By Linda Sutter – November 5, 2021
In 2008 the voters of Del Norte County agreed to a 25 million dollar Construction Bond for Del Norte Unified School District Schools (DNUSD). Everything seemed to be going smoothly until January 2021. Things are never what they seem.
Angelina Countess Bieber decided to become part of the Citizen Oversight Committee (COC) team that provides reports for the public on how the money was spent. When she began requesting documents from previous audits and committee reports, she was met with resistance. Keep in mind Angelina is a Board member of the COC and was not allowed to review document’s that she had requested. Uh Oh.
In an email dated January 21, 2021 Steve Lyons, Chair of the School Bond COC acknowledges that Angelina Countess-Bieber requested several documents to review. Mr. Lyons had copied her request for documents and sent this request to Assistant Superintendent Jeff Napier. This request for documents went completely ignored.
Jeff Napier and Steve Lyons continue to correspond. Jeff Napier was in complete control of the writing and submission of the oversight committee public reports. In fact, when Mr. Napier and Steve Lyons decided to ignore Angelina Bieber’s request, they begin to worry that she would not sign the COC Report for 2017/2018. You see, DNUSD continued to spend these bond monies without having an oversight committee for three years. Mr. Napier explained, “We advertised that oversight committee members were needed but no one applied.” Yet the DNUSD continued to spend the money when they were completely out of compliance.
In February, 2017 and 2019 Dohn Henion is quoted saying the oversight committee had not been provided proper training for the Oversight Committee members nor were they provided their own attorney as an independent Oversight Committee. It was shortly after this meeting in 2017 that the oversight committee dwindled down to 2 people, were out of compliance, and no reports were properly generated in a timely fashion. Mr. Henion warned the School district that if people found out someone could sue the district. But let’s get back to the rest of this story.
In May 2021, Jeff Napier writes to Steve Lyon, “Karen Sanders was approved by the board.” Karen Sanders was asked to come onto the COC to sign the Oversight Committee Reports because Angelina Countess-Bieber had the integrity, honesty, and fortitude to not sign a fake report that was not generated by Steve Lyons or the oversight committee board members but was generated by Jeff Napier. This is not an independent review by far.
On June 9th, 2021 Steve Lyons COC chair writes to Jeff Napier. “Thank you for addressing Angelia’s questions. Does this Measure “A” that she referred to have anything to do with the Oversight Committee?
How do I say this eloquently? I can’t. Mr. Lyons is so ignorant about the importance and structure of school bond oversight committees he was not even aware of what Measure “A” is. Measure “A” is law for School Bonds and our Oversight Chair Steve Lyons has no clue of what it is.
Ok folks we are 12 years into a $25 Million Dollar School Bond which is now costing taxpayers $44 million. We have been out of compliance for at least three years if not more, and no one, not one person on the COC was provided with ANY training.
This committee has never been independent of the School Board and School District. To make matters worse, Mr. Napier decided to use Karen Sanders as a patsy for her signature. She has no idea how serious this is. In fact, the reason why Napier wanted to add Karen Sanders is to undermine Angelina Countess-Bieber who took a stance against the corruptive practices of Jeff Napier and Steve Lyons. Although Napier states on May 29th that Karen Sanders had been approved, he did not state she had been approved after they ignored Angelina’s request for documents and placed Karen sanders on a special agenda in February, 2021.
To demonstrate how corrupt this is, Mr. Napier gave the oversight committee reports he generated to Steve Morgan who drove the hard copies to Steve Lyon’s house. All played out in emails that were sent back and forth. But there is more.
On June 14, 2021, Jeff Napier writes to Steve Lyons, “I am currently updating the report for 2019/2020. I am having a hard time explaining the re-issuance, refinance, and sale of bonds for 2019/2020. The Auditor does a good job explaining the history of the bond issuances. Do you have any objection to me putting her description verbatim into the report and losing our synopsis from past years?”
Again the oversight committee has done nothing to generate any report for the public, they have been used as a dog and pony show to rubber stamp something very precious. Our tax dollars. Which was misappropriated and without the guidance of an educated oversight committee. Jeff Napier changed numbers, to reflect that we only owed $36 million dollars when we owe $44 million so as not to alert the public. All documented in emails that were sent back and forth.
The job of the COC is big. They require subcommittees that work together as a group, monthly meetings needed to be conducted to form the oversight committee report. They need to have access to the auditor and have questions answered about expenditures. None of that was done. They need to have their own counsel. They need to be totally independent from the DNUSD and that was never done.
The sad truth is the public has been fooled, and we are just learning about it now. Next concentration will be on the dollars misused.
Consider this: How can we even talk about a new $47 million school bond which is supposed to be on the June ’22 ballot when the mishandling of the $25 million bond is on-going?