Friday, July 13, 2012

District keeps leadership status quo

Trustees disregard public comment on treasurer appointment

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to re-elect Trustee Steve Guthrie as school board chair and Trustee Don Nurge as vice chair.

The vote came at the school board's annual meeting, which was held just prior to the board's regular monthly July meeting.

More controversial was the reappointment as treasurer of district Business Manager Mike Chatterton, who some members of the public have blamed for a multi-million-dollar lawsuit involving the district and its energy conservation contractor McKinstry Essention.

In litigation pending in Blaine County 5th District Court, McKinstry is suing the district, alleging that the company performed work worth $25.8 million during the past two years and that the district still owes it about $7 million. In a counterclaim, the district is alleging that it only authorized $18.6 million of work for McKinstry and is further claiming damages of at least that amount.

Chatterton's reappointment as treasurer was approved unanimously by the board. Chatterton has held both the business manager and treasurer posts for many years. The business manager is responsible for overseeing the business of the district while the treasurer is responsible for handling funds.

Four school district patrons spoke against reappointment of Chatterton as treasurer and urged the board instead to appoint a financial expert with no previous ties to the district. Three of them spoke at the meeting prior to the vote, while the fourth sent an email to all board members Tuesday afternoon.

In her email, Diane Barker, a Hailey certified public account who urged the board two years ago not to enter into a contract with McKinstry, wrote that that the treasurer position "should be held by an outsider with financial training and experience."

"I am certain that the current business manager, Mike Chatterton, has had to be treasurer by default all these years," Barker stated. "And, I am certain, as a leader in the school district, Mr. Chatterton would welcome the help of another trained financial expert."

Ketchum resident Holmes Lundt agreed with Barker's position in addressing the board at Tuesday's meeting, saying that an independent treasure would provide "more eyes on the problem."

"I would like to advocate the idea that separation of the role of treasurer would bring on an extra set of eyes and extra resources to the situation," Lundt said.


Hailey resident Elizabeth Schwerdtle said the "financial health of the district is at risk," adding that "$26 million pretty much has been lost here."

Sun Valley resident Barbara Browning took even a harsher tone, and urged the board not to rush the appointment "given the cloud that is over all district officials."

Browning also urged that Guthrie not be re-elected board chair, alleging that "he has not shown accountability."

"Please do not re-elect the current board chair," Browning said. "He is the only current board member that was involved in this levy issue from the very beginning."

Browning was presumably referring to Guthrie's vote in 2010 to approve the McKinstry work, which is being funded mainly by a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.

Regardless of the comments, board members said they still have confidence in Chatterton.

"I think part of this may be driven by the events in the court right now," said Trustee Paul Bates. "It seems to be a time to try to get Mike. I do appreciate your thoughts, but it seems like a 12th hour and it's something I'm just not comfortable with at this time."

"I support Mike for that position," said Trustee Kathryn Graves.

Guthrie said he supports the district administration.

"They put a lot of effort into making this one of the best districts in Idaho," he said.

In other annual meeting business, the board voted unanimously to reappoint Laurie Kaufman as clerk of the board, Adam King as district legal counsel and Debi Gutknecht as district representative for various federal programs.

Terry Smith:

Glenn named Silver Creek principal

Former Wood River High School football coach Mike Glenn has been appointed principal of Silver Creek High School in Hailey.

The appointment was unanimously approved by the Blaine County School District board of trustees at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Glenn, who had been at Wood River High School since 2005, also coached track and taught U.S. history, world history and global perspectives.

He replaces former Silver Creek Principal Lynn Seifert, who headed the district's alternative high school for three years before accepting a new job earlier this year as principal at Central High School in Pueblo, Colo.

Glenn's appointment was not listed as an action item on the agenda for Tuesday's school board meeting. Instead, the appointment was considered on the consent agenda that listed the action as "approval of personnel exiting and entering."

School board Chair Steve Guthrie provided the first public notice of Glenn's selection when he mentioned, just prior to the vote, that the consent agenda item included Glenn's appointment.

District Superintendent Lonnie Barber said Glenn was one of six applicants interviewed for the job and that he was the unanimous choice of a hiring committee.

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