Once upon a time…

Note: This article was written by ROBIN READER (612) and was originally published on her website Broken Arrow Forum on September 4, 2010, and reappears here on this blog with her permission.

The leaked monstrosity is too long, and too thick with gossip, baseless conclusions, and misleading statements to try to list all the flaws, but here are a few points regarding some of the things in it that the press has reported.

1) The report that Dr. Gerber split bids

I don’t have any way of knowing whether Dr. Gerber split bids, but the examples in the report do not support this claim. In some instances, the cost of the work was split into two PO’s: one for each vendor. Buying the equipment from one vendor and having it installed by another does not indicate bid-splitting; this is specifically addressed in Oklahoma law (Title 61, Section 102).

Another example implies that Dr. Gerber’s “approval” of increasing a PO’s amount by $315 to $1029 indicates bid-splitting. It is unclear how this can possibly indicate bid-splitting, since it’s far below the $25,000 threshold. The claim is worded as if Dr. Gerber “approved” and signed PO’s to authorize payment to AA without anyone else knowing. This implication shows up in the report multiple times. However, Dr. Gerber did not approve the PO’s; he approved the request for PO’s (or increases). These requests go to the finance department; they are the ones who issue PO’s and
payments. In addition, the amounts for these PO’s come out of the blanket PO already approved by the board.

Another example claims that the invoice amount of $14,780 was “just under” the amount that required 3 quotes. However, the threshold is $25,000, so this doesn’t make sense. The other invoice that was involved in the project came from Trane, not Air Assurance, so no bid-splitting there.

2) The report that Dr. Gerber created a fake quote in case Dr. Sisney asked for it to see if he had followed bidding laws

The report does not say Dr. Gerber created a quote at all. This was misconstrued in press reports. It says he created a quote format. The purpose of this was to provide vendors a common format in which to provide their bids. Gerber held off asking for bids, and requested that the format be kept confidential, because he did not know whether Sisney wanted him to ask for bids. The report leaves out the email described in the Counterclaim in which Gerber asked Sisney whether he wanted to ask for bids for HVAC work or hire in-house staff. According to the Counterclaim, Sisney never responded.

That would explain why Gerber never asked for bids. The report tries to make it look like Gerber’s request to keep the format confidential is to hide his failure to ask for bids, proving his illegal preferential treatment of AA. However, since Gerber did not know whether BA Schools would be asking for bids, it seems sensible to avoid the awkward situation that would be created if vendors thought they would be asked to bid but Sisney did not want to ask for bids.

If this critical email was left out, it seems pretty likely that other pivotal information was left out. The auditor had an early “preliminary” interview with Gerber but apparently did not follow up with him after being presented – from questionable sources with an agenda – with information accusing him of violations of laws and policies.

Other questionable claims and omissions – just a few among hundreds –

1) The District paid for supplies that AA took for themselves

The report makes the leap that since a particular installation required only 80 pounds of refrigerant, there is reason to believe the other 340 pounds in the order was never received by BA Schools. In fact, the whole order of 420 pounds was signed for by Bill Miller, and is not a surprising size order for a school system with 1,700 units.

2) What lawsuit?

The report goes into great detail on Air Assurance – which, as a private company, could not be the subject of the State auditor’s office – and the board members’ and attorneys’ actions during the time period leading up to and around Sisney’s firing. But it does not mention, even once, the lawsuit Sisney filed against board members, the Rampeys, Doug Mann, and an eye doctor. If the events of this timeframe are relevant to understanding what happened, how can leaving out this enormous event be justified? There is no mention of the initial filing, or any of the relevant information from the Counterclaim. The report includes Sisney’s claims that the board members conspired to get rid of him for trying to investigate. If these claims are relevant to the audit, how can the board members’
claims not be, when some of their claims directly conflict with those stated in the report? None of the evidence included in the Counterclaim – emails showing Sisney’s intent to discredit the board members – was included in the audit.

3) What draft letter?

The report states that Terry Stover sent a letter to the Rampeys from the board, saying that the District would not issue any statements about Air Assurance until its investigation was complete. The report does not mention that he sent it secretly, without the rest of the board knowing that the draft had even been completed by The Center for Education Law, and without the board seeing it or having a chance to edit and approve it, as was required. He did not provide any copies, as was required, or even tell anyone about it until Shari Wilkins emailed to ask again why the draft letter was taking so long. This is described in the Counterclaim and is verifiable with emails.

4) Report: “AIR ASSURANCE OWNED BY OUT-OF-STATE COMPANY”

The report that the Rampeys had sold AA to an out-of-state company came from Bob Townsend, a competitor. In fact, his company was the one picketing at Sisney’s suspension hearing, holding the “Sysney” signs. Townsend also provided Sisney with information, according to his deposition. Apparently, the auditor thought it was important to gather information from a competitor who was not involved with BA Schools during the timeframe audited, but did not think it was worthwhile to get any information whatsoever from the vendor whose relationship with BA Schools was the prime target
of the investigation.

According to the Air Assurance website, the Rampeys did sell Air Assurance in 2000. They repurchased it in 2003. Only the sale is mentioned in the report – not that the Rampeys have been the owners since 2003 – long before the timeframe investigated in this audit. The sale of AA is irrelevant, and the omission of the repurchase and current ownership is misleading.

Including irrelevant and misleading information about a vendor (NOT the school that’s the subject of the audit) from a competitor with an ax to grind, while completely ignoring the vendor whose relationship was being investigated, does not seem to follow impartial auditing principles. At this point, we have to agree with Mr. Burrage that we can have absolutely no confidence in anything in the report.

Maybe Ms. Nour Habib of the Broken Arrow Ledger would follow up on these inconsistencies in these accusations, since the auditor never did, and report the truth. We would encourage her efforts to bring readers the facts, and where there is conflicting information, fair input from both sides of the controversy.

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