Bob Hill Seems Frustrated These Days

From the end of his driveway, Bob Hill can hear the hum of construction work. He lives close enough to the four-lane highway taking shape that he can see it when a line of trees thins for the winter. [WDRB]

An assault case in Jefferson Circuit Court was dismissed Tuesday by a judge who ruled an assistant commonwealth’s attorney “altered” evidence that was “deliberately not disclosed and concealed” from the defense counsel. [C-J/AKN]

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Pharoah will retire and breed here in Kentucky. [WHAS11]

If Matt Bevin’s ignorance and code words leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, you’re not alone. [H-L]

In newly released audio statements, an Olmsted Academy North student told police that he was choked so hard by a school resource officer that he could barely breathe and had blurry vision. [WLKY]

It wasn’t that the intelligence community was giving the administration wholesale faulty intelligence. It was that the administration was lying to the American people about what the intelligence actually showed. [HuffPo]

The mayor of Goshen has resigned, a city representative said Wednesday. Earlier in the day, an email apparently from Mayor Bob Thacker was sent to residents saying that members of a neighborhood watch Facebook group – which the email referred to as “The Disease” – had crossed a line, mentioning the mayor’s wife and children in online posts. [WAVE3]

States lack accurate statistics on widespread heroin use. [NPR]

The Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness is conducting the 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment survey to help the department and local hospitals determine which programs, policies and services will lead to a healthier Louisville. [WFPL & Survey]

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday announced the results of a four-state crackdown aimed at stopping illegal distribution of addictive prescription medicines, such as opioid painkillers, that yielded 280 arrests. [Reuters]

Work on The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass’s expansion is well under way, but just how much will the 53,400-square-foot addition cost? [Business First]

The preliminary $119 million plan to revamp, rebuild and realign several Greater Clark County Schools would result in an additional $13.74 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation for 2016 property taxes, the district superintendent told school board members Tuesday night. [News & Tribune]

Former JCPS Superintendent Ousted From Yet Another School District

Remember Sheldon Berman? He’s the former superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools the city sent packing. His time in Louisville was so bad that he barely mentions it:


BERMAN’S CURRENT BIO

He’s also the guy who was closely tied to Robert Felner and was apparently involved in some sort of love triangle with Felner’s underling.

Well…. the Eugene School District in Eugene, Oregon is crazy. They hired him up as if he was magical. And they’ve regretted it ever since, constantly emailing us for help, begging on some occasions, grasping for any way to oust him without taking responsibility for their own decisions.

So get a load of this:

Eugene School Board members allowed Superintendent Sheldon Berman to come up with his own exit plan to avoid the release of a negative performance review, which one board member said could result in his firing, newly obtained records show.

Board members also said in emails last year that if they couldn’t successfully negotiate a departure agreement with Berman, they planned to make his evaluation public and hire an investigator to look into unspecified actions by Berman.

Further, emails between board members show that some members went to great lengths to avoid meeting publicly or even in a closed-door session, in potential violation of state public meetings law. Other emails show that one board member — Beth Gerot — said she would destroy some public records related to Berman’s evaluation. It is a violation of state law for a public official to destroy public records.

-SNIP-

In the course of legal proceedings, the law firm last week sent the newspaper hundreds of unredacted emails regarding Berman’s job performance that The Register-Guard requested last year. The law firm also sent an unredacted copy of Berman’s self-evaluation, in which he gave himself a glowing review.

-SNIP-

Berman announced last June that he was leaving the district after the current school year, citing “family circumstances.” Berman began his job as Eugene superintendent in July 2011.

-SNIP-

The negotiations followed results from an employee survey — conducted by independent consultant Alison Lewis — that found serious concerns with Berman’s job performance. The emails do not shed much light on the nature of those concerns, but do indicate that concerns about Berman led to the resignation of at least two high-level district administrators. The consultant — who interviewed about 20 district employees — found that Berman struggled to manage employees, and some emails suggest employees feared repercussions if they spoke out.

Just like in Louisville! Only this time a school board didn’t have the guts to get rid of him. But the fear of retaliation was definitely there. Same for the Berman efforts to keep his reviews secret.

And this:

Eugene School Board Chairman Jim Torrey said in a statement Wednesday that “now it is time to move forward” and use the revelation of board members’ secret efforts to negotiate an exit plan with Superintendent Sheldon Berman as an “opportunity to reinforce our respect for consistently open and candid board discussions of school district business.”

Torrey’s statement does not specifically defend or repudiate board members’ efforts to shield their concerns about Berman’s job performance, or address newly released emails’ suggestion that some board members may have violated Oregon’s public record and public meetings laws.

The unredacted emails, inadvertently released to The Register-Guard, show that board members negotiated a settlement plan that would allow Berman to avoid a negative job performance review, which one board member said could have led to his firing.

-SNIP-

Berman, meanwhile, said in a statement of his own, also released Wednesday, that he is concerned that the newspaper article may damage the community’s perspective on “the district and the board, as well as me personally.”

“The emails were sent during a time that was particularly challenging for the district, the board and me,” Berman said in his emailed statement. “The year since has been a much more positive and productive time. I think it’s fair to say that the quoted emails and the article don’t begin to describe or reflect the many accomplishments we have achieved.”

Berman added that he has “worked diligently to address concerns raised in my discussions with board members last year.”

“My reasons for leaving Eugene remain largely personal and family ones,” Berman said.

-SNIP-

Eugene Education Association teachers union President Tad Shannon said teachers feel that the board’s responsiveness to teacher concerns has improved in the past year, but teachers did not notice a change in Berman’s performance.

“Shelley (Berman) actually thinks he’s a collaborator and a listener,” Shannon said. “Unfortunately, most staff don’t see it that way.”

JCPS dodged a bullet when we started digging up Shelley’s secret world.

Thank goodness.

Some Notes On A JCPS Scandal…

From WDRB’s Toni Konz:

Chief communications and community relations officer for Jefferson County Public Schools Helene Kramer was notified on Wednesday that her one-year contract was not being renewed by the district.

-SNIP-

Superintendent Donna Hargens notified Kramer of her decision to not renew the contract, but WDRB News could not reach Hargens for comment late Wednesday.

“Contract non-renewal is an option that can be used in the first four years of employment in order to look for someone else to move the work of the district forward,” spokesperson Mandy Simpson said in a statement emailed to WDRB Wednesday night. “Positions will be filled.”

-SNIP-

Chairman David Jones Jr. said he was aware of the situation but did not want to comment further.

Board member Linda Duncan said having no communications director or staff was a “huge concern.”

-SNIP-

This is the third announced departure from the communications department in less than two weeks.

-SNIP-

Sources told WDRB News last week that Kramer is the subject of an investigation involving the disclosure of confidential information. Because that investigation is pending, no details have been provided to WDRB.

Unfortunately for Donna Hargens and Helene Kramer, we know the details of that pending investigation.

From the C-J’s ed reporter:

Kramer is the second high-ranking JCPS employee to have a contract non-renewed in the past month. Human Resources Director Mark Rosen was told last month that his contract, too, would not be renewed and would expire June 30. He was immediately moved to a different spot in the district.

Hargens’ personnel and departmental shakeups come only weeks after she scored another four-year contract to run JCPS. Last month, she moved to outsource the district’s legal services department and to create a new Chief Business Officer position.

Some employees wonder what other changes are in store, and how it may affect them. On Monday, Hargens had to address rumors about layoffs and job cuts in a memo to employees, assuring them that layoff and overstaffing notices are no different than other years (although she did announce a plan to trim two extra days from year-round employees’ schedule and pay next school year).

Unfortunately for the C-J, the firings of Helene Kramer and Mark Rosen were not part of a bogus restructure.

Sources involved in the investigation tell me — and they’ve told me since the beginning, everything they’ve said has been accurate — that they were pink-slipped over the scandal we’ve written about for quite some time.

Helene is alleged to have spread rumors about a staff member’s sexual orientation. She was part of an investigation for allegedly defaming that same employee to other employees. The report was wrapped up on March 20 but Donna Hargens refuses to pony it up to anyone. Not even the victim.

The HR Director is alleged to have shared confidential information regarding that employee, spreading rumors regarding their redacted state throughout the community.

Only after some people started jumping ship and others threatened lawsuits did Hargens take any action. Only after she realized she could be held liable for not taking action. Only after she realized that a quick complaint to the Education Professional Standards Board could have her certificate(s) yanked.

Want an interesting contrast? When the principal of Seneca was accused of a DUI, Hargens, with the assistance of Kramer, cobbled together a statement about adults needed to be held accountable for their actions. Instead of remaining quiet and allowing the judicial process to function properly, of course.

Hargens, according to multiple people in Human Resources and one from Communications (currently working for JCPS, not a former employee), allegedly pushed the principal to resign in violation of district disciplinary procedures.

If you allegedly drink and drive? You need to be held accountable. But if you break state, local and/or federal law, everything is puppies and rainbows.

Heads-up to Donna Hargens and David Jones: This isn’t going away. No amount of media spin and daddy’s money will stop it. And this time it’s not me you have to worry about.

Brosko & Robinson Finally Showed Up

Wondering what’s wrong with Greg Fischer’s administration?

Sure, I’ll foam at the mouth about Greg Fischer and Metro Animal Services again.

Here’s something we’ve been telling you for a year:

From WAVE3’s Theo Keith:

Two senior Animal Services staffers, Margaret Brosko and Donald Robinson, received new jobs within the administration despite the issues under their watch. Brosko is now a spokeswoman for Fischer, while Robinson is an assistant director at Develop Louisville, the city’s land development arm.

Both admitted to procedural mistakes Monday while denying more troubling allegations.

“To be completely honest, this has been really difficult because there’s not a day that goes (by) when I worked at Metro Animal Services that I didn’t think, ‘What can I do tomorrow to save one more dog,'” Brosko said, becoming emotional in front of the committee.

-SNIP-

Hesen would not definitively say whether Brosko or Robinson had to apply for their new positions within the administration. Both received only minimal pay increases with their new roles, city payroll records indicate.

They got their promotions as a way to get them out of Animal Services, a way to make them more high-profile, a way to keep them quiet. That’s how the Greg Fischer world works and the city is beginning to wake up to that reality.

But if you watched yesterday’s Animal Services ad hoc meeting at Metro Council, you were probably more than awake. You were most likely outraged.

Watching Margaret Brosko repeatedly refuse to directly answer questions while claiming she did everything possible to provide care for Sadie was rage-inducing. Even when she was called on the carpet by every council member present.

When Donald Robinson was called out for lying about when authorization for care was provided, he passed the buck and blamed the victim, Heather Adkins. Then he started blaming someone new — Amanda Crook, one of the most beloved employees of Metro Animal Services and the current employee of the month.

What took the cake was Ellen Hesen throwing out the agency’s fabricated live release rate — which still can’t be verified (because it’s made up). She continued to claim this was all just “semantics”, as Greg Fischer used in the now-infamous press release and Kelly Downard ripped her a new one. Downard told her Council wouldn’t stop investigating just because she told them to and reminded her of every hypocrisy he could muster in the moment.

Hesen’s testimony was so absurd that Kevin Kramer’s blood pressure was likely at a dangerous level. Kramer took the opportunity to remind Hesen that the mayor hasn’t issued a public apology to Heather Adkins, which he was supposed to acknowledge when also apologizing for the use of the term “semantics.” He gave Hesen the opportunity to apologize yesterday but she continued to pass the buck, blaming the people who tried to hold Margaret Brosko and Donald Robinson accountable. It’s as if Hesen knows it’s okay to spew nonsense because she’s close to locking in her retirement. Integrity be damned.

Kellie Watson, the mayor’s embarrassingly bad attorney, claimed that the Council had received all emails that were outstanding. What she once claimed couldn’t be released because the documents were part of the Public Integrity Unit’s faux investigation? She now says don’t exist. Though, Councilman Kramer pointed out that they have evidence those emails do actually exist.

It was a real shit show. Fischer’s people finally showed up but didn’t answer questions.

Here’s what you really want to see — the video:


MARGARET BROSKO — CLICK TO ACCESS VIDEO

Watch all 1hr 44min of it. It’s worth it. Particularly if you want a glimpse of a train wreck.

More thoughts about Brosko and Robinson…

Something tells us they didn’t apply for their jobs, otherwise Brosko wouldn’t have had to ask Kellie Watson how to answer the question — she’d remember applying.

Amanda Crook’s mother is going to eat these people alive as a result of Robinson’s claims. Amanda is afraid to say anything because she fears losing her job and losing access to help animals in need. And you know Sadiqa Reynolds will shut her out in a heartbeat because she’s done it over and over.

Brosko claims she constantly worries about the animals and tries to do everything she can to save them. Which must be why she adopted a Pit to impress her former girlfriend, only to return it to LMAS a few short weeks later. Yep, there’s documentation to back this up:


CLICK TO ENLARGE


CLICK TO ENLARGE


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Margaret “fostered” the dog on December 11, 2013, despite it never leaving Manslick. On December 14, 2013, her girlfriend, Tiffany, adopted the dog. She returned it the very next day.

And what about the dog Angie Fenton (she gave me permission last year to use her name but I’ve chosen not to until now) tried like crazy to adopt? Only to be blown off by Margaret? Remember Hadley? The one that just disappeared? The one Margaret claims was sent to Ohio? The dog LMAS sources tell us was euthanized and incinerated.

Yeah.

So let’s quit it with this story of caring about animals. It’s just not based in reality.

Note: Theo Keith is the only mainstreamer who has had the guts to question the Fischer Administration throughout this mess. He ought to be commended.

Update: Spare me the bitching & moaning, Fischer folks. This is clearly a personal rant.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For anyone interested, you may contact me to get a copy of the Public Integrity Unit file that was just made available or try accessing the records here.

FINAL UPDATE: Yes, we’ll do a highlight video clip of the hearing and try to run it this week. Once the rage subsides.

Not Surprising: Greg Fischer’s Professed Transparency Is A Myth & He’s Learned Exactly Zero Preservation Lessons

FLASHBACK: Remember Whiskey Row?


WHISKEY ROW — DON VISH — CLICK FOR ORIGINAL

That should have been a positive preservation lesson for Fischer. But… it’s happened again. And this time he acted with reckless abandon and secrecy.

By now you’re likely aware that the entire preservation community is in an angry froth over the demolition of a set of historic buildings on Third Street.

Morrisey Parking Garage/Bosler’s Fireproof Garage at 423 South Third Street was one of those buildings. It was constructed in 1919 and received landmark designation by the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Here’s what the 2004 book Louisville Guide had to say about it:

Bosler’s Fireproof Garage was one of the first parking structures in Louisville. Located in the heart of the Central Business District, it was heated and provided related services, such as cleaning and polishing. This Romanesque revival structure accentuates its utilitarian function. The massing of the façade provides architectural continuity with the buildings along Third Street and is symmetrical and divided into three bays. The central bay provides entry to the parking structure and is flanked at the first floor by two rectangular business storefronts, with three arched openings at the second floor. Several businesses, such as Goodrich Tires, Garage Equipment and Supply, a fruit market, bookstores, and a surgical supply store, have occupied the storefront. The structure has a basement, three levels of parking, and a spiral ramp that forms a cylindrical mass at the rear of the building.

Coincidentally (of course!) the very spot Omni wants to build a massive 30-story hotel.

It’s another interesting coincidence that right as Omni was ready for construction, it just happened to produce a study claiming the buildings needed to be torn down… the very next day.

It gets more scandalous. Or par for the course, since we’re talking about Greg Fischer.

Check out this email sent to Fischer and his communications team, which includes Margaret Brosko of Sadie’s Law infamy:

From: John Hildreth
Date: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 4:14 PM
To: greg.fischer@louisvilleky.gov
Cc: Virginia VLee@XXXXXXX-XX.com, Gretchen Milliken Gretchen.milliken@louisvilleky.gov, “Wiederwohl, Mary Ellen” MaryEllen.Wiederwohl@louisvilleky.gov, Ellen Hesen ellen.hesen@louisvilleky.gov, “Margaret.Brosko@louisvilleky.gov” , James Lindberg JLindberg@XXXXXXXXXXXXX.org
Subject: 3rd Street Buildings

Dear Mayor Fischer:

I am the Eastern Regional Vice President for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and during my 30 years in preservation have had the privilege of working with Metro Government and the preservationists of Louisville quite often.

I am writing to you with a simple request. Please allow us and others in Louisville time to perform a second engineering study of the Morrissey Garage and the Falls City Theater Company buildings prior to initiating demolition. We need approximately two weeks to identify and bring in an engineer with experience in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. We have the funding in place to perform the study, we simply need the time.

Our objective in performing this study is to ascertain, with more certainty, the possibility of rehabilitation for those structures and, just as importantly, to understand if the facades of the structures could be retained for incorporation into new design for the site.

We certainly are not asking you to risk the health and well being of your citizens and would call for the temporary fencing and, if needed, temporary closing of a traffic lane if merited. We are moving with utmost speed to arrange for this secondary review and ask for your cooperation.

As you are aware, the National Trust, through our National Treasure program, is investing a great deal of time and expertise in Louisville to help the community realize its revitalization potential. We stand behind the research which states that mixed-vintage blocks are vital to any thriving urban environment. A compromise that would retain the facades is not simply a preservation appeal but is based on the fact that incorporating old and new on a human scale is at its heart an urban design best practice. I know from firsthand experience here in Charleston, where I am based, that the design of the Omni Charleston Place was enhanced, and its contribution to downtown revitalization was realized, in part because they retained a block of historic building fronts in the plan.

I am glad to speak with you further about this through 4:30 EDT at my office phone or over the weekend on my cell. My contact information is contained below.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

John Hildreth

Eastern Regional Vice President for Field Services
National Trust for Historic Preservation

To say that there’s a disconnect between the preservation community and the Fischer Administration is an understatement. But Brosko and the rest on the communications team are making relations worse. By refusing to communicate, refusing to listen, being more cagey than normal.

Here’s a rough timeline of events:

  • Preservationists met with Omni architects and the city in January but no specific plans were discussed.
  • They toured the old Water Company block with the city on February 10
  • On March 11 they again met with Omni architects and the city. On that date the first schematic plan was presented and no buildings on Third Street were to be conserved or repurposed. The city said the first two buildings had to be demolished.
  • On March 13 preservationists wrote to Omni and its architects providing suggestions. Things like reusing the Morrisey building façade, salvaging details from the old theater building, repurposing the original central section of the water company complex. Copies were forwarded to the city but Omni and its architects chose to defer to the city.
  • On April 9 the city responded to suggests provided by preservationists… with an emergency demolition press release. No warning, no notice, gave no one any time to raise funds to save what could be saved. Then radio silence.

From just after 12:00 today:




POSSIBILITY CITY

Yep. Demolition started with the façade to guarantee there’d be no way to intervene. Because of course it did.

Sources close to Fischer tells us they believe Mary Ellen Wiederwohl (Fischer’s former deputy chief of staff and current head of Louisville Forward, Fischer’s community development program) promised the Omni Group there’d be no issue demolishing the buildings long before any of this came to light. The current PR disaster is how Fischer’s team handled it. We reached out to Wiederwohl for comment but she wouldn’t respond. Because that’s what you do when you’re a highly paid government employee with nothing to hide.

If Steve Poe can save the façade at the Aloft site, those buildings’ historic façades could have been saved.

So I asked one of the individuals responsible for saving and paying for Whiskey Row (I’m making the decision to withhold publication of their name because you know how Greg Fischer treats whistleblowers) a couple questions.

They told me that the façades could have 100% been saved, quickly and easily. They also believe key parts of the buildings themselves could have been saved.

When asked what kind of message they think it sends the city’s residents when Metro Government takes abrupt action like this without communicating and without allowing anyone to respond? Here’s their response: “DISTURBING.”

48% ($139 million, including tax rebates and $17 million for a parking garage) of the Omni project will be taxpayer funded, so preservationists and all people with half a brain are adamant that there should have been more public input and way more listening on the part of Fischer and his staff.

Forget the historic buildings and their façades. Ignore the reality that Fischer’s employees routinely fine people for unkept lawns and graffiti but can’t be bothered to protect properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Louisville ought to be outraged because Mr. Transparency is once again trying to pull the wool over its eyes.

Let the spin begin in 3, 2…