Tuesday, May 24, 2016
R-8 Board to C. J. Huff: We're not paying extra for your travel, lodging
In something I can't remember seeing in 39 years of covering board meetings, the board voted 4-3 not to pay the bills, with board members Debbie Fort, Jennifer Martucci, Chris Sloan, and :Lori Musser voting with the majority and Board President Jeff Koch, Sharrock Dermott, and Lynda Banwart voting to pay the bills.
The problem was solved quickly with the removal of one bill that particularly upset board members- $218.54 to pay for former Superintendent C. J. Huff to travel to Kansas City and pay for his lodging as he worked with the district;s law firm to prepare for the $6 million countersuit filed by the P1 electrical contracting firm of Lenexa against the district.
According to the lawsuit, the district owes the money because of extra costs associated with Huff's unsuccessful push to get Joplin High School opened on time in August 2014.
The problem the board had with the $218.54 was spelled out by board member Debbie Fort, who participated in the meeting through a phone/computer hookup.
"Why would we pay $218.54 when we allocated $50,000 for that?"
Fort was referring to the $50,000 Huff received as part of his severance package. The $50,000 was referred to as Huff's payments for serving as a consultant, but on the day Norm Ridder was introduced as interim superintendent, Koch made it clear that Ridder would not be consulting with Huff and that the $50,000 was to cover expenses for Huff to help prepare for the various lawsuits that he incurred, including the P1 action.
The answer that board attorney Norman Rouse gave to Fort did nothing to address her concerns. Rouse said the $218.54 was to cover one night at a motel and was a trial preparation expense.
When Fort pressed the issue, Rouse forgetting that he is there to advise the board, not tell it what to do, said, "I'll be glad to explain my rationale (for approving the expenditure), but it really needs to be in closed session."
After that, the four board members voted to reject the bills. After a motion was made to pull the Huff reimbursement from the list, another vote was taken and the bills were paid by a 7-0 vote.