll's fraud trial exhibits?

Miss Fortune's already beat you to it on some of these documents
—and I'll leave you to guess which ones.

Henning Letter to GTA Board dated 6/4/2013
GTA Board Minutes 2/1/2013
GTA Board Minutes 5/2/2013
GTA Balance Sheet 2Q13 Presented at 2/1/2013 Board Meeting
GTA Balance Sheet 3Q13 Presented at 5/2/2013 Board Meeting
GTA Board Minutes 10/11/2013
Photograph - IMG_0393 (Madison Building)
Photograph – IMG_9757 (Madison Building)
Photograph - GTA 2009 2 (GTA Building)
GTA Reimbursement Resolution 5/4/2012
Bishop Letter to Michigan Department of Education dated
Harger Letter to Noss dated 10/29/2013
Photograph - Madison Mechanical Room Prerehab
Smart Schools Model MEAP Math and Reading Chart 2009-
Photograph - Mechanical Room Finished IMG_0352
Michigan Department of Education - Quarterly Report to the
Legislature on Deficit Districts dated 9/11/2014
Steven Ingersoll Letter to Bishop dated 6/16/2013
Photograph - Sanctuary Stage Area In Progress (Madison
Photograph - Stage Finished IMG_6581 r (Madison Building)
Standard and Poor’s Annual Surveillance 4/2/13
History of Grand Traverse Academy (from GTA website)
Bay City Renaissance Plan – Executive Summary
GTA / SSM Educational Provider Agreement dated July 1,
SSM Balance Sheet Detail (All Transactions) date 1/27/2015
GTA Board Minutes dated 11/2/2012
Madison Art’s LLC Accountant’s Changes dated 09/30/2011
Excel Management Accountant’s Changes dated 12/31/2010
SSM Form 1120 2008 U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return
dated 5/20/2009
GTA & LDA Results
Photographs – Farragut Before and After
Photographs – Madison Building Construction, Before and After
GTA P&L – July through December 2012
Debt Service Requirements Table
GTA Projected Enrollment for 2010-11 and 2011-12
GTA Budget Resolution June 11, 2010
GTA 2010 Budget
Madison Building Construction Costs Summary
SSM Historical Management Fees Summary
Grand Traverse Academy Certificate of Authentication dated
January 22, 2015
SSM Audit Trail generated 2/3/2015

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