Sunday, March 01, 2015

C. J. Huff: Wallace-Bajjali caused all of district's financial woes

The spin machine is already going full blast.

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.


Anonymous said...

This is why a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. According to Dr. Huff, it was the $13 million in projected funds that did not materialize that have taken the district down. But, as Turner pointed out, we have borrowed $60 million more than that. The math indicates that the TIF would not have solved the problem. Perhaps some self-control might have. Instead, 8 tennis courts were built, justified by the fact that tournaments could be had there. But like all things CJ does, those tennis courts were not built correctly and are now good for nothing but practice. We did not need a practice track. Or practice fields with turf. Or buildings so huge that they are more of an encumbrance for maintenance than an asset for education. The district is in horrible shape because of overspending, misallocation of funds, poor governance by its supervising board, over spending on trips, staff, and projects that did not need to happen. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Matthew 7:26-

And every one who hears these my teachings and does not act upon them will be found to resemble a fool who builds house upon sand.
--Weymouth New Testament

Perhaps "mine shafts" could be substituted? Another expensive issue that might have been averted had such a monstrous building plan not been created. I believe the subject was brought up and quickly downplayed. Yes, fools did this damage. Not TIFs.

Anonymous said...

My favorite example of R8's excesses? When CJ, the TLCs, and some administrators spent over $36,000 to take a trip to a conference in DC. The theme of the conference? Doing more with less. What a joke. All that we have seen less of is reading teachers and cut backs on days and hours for classified staff. And bleach and trash bags, of course.

R8 is a joke, but it is an ugly joke, and its Board sat back and not only allowed the destruction, but actually participated in it, hence President Sharp's push to get CJ's contract extended another year before the audit came out, McGrew's selling of his soul for a job, and Steele? The man of God? What a disappointment. I hope their lack of responsibility was duly noted in the audit. But, the rest of us know the truth, regardless.

Anonymous said...

Those "secret" retirement accounts, plus CJ's rapid rise in income, plus the splitting of Angie's salary amongst the regime aren't helping the situation at all. If CJ hadn't created such a bloated body of staff members in his building we wouldn't be spending a minimum of a half-million dollars for upgrades at Memorial. His big butt could have gone back to the Roi S. Wood building where it came from. Greed is what took R8 down. Plain and simple. And Paul Barr? Playing right along, apparently.

Anonymous said...

The real fault lies with the R8 Board. They failed to oversee any aspect of the R8 finances. They approved all of the borrowing and spending. The R8 Board is totally irresponsble. Huff is their employee; R8 failed to supervise him too. Now, the real world is closing in: R8 finances are collapsing; the audit is here. Nowhere to hide except behind the Globe.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is the guilty parties will not be the ones hurt by their actions. It will be the students, staff, and struggling taxpayers who will spend decades putting the district back together and paying the debt. How Miss Independently Wealthy can dare show her face, much less run for the Board again, is beyond me. I would hang my head in shame.

Anonymous said...

I'm just cynical enough to wonder if the "gifts" the staff got a few weeks back were to win good favor, coming so close to the audit and all. I don't know about everyone else, but a cookie and a water bottle don't really make up for years without raises and for years of abuse at their hands. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I was brought up to "beware of false prophets bearing gifts." The video failed to sway me, because I've seen so many of those in the last four-five years, and I'm not sure what the point was in covering a survey that was almost a year old, and that many of the staff members didn't take because of trust issues or because they weren't here. The general consensus is that the day was a waste of time and funds, despite CJ's assurances that they are striving to make PD better. I hope they start soon. I can say, after just five years here, that days like that can help me see that TIF funds would not be the cause of financial ruin.

Anonymous said...

The District was in over their head before Wallace Bajalli. They are now trying to blame the TIF and WB for their failings. We would all be stunned to know how much they really are short. What they are reporting is merely one third.

Anonymous said...

You're right, the Houston Investors never received a penny. All the lies started with Albert kaleta and goof ball Daniel frishberg. Those two pigs introduced the two thieves of Wallace and Bajjali to them. The Houston Investors are hard working families who lost it all. They didn't deserve what they got. I hope Kaleta can sleep at night. He stole so much too. They are the worst nightmare. The whole pack of thieves. I'm sure Joplin was snowballed like Houston was. I hope this city fights hard against those hungry wolves. Wallace and Bajjali are crooks.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like it's about to be "Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles Time" for the taxpayers. Again.

Rest assured Turner Tards, the seats you are buying will match this time. Or the next time. The district offices will continue be up to snuff for the R-8 intelligentsia, thus ensuring dear leader has an ample supply of enthused @$$ kissers too.