A technique Sisney used, and his helpers played up as much as possible, is taking things that were completely ordinary and above board, misrepresenting them as something sinister, and making a lot of noise in the media to fire up the public. This worked pretty well because members of the public typically don’t know the technicalities of regulations (nor should they be expected to), and the circumstances were presented in an incomplete, leading, suspicious-sounding manner.
Some examples debunked by the audit:
Updike’s claim that the board’s policy committee violated the open meetings act
The board, in a regular meeting, authorized RFR to do some work reviewing the board’s policies. This was before the policy committee was formed. RFR had already been retained by the board. Since the policy committee did not yet exist, and the work was approved in a regular board meeting, there is no open meetings issue here. This was a dishonest attempt to smear the three, and there is no way Updike didn’t know it.
Conflict of interest between Shari Wilkins and Air Assurance
This bit of deceit was contributed by Carol Yates, Sisney’s secretary. Wilkins had brought up to her the question of whether it would be a problem if the company Wilkins worked for had a business relationship with Air Assurance. Sisney’s brother had advised Sisney to seek out anything that could be held against the board members as a conflict of interest, to make them look like they had a personal reason for supporting Air Assurance and opposing Sisney. Sisney claimed in his lawsuit that he had received an email saying that Wilkins had worked on a benefits package for Air Assurance. Simple as that, and the impression is made in the public’s mind. “Personal agenda”, we heard over and over.
Wilkins did not work on anything relating to Air Assurance, and had not ever met Rampey. The audit found that there was no business relationship between AA and Wilkins’ former company, and even if there had been, it would still not be a conflict of interest because it would be between two private entities.
This was a dishonest attempt to give an impression of bias. Sisney and Richardson probably knew it was not a conflict of interest; if they didn’t, they could have found out easily. Instead of trying to clear it up, Sisney stuck it in his lawsuit and his helpers spread the lie.
Conflict of interest between a board member and Air Assurance involving cruise tickets
A former AA employee suggested that Air Assurance bought tickets for an incentive program from a board member who worked for a travel agent. This person may have truly thought the person was a travel agent employee was a board member, and come forward out of sincere concern. More likely, considering all the other dirty tricks being played, the former employee was put up to making the suggestion, possibly by an employer who is a competitor. The travel agent employee has never been a board member. Nothing to see here.
Libelous statements made online by anonymous commenter “Rivers”, claiming that AA did free work for the board members
Side note: there are 14 rivers named “Vermillion” in the US and Canada.
Jim Moburg’s description of a bribe attempt made by Air Assurance (but not to him)
Moburg said Gerber told him he thought Rampey had offered him (Gerber) a bribe, but nothing in Moburg’s description of the conversation Gerber supposedly had with Rampey constitutes offering a bribe. Gerber does not remember any conversation involving what sounded like a bribe, and it’s unlikely that Gerber would have been in a position to have this conversation with Rampey anyway; it would have been Miller or Bilby dealing with Rampey’s preventative maintenance quote.
Sisney said he heard about the conversation from Beagles, who heard it from Moburg.
Side note: Beagles and Moburg are on Sisney’s special gift list. Gerber is not.
Sisney leaned heavily on this as evidence of the conspiracy. He implicated Gerber, Miller, and Linda Brown, but not the Director of Purchasing, whose job it was to oversee bidding and purchasing. The audit found that the purchasing department should have asked for written bids on certain projects whose estimates were between needing sealed bids and needing no bids at all.
No intentional wrongdoing was suspected; better organization and procedures was recommended.
Sisney used the confusing requirements and incomplete details to present this as a sinister manifestation of the corruption running rampant at BA Schools. This was a dishonest attempt to portray certain people as villains, paving the way for his “whistleblower” excuse for getting fired. There is no way he could have really thought maintenance personnel were secretly making money off splitting bids on these projects, especially right under the purchasing director’s nose.
The $77,000 “invoice” that started it all
Outraged parents at Sisney’s suspension told the TV cameras that Sisney had found a $77,000 invoice from Air Assurance that had not been approved. Understandably, these outraged parents had no idea what they were talking about. It’s understandable because Sisney had spread the rumor in a confusing way, to prevent people from seeing that there was nothing to this “shocking” discovery. He told us that the work had not been requested or approved. This is completely inaccurate.
The “invoice” was really 75 invoices for smaller amounts, totaling about $77,000. They were all for legitimate services performed by Air Assurance over several weeks’ time, and they did not exceed the budget allocation for maintenance and repairs. The District was behind in making sure a sufficient amount were encumbered in advance to cover these invoices, for various administrative reasons, complicated by a delay in receiving the invoices caused by an ice storm that knocked out power for a week at AA and switching to a new billing system. The problem of the unencumbered $77,000 was purely an internal administrative mix-up. Not only that, but it had been cleared up months before Sisney’s suspension.
Sisney got a lot of mileage out of the $77,000.
Work being done without having work orders first
Sisney tried to combine the $77,000 encumbrance mix-up with a non-issue in the work order system to create the impression that Air Assurance was invoicing freely for work that had not been requested or approved. He backed up this impression (for the easily-led, anyway), with his observations that invoices had been received for preventive maintenance, and then the work orders entered after that. This is true. Sisney implied that the work order system was part of the work request/payment/encumbrance system; this is not true. It was never a requirement to enter a
work order before preventive maintenance work was done or billed. Sisney knew this.
Like so many other things he “discovered”, there is nothing out of the ordinary or sneaky here; he exploited the public’s lack of familiarity with the way the District handles business, confused the issue with irrelevant details, and implied wrongdoing where there was none.
Air Assurance doing unauthorized, unrequested work
Sisney told us that Air Assurance was doing whatever work they wanted to do at BA Schools, without requests or approval, and just billing the District. He again brought in the $77,000 encumbrance non-issue, trying to make it out to be unauthorized work that AA just decided on their own to do and bill BAPS for. The audit found that it was all authorized and requested.
The Combs audit claimed that AA had done unauthorized and unrequested work during Spring Break. Spring Break would of course be an ideal time to get HVAC work done, with no one in the buildings. The implication was that AA had let themselves in and done unauthorized, unnecessary work in order to rip off the District. AA did do some work during Spring Break, but it had been requested and started before Spring Break.
Paying for a fake insurance policy
The Combs audit described a payment the District made on a bogus insurance policy, presumably in a fraud scheme with the insurance company. The claim that the insurance policy had lapsed was incorrect, and it was a perfectly legitimate payment on an increased amount that the District had requested.
Gerber shredding documents and taking the shredshome
The accusation that Gerber shredded documents for three days came from one person: Carol Yates, Sisney’s secretary. Enough said.
Gerber did take shreds home, and they were used for packing artifacts when the Historical Society moved.
Supposedly along with the shredding, there were HVAC files missing from Joyce Rich’s office and a room where purchase orders were stored. No one ever identified any information that was missing. It does seem strange though, that the same people who accused Gerber of shredding evidence (even though nothing was missing) didn’t mind Sisney taking 10-12 boxes from school property.
For more information, including court documents and additional analysis, visit Broken Arrow Forum