Rockwood Board member Steve Smith resigns following state audit
By: Carol Enright
On March 3, embattled Rockwood Board of Education Director Steve Smith sent a letter to the Board announcing his resignation effective March 4.
In an apparent case of messages passing in the night, a citizens’ group that has long criticized Smith for serving on the Board while his former employer, Glenn Construction Co., almost exclusively managed the district’s bond construction projects, issued a press release on the morning of March 4 calling for Smith’s resignation. Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions (RS for RS) also asked for the resignations of Board President Janet Strate, Vice President Matt Doell, Stephen Banton and Keith Kinder. The press release noted that “Board Directors Bill Brown and Sherri Rogers should retain their positions as they were only elected in April 2012 and voted against extending Dr. Borchers’ contract.”
RS for RS has asked Superintendent Bruce Borchers to release the district from this contract and submit his resignation as well.
Smith’s resignation comes just days after a state audit report shared with the community on Feb. 27 cited as its most serious finding $1.2 million in overpayments to Glenn Construction Co. for work related to the last four bond issues.
“RS for RS is calling for swift and decisive accountability for years of mismanagement by district officials,” the group wrote. “Trust will only improve once those responsible within the Rockwood School District are held accountable for their actions and poor judgment, with the changes beginning at the top.”
Smith, who was elected to the Board in April 2011, had previously served on the Board from 1989-1995 and was appointed to fill vacated spots in 2003 and 2010. His current term would expire in April 2014. In his resignation letter, Smith wrote “education and Prop S must be in the forefront of the community dialogue and vision. I have become convinced that there are people who will not allow this to happen if I am still on the Board. As I step aside, I challenge all to now focus on our children.”
Smith’s letter reiterated what he has long said about the controversy surrounding his position on the Board and his relationship with Glenn Construction Co.
“I was not on the Board when Glenn Construction was hired by Rockwood for the 2010 Bond Issue package; I received an opinion from the Missouri School Board Association that I could vote on construction matters that did not benefit Glenn; this opinion was seconded by former Superintendent Dr. Larson; when votes were needed, I left the room; I never knowingly voted to benefit Glenn Construction; and I never cast a deciding vote on any Rockwood change orders.”
The audit found that Smith voted for 12 projects approved from January 2011 to June 2012 that resulted in more than $189,000 in fees to Glenn Construction Co. State Auditor Tom Schweich called those votes “a conflict of interest under state law.”
In response to Smith’s resignation, Strate said, “He served well. He’s a very kind person with the best interests of our students at heart.”
In an email response to West Newsmagazine, Doell called Smith’s resignation “the right move for our district.”
“I agree that we need to keep the focus on our kids, and this will help,” wrote Doell. “In terms of my tenure on the Board, I plan to honor my commitment to our community and complete my three-year term. The voters in Rockwood choose their representatives via an election process, a process that is currently underway. Our voters have the opportunity to express their opinion about Board members on April 2.”
Schweich, who will return to the district in about 90 days, expressed his confidence that the Board will implement up to 95 percent of the audit’s recommendations.
Doell called the audit a “win-win” for Rockwood that “will make a good school district, better.”
“While I was not on the Board when the construction management projects were written, I guarantee that the process for bidding and awarding of any contract for Prop S will be done correctly and result in the lowest possible cost for qualified construction management services,” he added.
The Board will address the audit findings at its March 7 meeting, as well as vote to approve a new policy for hiring construction management companies that aligns with state statutes.