There is an old saying popular among lawyers: “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table.”

School board club member Karen Yelsey can’t pound the facts of her disappointing tenure as a trustee, nor can she pound the law. So she has taken to pounding the table.

And it’s reprehensible.

On Nov. 8, 2005, voters approved Measure F, which gave the N-MUSD $282 million in bond money to do all sorts of wonderful, exciting, and amazing things to our schools. This was on top of the $110 million we gave them in 2000.

The bond language specifically included a mention of an “Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee” (COC) that will “… continue to monitor construction projects to guarantee that funds are well spent…”

Please note: It states in the bond language that the well-spending of your money is guaranteed. You can read that here, toward the bottom, unless you really want to get depressed by reading the whole thing:

Ballot Language

OK, so, the district gets their money and they create this oversight committee. Yelsey was not a trustee at the time the bond was passed but she came on board just a year later.

On Oct. 11, 2005, a month before the passage of Measure F, the trustees passed resolution no. 13-10-06, which added the potential oversight of Measure F to the already established oversight committee for Measure A five years earlier. The vote was rubber-stamped 7-0.

You can read that entire resolution by clicking here:

http://nmusd.ca.schoolloop.com/file/1267280609392/1218996644678/1854227940504229643.pdf

So far, so good.

Then Yelsey is elected in 2006.

Now we’re going to fast forward to November 15, 2016, just about two years ago. On that date, the trustee Vicki Snell, the board Clerk at that time, signed resolution 14-10-16, which updated and revised the Oversight Committee resolution from 2005.

At this point, Yelsey has been a trustee for ten years and she rubber-stamped the revised resolution as part of a 7-0 vote.

You can read that entire resolution by clicking here:

http://nmusd-ca.schoolloop.com/file/1218998591187/1218996644678/1423014426563882783.pdf

If you read it, you will see that the COC is supposed to “meet at least quarterly to provide an Annual Report to the Board of Education.”

So far, not so good.

According to the Agendas and Minutes posted on the district’s website, the Oversight Committee has not met quarterly. In fact, since 2007, it has met only about half of the time required by resolution 14-10-16, which Yelsey approved.

You can see this for yourself here in this screenshot from the district web page for the Oversight Committee:

Oversight Minutes

There was only one meeting in 2014, only one meeting in 2015, only one meeting in 2017 and according to this list, only one meeting so far this year. And no, I did not conveniently forget 2016: There were no meetings that year.

Yelsey has been on the board for the all of the COC meetings listed on the district website but she has never attended a single COC meeting.

Oh, and those annual reports? Fuggedaboutit: Only one report has been issued in the last four years. Yelsey has been on the board the entire time.

There are no guarantees

Remember that responsibility of the committee to see that funds are “well spent?” I have barely made my way through the meeting minutes but in the first one I chose, there was this passage:

“We did have a push from [NHHS] campus where there was going to be a donation for the
wood on the bleacher seats so they would be the same as the original seats (we planned to go with aluminum seating). The wood was Alaskan yellow cedar, and it ended being expensive. When they found out what the wood cost was, we were already committed, but they found they could not cover the full cost. The district ended up spending a bit more for the wood seating. It has made us much more careful in the future about getting the monies up front. [Committee Member] asked how much the upcharge was on this and [District Representative] said is [sic] was approximately $170,000.

So there you have it. The original plans called for, as they should have, aluminum seating. But someone or some people in the administration or the board or both, decided to spend an unbudgeted $170,000 on Alaska Yellow Cedar seating.

Where’s Karen?

In the 11 years since the COC meetings have been held, Karen Yelsey has not attended a single one. She has not demanded or even asked about the Annual Reports that are supposed to be filed, never asked why the committee is failing to live up to its duties and meet at least quarterly, and never questioned the expenditure of up to $170,000 for Alaska Yellow Cedar seating at Davidson.

Yelsey’s oversight of the Oversight Committee is nowhere to be found, but instead of pounding the law or the facts, she has resorted to pounding the table.

It’s not going to work. Voters in her area are smart and well-informed and they know that when a candidate avoids the discussion of the big issues and cannot justify his or her record, it’s time for a change.

I am supporting Dr. Gina Nick in Area 4 to stop this nonsense. Dr. Nick will bring the accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility we want from our elected officials.

Gina NickDr. Nick is an entrepreneur and Newport-Mesa parent who understands that district money needs to be spent on kids, not on lawyers. She understands the need for REAL oversight and accountability and will help provide the fiscal responsibility we need to ensure that our students have the money they need for a high-quality education. For more info on Nick, visit: https://www.facebook.com/DrGinaNickNMUSD/

Area 4 readers, she deserves your vote.

Steve Smith

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