Monday, February 27, 2006

Abramoff obstruction may force criminal probe

"What makes this far worse than Clarksburg is the response to this IG report by BoE member and Audit Committee Chair Stephen Abrams, stating that he asked for legal opinions about the suitability of this audit report," MCCF First Vice President Goldstein continues in his Sentinel piece.

In Abramoff's words: "Each of these legal opinions concludes that state law does not provide such authority to the Inspector General."

According to Goldstein, Abramoff "then went on to question the motivation of the IG, while admitting to the decision-making process used to choose the Kendale site.

"As with those agencies involved in Clarksburg, Abrams also did his own share of finger-pointing about the failure of MCPS officials to reveal the most cost effective approach of building a new Seven Locks on the original site: 'The council members were aware of the [SLES] issues and made no request at any time during the review of the [SLES] project to provide information on doing the addition and modernization at the same time or to build a replacement school on the Seven Locks site.'

"Abrams concluded with this: 'After consulting with the board president [Charles Haughey] and vice president [Sharon Cox], the Audit Committee has informed the superintendent and staff not to respond to your report or your specific findings. In addition, the Audit Committee does not plan to make a recommendation to the [BoE] on the other findings in your evaluation.'

"As far as I am concerned," Goldstein writes, "the IG and his staff have truly distinguished themselves with a quality report. In addition to Clarksburg, 'Seven Locks' requires the County Council to face a new issue of how to make BoE and MCPS fiscally responsible to those who provide them with most of their capital
and operating funds.

"Reversing the decision to build new on the Kendale site and instead choosing to build new on the Seven Locks site will be the easiest step of all.

"Creating mechanisms for accountability will be tougher still, if BoE and MCPS take the same pugnacious approach to the council as articulated by Abrams in his letter to the IG. The specific accountability of MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast for Seven Locks and related matters will need to be considered and questions will need to be asked of the oversight role, or lack thereof, of State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmisk.

"While there was some brief initial talk of state involvement in MNCPPC, because it is a quasi-state agency, there may need to be much talk with the state legislature if the state sovereignty shield continues to be waved about by Mr. Abrams and others. The State Special Prosecutor may also need to be invited to take a look."