Haunted by his ties to tainted nonprofit, Education Secretary Arne Duncan ignores questions about $174,000 phantom program he arranged for the group
In June I reported about an inquiry from Michael P. Goldenberg of Ann Arbor, MI, to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Goldenberg had questions about a $174,000 contract Duncan arranged when he ran the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
The money was awarded to the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) a Chicago-area nonprofit. Now under investigation by federal and state agencies, SALF has been the subject of dozens of mainstream media exposes, starting with a November 2006 barnburner by ABC7 Chicago that included an interview with Duncan:
With a developing mess that may involve President Obama - the Huffington Post reported that he was "close" to SALF, an allegation for which a White House press officer has promised me a response - you might think Duncan would provide a prompt and unequivocal denial.
But four months after Goldenberg's letter, the Ed Sec hasn't made a peep.
Instead, evasive, play-dumb e-mails from a Department of Education Communications Director seem to bolster concerns raised two years ago by the late education critic Jerry Bracey in his final column, The Skeleton in Arne Duncan's Closet.
From Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go? by Don Bauder, San Diego Reader, November 17, 2010:
Here's his hero storming out mid-interview when ABC7 I-Team reporter Chuck Goudie challenged claims made in SALF's fundraising and promotional materials about the Labor Day 1992 death of her 18-year-old daughter, Christina Pratt:
Shortly before her death, the girl filed a protective order against her mother who she claimed had struck her "on several occasions and threatened her on many occasions."
Via the Chicago Tribune:
However, in response to a federal court subpoena and public records requests, CPS can't produce any training records.
SALF's now under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General and by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC awarded SALF about $3.33 million, money that SALF told the CDC was used to train public school students in Chicago and Milwaukee. But the Milwaukee Schools don't have any records either.
According to a letter from the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC is supposed to be looking into the role of Douglas R. Browne, a CDC Deputy Director who moonlighted as SALF's Corporate Treasurer according to an article in The Hill.
Duncan arranged a two-year contract with Spizzirri in which her organization was supposed to provide first aid training for 18,000 students during school years 2004/05 and 2005/06. Duncan signed off on $49,000 from the CPS coffers and Ronald McDonald House Charities kicked in another $125,000, a total of $174,000 handed to SALF.
But like I said, CPS has no records for the program. Further, in response to a public records request I filed for all training records associated with SALF's phantom CPS/McDonald's program, CPS handed the dirty diaper to Duncan:
Which brings us back to Michael Goldenberg's inquiry.
Goldenberg, who's spent his career in public education, posted his letter to Arne on his blog and included a link to my web page, Did Arne Duncan unknowingly help a bogus nonprofit rip off $174,000 from the Chicago Schools & McDonald's Charities?
Goldenberg wanted to know if the former Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Schools thought the current Inspector General of the Chicago Schools should investigate the $174,000 contract Duncan arranged for SALF. In a follow-up, Goldenberg asked if Duncan had a financial relationship with SALF.
Answering those questions should be easy dunks for a White House cabinet member and a former basketball pro.
Apparently not. After months of promises and foot-dragging by Duncan's office, Goldenberg received this non-answer:
Goldenberg copied me on his correspondence and since he was being sandbagged, I thought I'd give it a go. From the e-mail I sent last week to Ms. Dorfman:
It took a couple of phone messages and follow-up e-mails for her to finally send me this piffle:
But I don't fault Ms. Dorfman.
She's just stuck with the crummy task of having to cover for a boss who apparently doesn't want anyone going into his basement where - if you listen - you might hear a $174,000 skeleton moaning and rattling its chains.
"Dear Arne" letter from Carol Spizzirri + grant request for year 2 of SALF's CPS/McDonald's program
Peter M. Heimlich
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.