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Noted: Damning report for Chavez


State audit slams Pueblo-based network

Results are in from a Colorado Department of Education-ordered financial audit of the Cesar Chavez School Network. And guess what? The results are damning.

"The report makes clear that the leadership of the network prioritized its needs over the students and disregarded both basic business practices and common sense," Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones stated in an e-mail. "The leaders of Cesar Chavez School Network squandered taxpayer money, ignored basic legal requirements, over-compensated senior staff, engaged in nepotism and failed to provide accountability over the resources entrusted to them. The results demand swift action."

The network once oversaw operations and finances of six charter schools: two in Pueblo, two in Colorado Springs, one in Denver and an online academy. Of the Springs schools, one shut down and another separated from the network and changed its name. The online academy also separated.

The CDE report highlights many abuses including excessive administrative salaries; widespread nepotism; abuse of school credit cards; failure to file required documentation with the secretary of state in a timely manner; failure to acquire federal tax-exempt status for three of its schools (that nevertheless acted as nonprofits); failure to keep records of board meetings; a hiring and firing process that lacked transparency and led to a dozen complaints claiming discrimination and retaliation; and failure to keep proper financial records and documentation. — JAS

Big week for Memorial

Health care consultant Steve Hyde stepped down this week from the citizens panel studying whether to sell city-owned Memorial Health System, following an unflattering Colorado Springs Business Journal news account of his leadership style. Hyde says the report was wrong on two key issues and has sought a correction.

"I found myself wondering if the writer had been channeling an alternate universe," he wrote to CSBJ publisher Lon Matejczyk. Hyde cited the growing time commitment as a factor in his resignation.

The commission's remaining nine members elected retired Navy captain Bob Lally as chair (and Independent business development vice president Jay Patel as one of two vice chairs) and voted on Tuesday on a consultant, which Lally said "could be the most critical decision" the commission has made to date. The panel chose Lawrence E. Singer, of Evanston, Ill.

His firm was one of two whose names Memorial passed on to the commission. No request for proposals was publicly posted to solicit interest or bids.

Memorial will foot the bill, which those close to the commission value at roughly $250,000 to $300,000. The commission has already hired a public information consultant for roughly $90,000. — PZ

Penny's house for sale

Let no one say that former City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft doesn't know how to seize an opportunity. After quitting her high-paying job as the city's top administrator, Culbreth-Graft sued the city, asking for six months pay due to what she claims was a "constructive termination." Now she's also hoping to skim a $200,000 profit off her swanky Broadmoor Spires home.

Culbreth-Graft purchased the four-bedroom, four-bath Broadmoor-area home, with its four-car garage, for $875,000 in January 2008. The house is currently listed on the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors website for $1,074,900. Photos that accompany the listing show that the home is vacant, though it's possible they were taken before Culbreth-Graft moved there.

According to the listing, the home at 382 Irvington Court features a gourmet kitchen with cherry cabinetry, a great room with 12-foot ceilings, a luxury master suite with a five-piece bath and a basement rec room with a wet bar.

"[There is] beautiful architecture in this spectacular home with romanesque [sic] columns and arches, hand troweled walls and ceilings, and custom wrought iron," the listing notes. — JAS

Area CSAP scores mixed

This year's third-graders did not score as well as last year's third-graders on the reading proficiency test of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP), with 70 percent at the proficient or advanced levels, down from 73 percent in 2009. The scores were released publicly on Tuesday.

Locally, only three districts scored below the state average: District 11, at 69 percent proficient or advanced; District 3, also at 69 percent; and District 2, at 65 percent.

Cheyenne Mountain District 12 leads the region's districts, at 92 percent, followed by Academy District 20 (86 percent), Lewis-Palmer District 38 (83 percent) and Manitou Springs District 14 (81 percent). Other districts and their scores: Cripple Creek-Victor, 77; Woodland Park RE-2, 76; Falcon District 49, 76; and Fountain-Fort Carson District 8, 71. — RR

GIVE! deadline nears

For all area nonprofits planning to apply for a spot among the agencies that will benefit from the 2010 GIVE! campaign: Time is running short.

The deadline for applications is Thursday, May 13. Information and an application form are available at Just access the homepage and look for the GIVE! button on the right side. — RR

Good news for Hick

Any way you slice it, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper outdid his chief opponent in the first four months of this year, according to the latest fundraising reports filed Monday.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, raised more money from more people in the period beginning Jan. 1 and ending April 25. The mayor brought in nearly $1.2 million from about 5,000 donors and spent $270,000, with his biggest expenses being event catering and mailings.

Scott McInnis, a former Republican congressman, raised $550,000 from roughly 4,000 donations. He spent $539,000. Of that, more than $175,000 went to consultants for image, communications, political strategy and mapping.

One of McInnis' consultants is Mike Hesse, his former chief of staff in Washington, D.C., who also served as campaign manager for retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn's primary bid for the 5th District congressional seat two years ago against Rep. Doug Lamborn. — PZ

Dems open Warehouse doors

Meet the leaders of the El Paso County Democratic Party at a gathering Thursday, May 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Warehouse Restaurant, 25 W. Cimarron St.

The new county chair is Hal Bidlack, who ran for the 5th District congressional seat in 2008. His former campaign manager, Christy LeLait, is the county party's executive director.

Local candidates are expected to be on hand along with current office-holders. Anyone attending can sign up to become a "card-carrying member" of the county party.

"All local candidates have been invited to speak," LeLait says. U.S. Senate candidates Andrew Romanoff and incumbent Michael Bennet have been invited, she adds, and if they can't attend, they plan to send representatives. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, mayor of Denver, also has been invited. — PZ

Compiled by Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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