Jane Quimby believes there is plenty of blame to go around for how a School District 51 administrative shake-up billed as a cost- and position-saving makeover ultimately added more than $1 million in salaries and multiple top-level positions to the district's payroll.
She faulted district human resources and finance staff for a lack of communication with other departments and officials. She faulted the Board of Education for failing to scrutinize the district's budget and ask questions about the costs.
But the former FBI agent, tasked by school board members to investigate how the reorganization shook out over the course of six months, laid the lion's share of the blame at the feet of now-former Superintendent Ken Haptonstall.
In a scathing 12-page report released Friday, Quimby accused Haptonstall of mismanaging the reorganization, poor communication, inattention to detail and demonstrating a lack of oversight throughout the process.
School board members voted unanimously Friday night to terminate Haptonstall's employment effective immediately through a separation agreement. That included an $80,000 severance payment to Haptonstall, according to records obtained by the Sentinel through a Colorado Open Records Act request.
The board also released Friday a six-page response from Haptonstall, who objected to many of Quimby's findings.
Throughout his response, Haptonstall described Quimby's methods and report as speculative, subjective, conjecture, lacking evidence, reckless, false and inappropriate.
Haptonstall also reiterated his support for the reorganization as the best path forward for students, teachers and the community.
According to Quimby's report, Haptonstall did not intentionally obscure the financial impact of the administration reorganization or try to mislead the school board.
However, Quimby wrote, the reorganization was plagued by problems stemming from actions or inaction by Haptonstall, the school board and district staff, which ultimately lead to an inflated cost.
"Transparency is cited by Haptonstall as a hallmark of his administration, but it was sorely lacking in this case," Quimby wrote. "Haptonstall had reason to know of the financial impact of the reorganization, but he did not appear to appreciate the implications and failed to communicate critical information to the board and the public."
Haptonstall first announced his intent to reorganize District 51 administration at a school board meeting in January, six months after he was hired to replace retiring Superintendent Steve Schultz.
Haptonstall billed the changes in district leadership as a way to better roll out performance-based learning by getting more administrators into schools to help teachers and students.
In January, Haptonstall told the board there "should be significant cost savings" out of the changes, depending upon who was hired, and told the Sentinel in an interview minutes later that the changes would reduce overall administration positions.
A Daily Sentinel review of the administration changes published in July found that the shake-up resulted in nine additional positions, gave salary increases to top-level administrators that on average outpaced those given to teachers, and carried a $1.2 million price tag.
Haptonstall penned an editorial a week later that he was shocked to see the cost of the administration changes and thought it would initially cost approximately $500,000. He cited a calculation mistake provided by staff.
Board of Education members hired Quimby in August to find out why there was a discrepancy between the actual cost of the reorganization and the cost information board members were told previously.
Quimby reported that Haptonstall's reorganization cost $946,322 as of Aug. 27, stating that the Sentinel's $1.2 million figure included 12 positions that are not on the "Administrative — Professional and Technical" salary schedule and "failed to account for scheduled annual salary schedule increases that would have occurred regardless of the reorganization."
Quimby's investigation focused on how the actions of Haptonstall, the Board of Education and district employees in human resources and finance influenced the reorganization from the time it was announced in January up until and after the publication of the Sentinel's article in July.
One of the most significant challenges facing human resources stemmed from the department's executive director, Colleen Martin, not being rehired for her job.
Those "far-reaching consequences," Quimby wrote, included Martin becoming disengaged and resulting in minimal human resources leadership during the reorganization.
According to Quimby's report, Haptonstall frequently overrode the recommendations of human resources employees to offer higher-than-recommended salaries for administrative positions.
"As the financial impact of the adjustments to the salary schedule and individual salaries continued to escalate, HR expressed concern to Haptonstall about the financial viability and long-term sustainability of the increases," Quimby wrote. "Specifically, concerns were expressed about how these increases would be perceived, both internally and externally, especially in light of the representation that the reorganization would result in a decrease in positions and cost savings."
At one point, Haptonstall offered the new executive director of human resources the wrong salary because he was reading an email on his cellphone, leading to the employee accepting a salary that was $24,000 higher than recommended.
"Haptonstall did not think it would be appropriate to withdraw the offer despite it being well beyond the recommended salary," Quimby wrote. "This particular offer created reverberations throughout the existing salary structure, because other employees (with long tenure and experience) within the same band were now being paid less than a new employee."
Those decisions triggered an erosion of trust between human resources employees and Haptonstall. Combined with minimal input from Martin, it led to a broken reorganization process, Quimby wrote.
Board of Education members were presented with information about new administration costs on multiple occasions, but they did not ask questions or follow up with Haptonstall or district employees about the costs, according to Quimby's report.
On April 24, school board members were presented with budget information that included the estimates for "priority salary market adjustments" costing $420,000 and "salary range adjustments" costing $460,000.
The May 22 budget overview included a line item for "range/market adjustments: administrative salary schedule" costing $616,635.
Despite being presented with this information, every board member told Quimby they did not recognize the implications or scrutinize the numbers presented, and that they thought Haptonstall or finance employees would bring "budget anomalies or concerns with expenditures" to their attention.
Despite a number of factors that should have caused the school board to be more aware of the budget — a new superintendent, a recently passed bond measure and mill levy override, an influx of state funding and a massive internal reorganization — board members were complacent throughout the budget process, according to Quimby.
"The board failed to demonstrate leadership and exercise appropriate oversight of Haptonstall and the budget," Quimby wrote. "The collective potential impact of these factors in the budget process should have been foreseeable by the board."
Quimby ended her report by concluding that the magnitude of salary increases were not justified and were a result of Haptonstall's mismanagement.
"There is no evidence of an intentional effort by Haptonstall to obscure the financial impact of the reorganization or mislead the board," Quimby wrote. "However, there is little evidence to suggest that the information uncovered by The Daily Sentinel would have been proactively shared with employee stakeholder groups or the community at large in the absence of the Sentinel article."
In a six-page response addressed to the Board of Education, district staff and community leaders, Haptonstall defended the reorganization and took issue with many of the claims in Quimby's report.
Haptonstall reiterated that he was hired by the school board to make a change that would help students and improve the quality of learning in District 51.
"While this change was fast and at times somewhat taxing for our administrative departments, we got through the hiring. While that was the hard part, the piece that gets missed in all of the controversy over the cost is that we have hired a group of people who are completely dedicated to the vision and mission of our district," Haptonstall wrote.
"Now, more than ever, this district needs to stay committed to the changes that are working to propel our school system and our children's futures forward in a positive manner. I am the person that our staff wants to lead this change and make our system better for our children," he continued.
Haptonstall claimed Quimby's report was biased because it was based on the word of "one or two specific employees from HR" and that one of those employees was friends with Martin, which "played a major role in the outcome of this report."
According to Haptonstall, he did not have a significant role in modifying "every administrative salary," he did not have a poor relationship with finance or human resources employees and his prolonged illness had a significant impact on communication between him and the school board.
"I believe the way this entire issue was handled gives the impression to our staff and community that while we talk about innovation and we encourage our staff members to try new things, knowing that failure and mistakes can happen, this is not truly what we believe," Haptonstall wrote.
'ABSURD, RECKLESS, FALSE'
Haptonstall's rebuttal to Quimby's report consists of 32 points where he wrote clarifications, objections, comments or additional information about the investigation.
Throughout his rebuttal, Haptonstall described Quimby's investigation and report as speculation, not subjective, conjecture, not true, inappropriate and not based in evidence.
On multiple occasions, Haptonstall blamed a single human resources employee for a mistake or incorrect information in Quimby's report.
At one point in the report, Quimby states that Haptonstall and district staff appear to have intentionally withheld the changes to the administrative pay schedule until after the school year in order to avoid blowback from teachers. Haptonstall writes that the claim is "completely absurd."
"... that I 'condoned' (withholding information) is a very reckless statement and one that a quality investigator would not include in an official report," Haptonstall wrote.
In his rebuttal, Haptonstall references at multiple points that he was in communication with school board members about the reorganization, contrary to parts of Quimby's report.
"Not true, I communicated the changes I had authorized to (school board President) Tom Parrish on several occasions, and he responded that people in Mesa County are going to have to start realizing we are going to have to pay people to get good talent."
Haptonstall said he has an audio tape that proves this conversation.
Haptonstall also criticized The Daily Sentinel's role in reporting and publishing information about his administration reorganization.
His first rebuttal point references that "Jay Seaton, the editor of the Daily Sentinel," supported the reorganization. Seaton is the publisher of the Sentinel.
Haptonstall also denied that he said he would decrease administrative positions.
"This was never the plan. The plan was to reduce executive administrative positions for more positions to work in schools and support teachers and students," Haptonstall wrote. "This was clear in the powerpoint delivered in January and was what Tom Parrish had indicated he wanted to see when the notion of the reorganization was being developed. This concept of less administration was bantered, incorrectly, by the Sentinel reporter and is misleading and false."
An audio-recorded interview with Haptonstall, however, contradicts Haptonstall's claim. Minutes after he announced the reorganization in January, Haptonstall was asked by the Sentinel if there would be fewer administrative positions overall. He said yes.
Quimby's report pointed out that Haptonstall had knowledge that the Sentinel was asking questions about the reorganization in June, because a human resources employee wrote him an email after an interview with the Sentinel.
Haptonstall wrote that he was "very ill" when that was happening and had been instructed by school board member John Williams to turn off his phone and email and let his staff handle things.
"It is also interesting to note that if this was on the Sentinel's radar, why didn't the reporter ask any questions of the Board of Education at either of the June board meetings where the budget was being approved?" Haptonstall wrote. "It seems that the Sentinel was waiting for a time that would be more harmful or dramatic to the district to either sell papers, or do significant damage to the superintendent."
The Daily Sentinel's July 22 report included a review of school district salary data for the 2018-2019 school year, and district administrators signed new employment contracts in early July.