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Archive for February, 2015

I only hope the members of the LAUSD Board of Education do not receive e-mails from Nigeria which offer “risk-free” financial opportunities. If that occurs, the school system will be bankrupt in short order.

You see, the current Board has no concept of due diligence or stewardship.

When a big-ticket project is put before them, it will receive the stamp of approval without regard to budgetary considerations and with no plan to evaluate progress.

For example, why not approve $90 million for a new payroll system? Let’s push forward. We are certain it will work; just tell us when it’s ready for implementation and push the start button. It cost another $37 million to fix the disaster that followed and disrupted the lives of many teachers.

A more contemporary example is MISIS – the replacement for ISIS (and who wouldn’t want to replace anything named ISIS!). Its cost of $130 million dwarfs that of the payroll system. This article, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a respected worldwide organization with over 400,000 members, provides a good chronology of the inept oversight and management that was the trademark for implementing the system. It may cost another $100 million to overhaul it and undo the errors to vital student records.

There are other examples of costly SNAFUs; you will find them in one of my earlier articles.

The reaction to major failures by the Board is usually of the day-late-and-dollar-short variety.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan wanted an audit of why the rollout of MISIS was such a calamity. Excuse me, Ms. Galatzan, didn’t you and your colleagues think of authorizing an independent audit of the testing and results prior to implementation? That’s what is supposed to occur prior to the launch of important systems.

According to Howard Blume’s article in the LA Times, her reaction about the future of MISIS was, “But it might take us a little longer than we had expected or hoped to get there.”

Not a word of concern about the cost.

I attended a Neighborhood Council meeting where Galatzan appeared, purportedly in her capacity as a sitting LAUSD Board Member. She has been trying to make the rounds of NCs in her district lately. I am sure it is a coincidence that these visits fall close to the upcoming election on March 3rd.

I and other stakeholders asked her about the LAUSD’s history of failures.

Her answer: “We were lied to!”

I have no doubt administrators lied.

The sad truth is that those entrusted with any organization’s finances have to assume there is risk of misinformation, if not outright lies, when it comes to assessing performance and results before rollouts. The LAUSD Board does not get it. Did they not learn from earlier failures or from the well-publicized debacle of Kathleen Sebelius’ mismanagement of ACA’s implementation? They are disconnected from the real world. They are unaccountable and do everything to downplay the loss of many hundreds of millions of dollars – funds that could have been applied to address worthy objectives.

Despite their sorry record, it will be an uphill battle to unseat them on March 3.

If enough teachers get behind some of the challengers, there is a chance to force runoffs. I only hope the teachers and education activists will make a concerted effort to get out the vote.

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When the City Council announced a “compromise” with Brian D’Arcy, boss of DWP’s labor union, over the scope and conduct of an audit covering two non profit trusts, my eyes rolled.

An audit with restrictions is not a legitimate audit.

I suggested a number of audit steps that City Controller Galperin could apply to make the best of a bad hand. Unfortunately, he was never given a chance. No surprise when you are dealing with people who do not believe in transparency.

An editorial in the Daily News provides an excellent summary of what Galperin was up against, so I won’t go into the details here except to say the objection D’Arcy’s people raised about the auditors’ extensive note-taking is enough to prove the union was never serious in its negotiations with the City Council. Kind of like Vladimir Putin’s strategy in dealing with the west over Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

Where does this impasse leave us?

The court has to rule on the union’s appeal of the decision that supported the city’s right to audit the trusts without restriction.

If the appeal fails – and it should – then the city will have leverage to conduct a real audit, including the power to subpoena anyone or anything.

But will the City Council go the whole nine yards if given the opportunity?

My guess would be no. After all, there was no sound logic in compromising to begin with. Why would the Council care now? It was obvious that politics trumped the public’s interests – D’Arcy’s history of directing millions of dollars to candidates for city offices saw to that.

Controller Ron Galperin and City Attorney Mike Feuer appear to be the only ones willing to push back. The Mayor,for whatever reason, seems to prefer standing on the sidelines despite being denied the right to appoint management representatives to the boards of the non profits .

It may take a while before the court rules on the appeal. Ron Galperin steadfastly wants to withhold the next $4 million installment. But there’s still $12 million in cash sitting in the trusts’ accounts we may be able to recover. The city should ask the judge to order the trusts’ assets frozen until the case is decided. It would be a shame if the funds were transferred beyond the reach of the city.

It is time for the Mayor and City Council to get on board with Feuer and Galperin to protect the interests of the residents and ratepayers. If they cannot do it on this issue, then what good are they?

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Have you tried to schedule an appointment for a license renewal lately?

I received a renewal reminder in mid-January. The expiration of my license is March 18th.

Within a week after receiving it, I attempted to schedule an appointment at the DMV.  I tried several offices in the area – the earliest appointments were in early to mid-April.  Does me a lot of good.

I called Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian’s office for assistance.  The field rep confirmed my suspicion that the lack of timely appointments was due to the surge of applicants caused by the passage of AB 60, the bill authorizing the licensing of illegal immigrants.

Put aside the divisive politics for a moment.  When the legislature passes a bill that creates a reasonably predictable response – and certainly anyone in Sacramento could have figured AB 60 would send people flocking to the DMV – would it not make sense to staff offices accordingly, even extend hours into the evening?

Better yet, why not grant automatic 30-day extensions to those of us with the misfortune to have their renewals fall in this timeframe?

I suggested that to Nazarian’s field representative.  He doubted anything could be done.

“Why not executive action,” I asked.  Once again, he could not see that happening.

I guess Governor Brown is too preoccupied with laying track for HSR.

The rep did say he would pass along my suggestion to the Assembly Member.

My next stop – State Senator Hertzberg.

I will keep you posted.

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