Friday, March 20, 2009

Wilson Education Center Continues to Flout Indiana's Open Records Law

Over on Diana Vice's blog, she details how the Wilson Education Center continues to attempt to flout Indiana's Open Records law. Now, Phil Phil Partenheimer, the fairly new Wilson Education Center director, claims in a letter to Diana Vice that Indiana's Open Records law does not allow a representative of the person making the request to pick up the open records. He even cites a statute, IC 5-14-3-3, which he claims says that. The only problem is, the statute doesn't say that at all.

According to Diana:
I think it would be easier to pull the teeth out of an angry bobcat than it would be to collect public records from the Wilson Education Center. I understand that the folks at the WEC might be a little nervous about the public looking over their shoulders since they are key players in the illegal no bid scheme that originated in their office, but they are going to have to release records to the public whether they like it or not. I realize that much of the information that I've collected already makes them look very bad in the eyes of the public, but that's why public access laws are necessary -- to call the mismanagers into account!

Heck, I must really be on to something for them to go to these great lengths to avoid full disclosure of the public records that I have been trying to obtain for many months. They even went so far as to change their public records policy, tailoring it to make it difficult for me to obtain them. In the past, I have paid the postage costs for the WEC to send me records via U.S. mail. Now, they are requiring me to make a six hour round trip to obtain public records. I certainly hope this new policy applies to everyone, otherwise, it would constitute discrimination, and I'm completely familiar with the legal process.
This appears to be nothing more than a tactic by Mr. Partenheimer to try to avoid the disclosure of how his company has handled public money and whether there was a violation of Indiana's bidding laws. There should be zero tolerance for the attitude displayed in Mr. Partenheimer's letter, which is not at all supported by the law he quotes. If he finds himself in court defending this letter, I don't think he'll find the judge too amused. In the meantime, our elected officials need to start taking a hard look at this company's activities. When someone taking public money doesn't want their activities exposed, that is generally a sign something wrong is going on. It is time for our elected officials to find out. Diana Vice shouldn't be the only ones asking questions about WEC.

1 comment:

schoolboardgreg said...

The Wilson Educational Center is one of nine educational centers in Indiana. When a public school district joins one of the centers, it pays about $5 per student per year. For example, at MSD Washington Township, we pay over $50,000 to support these activities. Not all school districts belong.

I actually visited one of these centers and spoke with folks at the Wilson Educational Center, and was unable to determine any significant value in belonging. Their board of directors includes superintendents from the participating schools within each district. I was unable to find any evidence that any employee or member of the board had any private-sector purchasing experience at the executive level. Further, in my brief visit, it did not appear that the purchasing specifications were based on standards developed by any professional engineering association or were used by the private sector. This is simply my opinion and based on a visit and phone call.

However, based on what has been found by Diana Vice, I am not surprised. They appear busy trying to hide their activities.

A way to shut down this nonsense is for taxpayers to contact their local school boards, bring these matters to their attention, and ask each board to justify approving these contracts. I believe in joint purchasing activities; however, schools can use the State of Indiana purchasing arrangements without a fee. I’ve asked our Superintendent to place the contract on our agenda when it next comes up for review. I’m only one vote; but, for what many districts are paying the educational centers, they could hire teachers . . . or avoid laying them off in these hard times.

Greg Wright, Elected Member, Washington Township School Board