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GOLDMAN: Jekyll and Hyde, did Richmond actually hire two school superintendents?

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – Those criticizing the Richmond School Board for paying the new Richmond School Superintendent an all-time record salary – far more than the governor and mayor – might have been 100 percent off on their math.

Why?

It seems Dr. Dana Bedden may actually be two different people, a Jekyll and Hyde type. Two for the price of one? I have always been a sucker for the BOGO or BOGOF as it is known in the marketing business: Buy One, Get One Free.

But in this case, it might be double the trouble.

According to city hall sources tapped while helping WTVR investigative legend Catie Beck, Richmond’s new school chief might have been of interest to author Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” first published in 1886. In common parlance a Jekyll and Hyde personality is basically someone who may not be what he or she outwardly appears to be.

Dr. Bedden promised to work with the Board, be the good employee, promising a “we” thing. All the right words.

But these sources say Dr. Bedden is proposing to take away the auditor and audit function now officially under the School Board. It is indispensable to any Board wanting to properly do its job.

But Dr. Bedden wants to give it to the City Auditor hired by City Council.

This idea actually got floated before Bedden got here by Mayor Jones folks during their “your momma” stuff with the last School Board.

Jones’ folks wanted to rip the power away from the Board and give to the City Auditor, perhaps even the Mayor’s oversight education committee.

My sources say Dr. Bedden had to get the idea from the Mayor’s people, since he hasn’t been here long enough to have come up with it on his own.

I studied public administration, worked at top levels in government.

You can take this to the bank, permanently giving your on-going, daily oversight audit function to a separate independent entity is about the dumbest move an organization can make.

It is one thing to allow the City Auditor, as has been done, a one-time look at the RPS books. But giving it on a permanent, on-going basis amounts to ceding immense power currently reserved in the Virginia Constitution solely to the School Board!

Such action further makes no logical sense for Dr. Bedden either. Why would he want the City Council’s auditor to be the one looking over his shoulder unless…

Unless he has some private understanding with the City Auditor?

Think about your household or your business. Would you want an independent outside auditor going over your stuff daily? NO.

Do you see the mayor and city council giving the power to audit their books in a similar fashion to an independent entity like the state auditor or a local watchdog group of experts?

They aren’t that politically or governmentally naïve.

If my sources are right, then Dr. Bedden has, in effect, double-crossed his own employer, likely in league with the Mayor’s people, council and others.

This is not to suggest the current or past School Boards shine as fiscally responsible stewards. Indeed I have written as much as anyone proving the opposite!

But my WTVR-TV column tries to honestly assess things where the rubber meets the road.

To be brutally honest, Dr. Bedden’ proposal amounts to siding against his own employer behind the board’s back.

Why?

Fortunately for the School Board, it gets the final say. Surely their lawyers and advisers are able to explain these facts of bureaucratic life.

Or do they?

If the Board goes along with this, then they don’t have a clue, none whatsoever.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.

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