Chris Kelly: AG’S Guys Show Up, Lesh Doesn’t
A pair of state investigators attended Monday’s meeting of the Scranton School Board. Bob Lesh did not. The past two-term board president and high school dropout has a habit of missing meetings. Bob’s absence Monday is notable because he’s chairman of the transportation committee and chief cheerleader for a resolution that would silence honest, urgent questions about the district’s no-bid busing contract with Denaples Transportation Inc. Bob was so concerned about cementing the legal status of the Denaples contract, he called an emergency Aug. 12 board meeting to introduce a resolution that would bless every iteration of the questionable deal and damn district taxpayers to at least five more years of servitude to Denaples. As fate and fickle weather would have it, Lesh’s parade was drenched by torrential rain. The meeting was canceled, he claimed, due to flooding in his and other directors’ basements. Heavy precipitation washed out the meeting, Lesh insisted, not a drought of votes in support of selling out to Denaples. The new deal with Denaples could save the district as much as $1 million through the 2021-2022 school year, when the no-bid contract is set to expire. Sounds good, until you read the fine print. In exchange for this alleged windfall, district officials must vote to ratify all previous iterations of the alleged contract. These previous iterations were allegedly approved by previous boards, some Bob Lesh sat on. District officials — including Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, ED.D. — have failed to produce definitive documentation that proves the alleged busing contract is valid and binding. How can this be? Inquiring taxpayers deserve to know. A vote affirming the legitimacy of the alleged contract would forfeit the district’s legal right to challenge its terms. It would put Denaples in the driver’s seat until at least 2022. That’s why the resolution blessing the Denaples contract is so important, and why it was so notable that Bob Lesh didn’t show up at Monday’s meeting. State investigators were there, wearing T-shirts and jeans and taking copious notes during discussion of the busing contract. Earnest and engaged, they stood out like sore thumbs. I called the attorney general’s office to ask why investigators attended the meeting. As expected, spokeswoman Carolyn Simpson had nothing to say on the record. “The Office of Attorney General cannot confirm or deny the existence of any investigation at this time.” The AG office’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge the existence of the investigation is ridiculous, but at least they call me back.