BY ELIZABETHE HOLLAND • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-340-8259 | Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 12:00 am
ELLISVILLE • A group of Rockwood School District residents upset with the district's longtime relationship with Glenn Construction Co. launched a petition drive for an audit of the district at a School Board meeting Thursday night and told the board through a spokesman that it needs to change how it does business.
"We are asking for fiscal responsibility, transparency and the efficient use of the taxpayers' precious dollars," group member Bill Ahal told the board.
Ahal told of the group Rockwood Stakeholders for Rockwood Solutions' intent to get enough signatures for the state auditor to audit the district. Among his complaints was that the board appointed Steve Smith as its president in 2010 although Smith has worked for Glenn Construction since 2004, that Glenn has made millions from the district, and that Glenn has an office in a district building. He also criticized the Rockwood teachers union for endorsing Smith's election bid this past spring.
In contrast, former board member Bill Adams praised Glenn Construction and said Glenn had saved the district a great deal of money and had done its work "above board, with complete integrity and complete transparency."
Rockwood teacher and union officer Suzanne Rainey also spoke, telling the board that she was sorry it had to now deal with "various irritants and hidden political agendas."
The board itself did not discuss any of the Glenn-related issues or Smith's role as board president, topics that several audience members said drew them to the meeting.
"We're here for the no-bid consulting work," quipped district resident Gene Glickert, who sat with two friends. "Whoever heard of no-bid consulting work? I mean, really."
Glickert was referring in part to the fact that Rockwood in the last 14 years has awarded only Glenn Construction contracts to oversee bond issue-related construction projects. In that span, Rockwood has requested proposals from other firms three times, and the district acknowledges having destroyed other firms' fee estimates without reading them first.
On the heels of a Post-Dispatch report detailing Rockwood's relationship with Glenn, the district altered its approach last week. The district says it now will review fee estimates before deciding whom to hire as program manager for a possible future $50 million bond issue.
The board also made no mention of questions regarding Glenn Construction's referral to a district address as its company headquarters.
For several years the district has provided Glenn with rent-free office space at 500 North Central Avenue in Eureka for use in overseeing Rockwood construction projects. Such arrangements aren't uncommon in construction.
However, multiple records suggest Glenn may have been using the property as its headquarters. Documents the firm has submitted to four other area school districts and the city of Eureka from 2007 through this year list the North Central address as Glenn's "corporate headquarters" or "principal place of business." Phone and fax numbers that the district pays for are also listed on such records.
Asked by the Post-Dispatch this week and last whether the board was looking into the company's use of the address, board Vice President Janet Strate said in an email: "The current contract with Glenn Construction Company provides for the district to offer office space to the program manager. The Board of Education received a letter from Mr. Glenn last Friday (Sept. 30) assuring us he is using the office space purely for Rockwood business. He also said their corporate headquarters address is in Kirkwood."
Kirkwood's business license collector, Kris Houska, said the city has no record of Glenn Construction having or applying for a business license. Houska said her office sent Glenn Construction a letter last week to inform the firm it was operating without a business license.
Several Rockwood residents, meanwhile, have since complained to the Post-Dispatch about facilities fees the district charges scouting groups and other student organizations that meet on district property.