Letter: Not buying Landon's reason for funds shuffle
Published 11:24 am, Friday, September 12, 2014
In 2012, I became aware of some contract completion issues with the Kings Highway School HVAC project. I conveyed that to Westport's internal auditor, Lynn Scully, since Lynn was reviewing capital projects in general.
On Aug. 18, 2014, Lynn reported to the Board of Finance Audit Committee. I attended. I was upset and troubled to hear that (i) School Superintendent Elliot Landon had used $1.65 million of school operating funds to pay a capital cost overrun and (ii) Dr. Landon did not advise any town body or elected official of that fact.
At that meeting, Dr. Landon referred to an executive session of the Board of Education and the Board of Finance in what seemed to me his attempt to suggest -- wrongly I note -- that the finance board knew about this misuse of operating funds to pay a capital expense. I then emailed the members of the RTM advising them of all this and urged their engagement.
I could not attend the Sept. 3 finance board meeting. Apparently, only one person from the public spoke, Allen Bomes, an RTM member. The Westport News quotes Allen as saying he felt "violated." The Westport News reported that Dr. Landon justified his actions as an "emergency situation" and in the best interest of the students and the town.
I have come not to believe many of Dr. Landon's statements. The above is one. A second was when he told the RTM last May that a proposed $200,000 reduction in the school budget would most probably require the elimination of school bus monitors. A third occurred at that same RTM meeting when Dr. Landon referred to a published item which he said reported that Westport town employees are the highest paid public employees in Connecticut. The article had nothing to do with public employees. Another inaccurate statement arose two years ago as to the reasons for a new running rack at Staples High School. I believe many of the public will recall other similar misstatements and non-disclosures by Dr. Landon.
Dr. Landon's employment contract expires on June 30, 2016. By July 1, 2015, the school board is obligated to vote if it wants to offer Dr. Landon a new contract. Absent a vote, Dr. Landon's term as superintendent will expire on June 30, 2016. The public should weigh in on this decision. My view is that Westport will need a new superintendent of schools. My preference would be as soon as possible.