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February 20th, 2008 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

Heidi Franklin

Spending money like “mad.”

     
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The Rogue Desk puts Heidi Franklin, Portland Public Schools’ chief financial officer, in detention this week for ignoring the money-saving advice of auditors.

In September 2005, then-Multnomah County Auditor Suzanne Flynn and city Auditor Gary Blackmer issued a report criticizing the Portland school district’s contracting practices and frequent use of contract amendments.

One contractor that prompted scrutiny was MAD Collaborative, which had multiple contracts the district had extended by many months while the price tags ballooned. In one case a contract grew from $5,000 to $45,000, and in another, from $28,000 to $76,000.

Fast-forward to last week’s School Board meeting, when board members approved the fourth amendment to a $127,500 contract with MAD Collaborative from 2007. That amendment extended the original contract by a total of 14 months and raised its value to $257,500.

So, what does MAD Collaborative do for this mad cash? MAD proprietor Natalie Pitkin-Maizels says Franklin’s boss Cathy Mincberg, PPS’s chief operating officer, didn’t want her to explain. “They are my client and I have to respect their wishes,” she says.

As best the Rogue Desk can tell, MAD Collaborative moves furniture. (It’s all part of the ongoing school closures and reconfiguration.)

For her part, Franklin moves money. But the continued reliance on contract amendments is a source of concern when Franklin’s office is supposed to have tight controls on competitive bidding and outside spending.

District spokesman Matt Shelby defends the amendments as sometimes necessary.

But LaVonne Griffin-Valade, the new county auditor who worked on the report, says the most recent amendments raise questions about PPS’s response to the 2005 audit.

 
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