Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Inspector General says MCPS misled public on Seven Locks

"The Montgomery County school system misled the public two years ago when it proposed tearing down Seven Locks Elementary School and rebuilding it on another site," the Washington Post reports, citing an audit report of the county Inspector General.

"Some residents have long suspected that the real motivation was to sell the prime Seven Locks lot to developers," according to the Post. "At the time, [Superintendent Jerry] Weast and County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) were considering using the property to increase the county's supply of affordable housing."

According to the audit, to be released today, February 15, the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) system misled the public in the following ways:

1. presented incomplete cost-benefit numbers to the County Council;
2. misrepresented community support for the project, falsely saying it had the support of the local PTA;
3. ignored a cheaper option to modernize the existing school instead of build a new one on another piece of property;
4. awarded a no-bid contract to architects.

The report vindicates the Seven Locks community, whose leaders complained of the county's lack of transparency and back-door maneuverings to force through the plan to build a "replacement" school, and who raised concerns about unethical and possibly illegal behavior on the part of County Council members and MCPS officials.