Sunday, March 01, 2015
C. J. Huff: Wallace-Bajjali caused all of district's financial woes
The state audit of the Joplin R-8 School District is scheduled to be released Tuesday morning and it is shaping up to be one that is extremely critical of Huff's management (or lack thereof).
So Huff, whose entire tenure in Joplin has been marked by show instead of substance and manipulation of the local media has started damage control.
Actually, that is an inaccurate statement. Damage control started long ago when Huff told KZRG shortly before the audit began that he had not followed proper policies and procedures for 18 months after the tornado because he thought it was more important to "put people first."
The collapse and departure of the City of Joplin's master developer Wallace-Bajjali has also worked in Huff's favor. Huff can blame the slick talking Texas con artist David Wallace because the school district will not receive the $13 million payment Wallace had promised would take place during the third year of the tax increment financing (TIF) district.
Why didn't any of us see this? It wasn't the incredible expansion of administration during the Huff years or the series of endless expensive programs that add hundreds of thousands to the budget, but fail to keep test scores from dropping.
And most of all, it wasn't expensive cost overruns and millions of dollars in "might-as-well" spending and okaying additions that have not been approved by government agencies with the expectation that the money would be repaid.
The same superintendent who boldly talked in 2012 about the possibility of returning leftover money from the bond issue to the taxpayers, has had to recommend approval of $73 million in loans just to keep his house of cards from collapsing.
Then Huff has the nerve to tell us he and his administration had foreseen all along that this could happen.
And everything would be under control- if it were not for Wallace-Bajjali and the TIF district.
Whenever the heat has been turned on C. J. Huff (and that has not happened anywhere near as often as it should have), he has turned to his most reliable supporter, the Joplin Globe, to save his bacon and he has followed the same path now that the audit is about to be released.
In today's Globe, Huff blames everything on Wallace-Bajjali. From the Globe article:
Huff believes that the school district's financial woes are the result of promises that Joplin's former master development principal, David Wallace, made to foster agreement for the TIF district. Huff said that redevelopment plan has failed and asks if the city council or TIF Commission should reconsider the plan and discuss what could be done to divert money to the school district.
It was the Globe that rode to Huff's rescue after Joplin High School students revealed in a blog entry that he was accepting paid speaking engagements from the Washington Speakers Bureau, also smoothing over criticism of his frequent speeches by referring to it as "thank-you" travel to repay those who had helped us after the tornado.
It was the Globe that delivered Huff's spin about the need for a six-and-a-half-mile ribbon at the dedication of the new Joplin High School, when many saw it as excessive and not at all in keeping with the serious nature of the event.
Probably worst of all, the Globe has helped Huff in his efforts to make the departure of more than 300 teachers in the past three years seem nothing unusual, accepting at face value his remarks that some teachers couldn't handle the expectations of the Joplin Schools, or teachers left because their spouses found jobs in other communities, or they were too traumatized after the tornado. Huff has never admitted that his administration could even be partially responsible for teachers leaving.
In a horrific twist of fate, the meeting that appeared likely to shed some critical light on C. J. Huff and his co-conspirators on the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, the release of the state audit, will now be relegated to only a couple of public events, both arranged by C. J. Huff- a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday when the audit is officially released and another event later in the day when Huff will answer questions from the public.
The complete audit will be available to the public, both on the state auditor's website and on the school district website, but with no state auditor or even representative from the state auditor's office to answer questions, the voices that appear on the evening news, and those that are quoted in the Joplin Globe are most likely to be those of C. J. Huff and/or R-8 Board of Education President Anne Sharp, two people are among those the most responsible for the financial and professional disaster that the Joplin School District has become.
As for Wallace-Bajjali being responsible for the district's horrendous financial situation, it should be noted that school districts almost never support TIFs because they remove tax money from schools. Both Huff and CFO Paul Barr, the district's representatives on the TIF Commission, voted for the TIF, something David Wallace told Missouri legislators during a hearing a few weeks later almost never happens.
The TIF would have passed with or without the votes of Huff and Barr, but Wallace was able to promote the complete approval of the TIF by all taxing entities as he pushed successfully for state legislation that would enable the TIF to go forward.
While it is obvious that the city of Joplin should have done more research into Wallace-Bajjali, it is equally obvious that C. J. Huff and his team bought into the $13 million payment and the promise of a new school without looking into the Texas firm's history.
One of Huff's employees at the time sounded the warning about Wallace-Bajjali even before the company became the city's master developer. In the March 31, 2012 Turner Report I featured details on the SEC fines and that the company was going to have to repay $1.2 million to cheated investors (none of whom has received a cent to this day).
I wrote that less than two months after Huff's H. R. director (and now chief operating officer) Tina Smith had sent the message through East Middle School Principal Bud Sexson that I was to stop writing about politics and politicians.
In the Huff Administration, truth always takes a back seat to spin.