Silas Potters profile pic on
  • Silas Potter's profile pic on
And got a fax tone. lists him as living in Tampa, just like the Seattle Times reported he did Saturday. The address listed for Potter on Zabasearch belongs to Arbor Lakes Apartment Homes, a row of Florida-style two-story apartments overlooking Memorial Highway. No word on whether the folks looking for him have found him yet.

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Quick recap: Potter is wanted for questioning by the King County Prosecutor's Office and attorneys hired by the Seattle School Board regarding his role in the Seattle school district's $1.8 million alleged financial fraud. A state audit released last week found that Potter was awarding contracts to minority businesses for services never rendered to the school district or benefiting his own company, which had the same name as the district small business program he was supervising. Read our complete coverage here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Working papers released by the State Auditor's Office show Potter openly conducted meetings about turning the district's program into a private 501(c)(3) company, but that his supervisors were either clueless about his intentions or didn't do much to stop him. Nobody in the school district is willing to take responsibility for the umpteen number of goof-ups, passing the blame to Potter, who is conveniently missing.

The audit's working docs make for some fascinating reading, detailing oversight failures on multiple levels of management, starting right from district Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Chief Financial and Operating Officer Don Kennedy, Potter's direct supervisor then Facilities Manager Fred Stevens, and then Internal Auditor Kariuki Nderu. A report released by the school board's lawyer Patricia Eakes details how Potter, a former warehouse manager with little or no experience to supervise the small business program, hired unqualified people to fill district positions, often spending thousands of dollars to train them.

Potter's personnel file shows that his wages were garnished between 2001 and 2009 for unpaid federal taxes and failure to pay child support. He also had unpaid debts to a variety of creditors. When an SPS attorney raised concerns about Potter presenting an inaccurate picture about the small business program's accomplishments to the board, Stephens said that it was important for the program to "look good." Eakes' report found that nothing was ever done to correct the information and present it to the board.

There's more—pages and pages on how people with little or no sense of accountability or basic math and business skills got away with contracts worth thousands of dollars, contractors who were either confused or concerned about the program, but didn't lift a finger to complain to district officials, and who were helping minority businesses—some with bad credit—learn the same damn thing over and over again.

State auditors found that one of the vendors for the small business program, a risk management firm called Baldwin Resource Group, had concerns about the program and Potter from the very beginning, but never called it out. Potter asked them to start working without a contract, provide services to a specific contractor to fulfill his personal agenda, and adopt a number of illegal ways to raise money, BRG told auditors. BRG described working with Potter as "hostile, intimidating" and found him unprofessional. He was late to meetings and made racial comments and sexual innuendos.

There's contradictory testimony regarding contractor roles, but the most frustrating part is that nobody ever asked Potter as to why so many contractors had to be hired in the first place. There were multiple contractors for outreach, contractors to help fix your computer if it froze, and contractors—such as Ginny Noble of Contractors Resource Center—who would help you fill in very basic application forms, the audit documents found.

Noble never provided auditors with a list of contractors she helped. She faltered when auditors asked her why she had billed the district for 2.5 hours when meetings only lasted 1.5. "It appeared she thought 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. amounted to 2.5 hours," auditors said. "She paused for 1.5 minutes to perform the calculation herself. She then explained that sometimes the meetings lasted until 3:30 p.m. and it included her travel time."

When state auditors asked Dr. Leon "Skip" Rowland of Banner Cross, which was paid $74,780 in questionable training materials and another $7,213 for catering during instructional programs—something that should have never been done in the first place—for a detailed breakdown of how the money was used, he wasn't able to give any, apart from citing a few instructional books and DVDs on Microsoft Office. Then SPS employee, Ann Robinson, was also working for Banner Cross at that time, was paid to create instructional material which auditors found had been copied off the Internet.

Potter did nothing to ensure that only certified businesses participated, allowing a doggie daycare, a cosmetologist, a chiropractor, and restaurants access to the program. "Silas always had a reason to bring on more and more people, but they never made sense to me," said Eleanor Oshitoye, a business development counselor with the small business program. He seemed to have favorites, Oshitoye said. When Oshitoye questioned Potter about it, she was told ""trust me," "my managers and other district managers are supporting me," "do not question my reasoning," and "if you do not support me you are free to go."

When auditors asked former state chair of the Washington State Democratic Party Charles Rolland about his involvement with the program (among other things, Rolland was paid $6,000 by the district to create a database later found to be non-functionable), Rolland responded that he had nothing to add to the investigation. This was after he told them he would only talk if issued with a subpeona.

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District employees said that a good chunk of the small business meetings would be spent strategizing about how to lobby for small businesses in Olympia.

When auditors asked community activist Eddie Rye why he had billed the school district for simply lobbying for small business programs before a port commission meeting—specifically for 1.5 hours when public testimony usually lasted for 3 mins—he said he would meet with former Port of Seattle administrator Elaine Ko and other contractors at a restaurant before and after the meetings.

According to audit documents, Ko knew about Potter's private company and was surprised that the school district had not heard about it. Although Ko joined Potter's company she left after a while when she realized it was "shaky."

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