May 31, 2003


Apparently the Seattle School District is catching on.

The Committee on Fiscal Integrity in Seattle Public Schools unanimously adopted a report yesterday that urges the School Board to hire a permanent auditor to keep an eye on the district's troubled finances.

And read onwards to learn:
The report will be delivered next week to the School Board, which appointed the committee to review an audit by Seattle-based Moss Adams Advisory Services and offer its own views on how to restore the school district to financial health.

Moss Adams was hired after the district's discovery last fall that it had overspent its 2001-02 budget by $23 million and that midyear budget cuts had to be made to avoid a $12 million deficit this year.
$23 million in overspending, eh?

The audit described a finance department in chaos, a poorly supervised former chief financial officer, and a lack of fiscal checks and balances.
Hey, why don't we hire Moss Adams down here, to take a peek at Salem?

May 30, 2003


Conchita Link, the widow of legendary railroad and industrial photographer O. Winston Link, was arrested thrusday. The ex Mrs. Link, who Winston divorced in 1992, was convicted in 1996 of stealing over 1400 prints from her husband, and was sentenced to six years in prison. The prints were never recovered.

However, Tom Garver, Winston's agent, never gave up hope, and after spotting the prints on eBay, called in the authorities. For more info on this story, see here also.

May 28, 2003


The Albany Democrat-Herald has an op-ed on the recent local school funding ballot measure's failure.

Actually, the schools manage their funds as best they can within the constraints imposed on them by state and federal law. But money mismanagement is clearly the perception among the largest single proportion of the participants in our poll.

School administrators and board members can learn from this reaction, based on fact or not. It tells them they must be vigorous in resisting any action or expense that is not obviously part of the core mission of schools.
The thing that needs to be learned here is the same lesson that most investors should hopefully have learned from the Enron debacle: transparency matters. Government budgets are big, thick, dry documents, and sometimes complex and confusing. How many times have we debated what the real number per student is, as only one example?

If governments expect to ask for more money, they need to clearly describe how the money they have now is managed. Just like a private company on Wall Street, school districts need to be able to provide a clear, concise, and understandable description of where every dollar goes.

Transparency: the truth will set you free.