Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vicki Phillips and Steve Goldschmidt

Her gambit failed. That's my read.

Vicki Phillips fired Steve Goldschmidt and refused to pay his obscene severance package that was negotiated back when Ben Canada was the super.

Right after she did it she was on my radio show. I told her then that I admired her guts and I still do.

She was taking a chance. She basically dared Goldschmidt to seek arbitration to get his obscene severance paid. She hoped that he might be ashamed to insist that $325K or so be extracted from a district already in total financial disarray.

But looking for shame from a Goldschmidt reminds me of when Kevin Mannix said he would solve the PERS crisis by "sitting down with the unions in a positive way and talk about the long term public good."

They just ain't concerned about it.

So, Vicki Phillips miscalculated. If she is to be criticised at all, it's not for the gambit - but because she obviously didn't create much of a paper trail that would support her contention that Goldschmidt had a "gross neglect of duty." She's been around long enough to know that if you want to fire someone you have to document their performance.

And just a couple months prior Goldschmidt had a glowing review from Jim Scherzinger, who approved the $14K performance bonus called for in his contract. Kind of hard to argue he was incompetent after that.

(Easy, though, to argue Scherzinger's incompetence. Goldschmidt had been a problem at PPS virtually since he started. He makes about $130K before all the goodies such as annuity, car allowance and whatnot. Why would Scherzinger approve the bonus?)

So, while I admire her guts in looking Goldschmidt in the eye and making him sue to get his severance, she miscalculated, and that cost the district another quarter million plus whatever they spent in lawyers.

But for her the good news is she comes out a winner anyway. She looks like a fighter who will clean up the excesses of her predecessors.

And while that is probably true and certainly necessary, it is far from sufficient if she is serious about getting PPS on track.

And that is where I'm afraid Vicki Phillips is NOT being as bold as she should. We don't need any more "five year strategic plans." (See my blog post below.)

It is very disappointing that she is headed in this direction. Kudos for the Goldschmidt gambit, even though it failed. But PPS will only survive if it makes structural reforms, and I've yet to see anything out of Phillips that would suggest she is a reformer.


gus miller said...

There is some interesting history here, Rob. Jim Scherzinger was hired to be PPS finance manager when Diana Goldschmidt was interim superintendent and stayed on when Ben Canada came aboard.

I assume that Scherzinger was complicit in the severance largesse that occurred during the Canada days. As interim superintendent, Scherzinger attempted to provide generous severance packages for several high ranking deputy superintendents in advance of the hiring of a new superintendent. Julia Brim Edwards shot that down and brought additional severance reforms.

I would hope that Vicki and the board take this "teachable moment" and use it to look at the current system of salary and severance contracts.

Anonymous said...

I find it extraordinary that you all try and create some kind of "conspiracy theory" around Steve Goldschmidt. Brim-Edwards was one of the star witnesses for Goldschmidt. Face it, Phillips met her match. She tried her normal PR manuevers and failed. Read the arbitration opinion and understand the standard for public figure defamation: deliberate malice. Her boxes would be out on the street if Portland wasn't so desparate. In terms of being a problem for the district, Goldschmidt was only a problem if you are a PAT supporter.

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