What the heck happened?
That’s the question patrons of the Blaine County School District have been asking since Superintendent Lonnie Bar-ber departed suddenly carrying a contract settlement of $600,000 and since the dis-trict announced the no-fault settlement of an acrimonious, multi-million-dollar law-suit with Seattle-based energy contractor McKinstry Essention.
It’s a simple question that no one in the district is willing to answer.
The district’s board of trustees says it’s muzzled by state laws regarding employee matters and by a voluntary “non-disparagement agreement,” another muz-zle, signed with McKinstry.
That leaves the local public, which has been unfailingly supportive of district ini-tiatives, out in the cold and left to wonder why in the world the trustees, three of five who six months earlier voted to extend the superintendent’s contract, would suddenly agree to end it.
The trustees’ explanation, “leadership considerations,” is no answer at all, and it breaks trust with patrons—the people who are footing the bills.
The settlement with McKinstry ended a nasty lawsuit that contained claims of mismanagement, misrepresentation, fraud, profiteering and even racketeering. It was a full-blown legal brawl.
Trustees say the district got a good deal in part because of cash and services McKinstry will provide to offset legal fees.
Good deal or not, leadership or not, non-disparagement agreement aside, the question remains, and patrons deserve a better answer in both matters than the evasive and unresponsive, “We can’t say.”