Saturday, June 10, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now? School Board Members with Cell Phones, Updated

In a front pager in this morning's Tennessean, we learned that a couple of school board members are not just using cell phones as a benefit at taxpayer expense, but misusing them with overages, too. George Thompson (who represents the district that includes North End schools like Jones Paideia, Buena Vista, Hull-Jackson, and John Early) and Ed Kindall are both identified for overuse of their Metro cell phones. Kindall's offence was particularly bothersome, since he not only went over his 600-minute monthly allotment, but also downloaded ring tones, screensavers and games to the phone. To his credit, Kindall is paying the overage charges back, but even so, do screensavers and games belong on a Metro-assigned cell phone? Thompson regularly exceeds his 600-minute monthly allotment, but he moved his plan to an employee-shared pool of minutes, which means that his overage is absorbed by someone else's lower degree of cell-phone use. Yet, one has to wonder whether using more than 600 minutes on a cell phone means that the phone is being used for more than just school board business.

And now Kay Brooks, fresh from her council assignment to the board, distinguishes herself as the only other school board member to request a cell phone. This is the same Kay Brooks who drew attention to herself in protest at and after the Mayor's State of Metro Address by asking a server to clear her place at a dining table beforehand and to bring her nothing but water to drink. Refusing a one-time expense for breakfast seems trivial when compared to the money that the district would save month-to-month should Kay Brooks have declined her gratis cell phone. It would have precisely saved taxpayer's money, which had been something Kay Brooks demanded vigorously on her blog up until Council member Michael Craddock and the Davidson County Republicans helped her into her seat. So, now she gets a tax-payer funded cell phone and if legitimately elected in August, she will help decide which public school programs--based on a list of services that she has already claimed as unnecessary--should be cut. I suggest, for the sake of her own credibility, that she give back her cell phone and demand before the election that free cell phones should be cut out. If she's going to demand that others scrimp and save, then she needs to show her willingness to do likewise. By the way, she has also requested a lap top computer.

Kudos to the rest of the school board members for refusing a Metro-funded cell phone. I do not take issue with members receiving pay or getting insurance for themselves or their families, because heaven knows we all need insurance, and the pay seems small for the time that members spend on their work. However, cell phones should not be included in the benefits of the school board, especially because those who abuse the benefit only give the whole board a black eye from a taxpayer perspective.

06/10/2006, 5:20 p.m. Update: Kay Brooks has responded to this morning's Tennessean article on her blog. She writes:
Since that initial conversation [with BOE staff about benefits] and a conversation with the Board Chair on 5/23/06 I decided that I'll not ask MNPS to supply any of those resources. It seems the cleanest way to operate and doesn't require any of my time or the staff's in accounting for their use, upgrade or, heaven forbid, their loss or damage. So that's no cell phone, no laptop, no second phone line, no fax machine for BOE member Kay Brooks.
That's responsible decision-making, Ms. Brooks. Good to hear that you are changing course and taking yourself off the "requested" list. Now are you going to attend the school board candidates' forum this Thursday or avoid facing the voters like you did the first forum?


  1. How many part time jobs do you know of that have health care benefits at the low cost provided to Metro employees? As a cost saving measure, let them keep the phone but forego the insurance.

  2. *ahem*

  3. As a cost saving measure, let them keep the phone but forego the insurance.

    Because, God knows, nobody really needs decent health insurance nowadays; especially not families with children.

  4. Of course everyone needs insurance but not everyone has the luxury of getting it from a part time employment situation. And at a cost of $3,900 each for Garrett and Thompson, and $9,600 each for Warden, Harkey, and soon Brooks, the cell phone looks a heck of a lot more reasonable.

  5. Your faultfinding of anyone getting health insurance for their family where they can is repugnant to me. If anyone can get coverage for their children in a part time job then I say more power to them. Why hand someone who is worried about how they might pay the child's bills in an emergent situation a cell phone? That only insures that the wealthy who really do have the luxury of paying their bills without insurance run for these positions. The health insurance coverage is even more important to me than their salary, which clearly is less-than-part-time.

  6. You dont think Thompson (an attorney), Garrett (a realtor), Harkey or Warden (ironically listing her occupation as Nursing and Healthcare management), dont have access to health insurance through venues other than a part time city job?

  7. I agree you are repugnant. As a matter of fact you are also extremely hypocritical. You're giving Kay Brooks a hard time for not accepting the perks and in the same breath you say to Mr Kindal's credit he is paying back the overage. Surely you didn't just fall off that turnip I saw at the farmers Market today.

    You and everyone else know that Mr Kendal is only paying for his overages because he got caught.

    What else have they done that we don't know about?

  8. Taking away health care coverage from a part time public servant position guarantees that the only people who will ever likely serve on the board are attorneys, realtors, etc. It's wrong to assume that people in healthcare professions generally have good health insurance. I don't know what kind of insurance the health professionals on the board have, but I do know a couple who work in medicine whose insurance demands $2,000 deductables for each member of their family. They also pay high premiums. Unless something catastrophic happens to each member, that's a considerable financial hit to take for minor emergencies and marginally traumatic accidents. I also don't know why anonymous commenters would assume that people in part time jobs in general don't require health insurance.

  9. You are missing the point which is not that part time workers dont need health insurance, but that the vast majority of part time jobs do not provide health insurance, and expecially not at the rates given to the board by Metro.