Friday, May 01, 2009

Travels with Shelly

Page One Kentucky recently hinted at an expose' involving Jefferson County Superintendent Sheldon Berman's travel.
Yes, Mr. Principal, you’re gonna learn a lot about Sheldon Berman’s travels and any excesses in the near future. Hopefully he’s not wasting taxpayer dollars willy nilly.
Following the Bluegrass Airport, UK Pharmacy and Lexington Library stories, perhaps this is a reasonable issue to look into. But it looks like Page One is going to get it's wish - that no taxpayer dollars are being wasted here.

A cursory glance at Berman's travel over the past two years is about as exciting as watching paint dry. On his own time, Berman missed 5 days of work in 2007-08 and three days in 2008-09, on trips paid for by the organizations he works with. I'm not sure how many other superintendent's records would hold up so well. Absent receipts for expensive gifts or money paid for dancing girls and alcohol - I'm just not seeing a problem.

There's nothing to see here. Move along.

Similarly, I don't get today's piece which uses the wrong law to draw a wrong conclusion.

We’ve discovered a few more potential problems for Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman that, in our opinion, happens to be the epitome of the appearance of impropriety....Long story short: We still think Berman has a lot of explaining to do.

Now, I love a good scoop as much as the next blogger, but I just don't see any evidence of impropriety here. I suspect this investigation is going nowhere fast.

8 comments:

Jake said...

Instead of jumping to random conclusions, maybe you could, oh, ask me?

We didn't cite an incorrect law. We cited the law to point out just how jacked up ethics statutes are in the Commonwealth.

As for your odd allegations yesterday - Berman's name and face graced the pages of said company's website and then, mysteriously, disappeared after our story went live.

If you wish to get accusatory, you may want to remember that we back everything up with sources - via something in writing or with documents in-hand.

Really, careful with the conclusions you jump to.

Susan Weston said...

Richard,

I wonder if there's a perception gap here.

From watching strong administrators, I'm used to the idea that they travel. They go to meetings where they learn and contribute to other people learning. That's how they get strong and stay strong. It's part of how the profession works.

Most of that travel happens in-state, but it makes sense to me that the head of our largest district would do more national things, and a leader hired from Massachusetts might have some ongoing commitments in the Boston area.

It looks obvious to me, and maybe to you, that this part of the story could be no story at all. But I can see how others might not see travel as a regular part of district leadership work.

Jennifer Hampton said...

I don't see any impropriety here. And jumping at random conclusions (and posting them) is something that Page One seems to specialize in.

Richard Day said...

Jake,

You said: "Instead of jumping to random conclusions, maybe you could, oh, ask me?"

Yes, I'm sure you're right.

Your comment was particularly striking because just yesterday, I heard the same complaint from Shelly Berman. Only, he wasn't talking about me.

As for backing things up - good. That's important. But admit it.
Berman and what's her name raking in $900 K? You don't have that backed up.

The fact is KSN&C does count on faithful reporting from Page One and our other sources. KSN&C links to Page One regularly, as you are aware. But if we get called out on a significant issue that we've reprinted, even if it's not ours, then I feel some obligation to look into it further. When I did that yesterday, at least part of the story fell apart.

The nice thing about this is that if you have records, or people willing to go on the record to dispute my conclusions, then you can prove me wrong and I'll update KSN&C readers as things develop. You can show your documentation of Berman on the Developmental Studies Center website, because so far everybody denies he was ever on the site. I'm awaiting a call back from the webmaster as we speak.

Here's the thing. If this story had been about ethics law in Kentucky, it would have been a different matter. It started with conflict of interest, but the story keeps moving. So far I have been unable to verify a conflict of interest or an ethical breach. An appearance of impropriety? Perhaps, but only because that is so subjective that reasonable folks can disagree about what constitutes impropriety. And of course, "appearance" is not a legal standard. That's where the AG's letter matters. If the story was initially about ethics law, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Finally, if my tone came off as accusatory, I apologize. That was not my intent.

Richard

Richard Day said...

Susan,

Perception gap? Sure. That makes sense.

And, I think I can see Jake's point of view as well. He beat down the Felner story while UofL hunkered down, called him names, threatened to sue and denied everything.

I know something about what that's like. A good investigator is tenacious and skeptical. But that can also present a barrier to fairness. It's tough balance to strike sometimes.

In this case, I just don't think there's a conflict of interest.

Richard

Jake said...

I've *always* spoken with Berman's office before writing anything.

And like I've done in the past, I always get different answers throughout the day. Usually, toward the end of a business day, Lauren Roberts will call back to retract everything she's said throughout the day.

Jake said...

P.S. I love that a few unemployed people sit at home all day randomly attacking people based on five-second conclusions. *cough* Jennifer Hampton *cough*

Thanks for the kind thoughts.

Richard Day said...

Let's play nicely boys and girls.

Sorry. Old habits die hard. : )

BTW, I was able to find a Berman on the website. But, it was Jan Berman the Director of Dissemination (think Marketing). No Shelly.

The Development Studies Center President Eric Schaps also says Shelly has never been on their website.

Y'all have a great derby weekend.

Go General Quarters!