Grandview’s school board doesn’t seem to have much responsibility to inform the public before they make controversial votes. When they gave themselves a raise, they didn’t even notify all of the board members (or they were lying about the raise). Either way, they hit another low point. This 2007 story documented the scandal.
Read the fine print
“The board raise of 2006 was first passed in Jan. 2002. At this time the state was in the process of increasing the maximum a school board member could receive from $80 to $125 per meeting. Even though the state had not finished voting the increase into law, the board changed the standard organizational legalese printed in every January meeting notes to say the following:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education of the Grandview Heights City School District shall be compensated at the maximum rate authorized by law effective January 1, 2006
The reason that this had to be effective four years in the future is that Ohio does not allow board members (or city council members) to vote themselves a raise in the same term they are serving. By 2006 all of the board members who voted themselves a raise would be serving a new term (except Brian Cook, who was replaced by Gary Heydinger in June 2003.)
The same legalese was inserted into the boilerplate of every January meeting for the next four years. I found no discussion recorded in any meeting about this raise, it just seemed to have been placed in the notes with no formal consideration by the board – the magic raise that came from nowhere.
I first became aware of the raise when I was reading the Jan. meeting notes in March of 2006 (for some reason the board was late getting these notes out). In every preceding year the Jan. notes contains a specific dollar amount for compensation (always $80), for this meeting the dollar amount was not specified. It didn’t take me long to find out that the notes contained a raise, and that the raise had been hidden in the notes for the last four years.
I didn’t know that I gave myself a 56% raise.
I sent an e-mail to president McLeod asking her what the deal was with the raise – she first sent a reply that denied the raise, followed a couple of hours later by an admission that the board had voted themselves a raise in January. She said:
Sometime around 2001-02, when the cap for compensation was raised for local boards, the Grandview Board at the time raised the cap to the “maximum allowable by law,” deferred until the time when all board members would be at the same rate of compensation, which indeed began in January 2006
McLeod says “the board” voted the raise, “some time around 2001-02”, as though it was someone else who made this vote. But McLeod was the president of the board at this meeting, and all of the present board members were also on the board for this vote (except Heydinger).
McLeod didn’t seem too upset that the board had given themselves a stealth raise, or as she sarcastically called it a “staggering increase”. She had no comment when I asked her if the board had been honest with the public when they had just gone through an election and had asked the voters for a tax hike, without disclosing the 56% raise.
Heydinger replied to my question about the raise with the admission that he had voted in January 2006 to give himself a raise without knowing what he was voting for. He had some rationalizations for the raise, mostly weak ones. His assertion that “it is in line with many other school districts“ was a flat out lie (unless he had polled multiple other school boards, there’s no way he went to that effort).
Cameron replied to the question “did you know you were voting yourself a raise” with the single word “NO”. Lithgow and Keller refused to answer the question (and still refuse to answer any of my e-mails).
So was this a matter of some board members who didn’t read what they were voting for? The smoking gun is in the board meeting notes of January 10, 2006 . Every previous January there was a motion that set the compensation for the board, and every year it was written down as a dollar amount. For the first time in 2006 it was written as “the maximum allowed by law”, without any dollar amount. That was a deliberate decision by the board.
The stealth raise was important – it came at a time when the board was in negotiation with the teachers union. You can bet that they knew about the raise, and used it to push their own pay up.
When the board is promoting the new income tax in the next few months, and asks for a raise from the voters, they should be reminded of the disgraceful way they treated the citizens of Grandview, and their incompetence in keeping the costs down at the schools.”
2 – 2007