She never lost moral compass
In the cast of characters who populate the probe into the bilking of the Seattle School District, one name stood out. Eleonor Oshitoye, a business-development counselor with the district's small-business program, was the only person singled out for standing up to Silas Potter.
Seattle Times staff columnist
In the cast of characters who populate the probe into the bilking of the Seattle School District, one name stood out.
Eleonor Oshitoye, a business-development counselor with the district's small-business program, was the only person singled out for standing up to Silas W. Potter Jr.
He's the man investigators say masterminded a scheme that drained the struggling district of $1.8 million, resulting in the dismissal of Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson Wednesday night.
Reading about what Oshitoye did in the midst of so much fleecing was like a balm.
She was the conscience that Potter didn't have, questioning his actions, time and again, despite his imposing, aggressive style.
She questioned whether district employees should push for legislative changes benefiting small business. She didn't understand why Potter was hiring private contractors to do work district employees were already being paid to do.
Every time, Potter pushed back, according to the report.
He told her she should trust him. That "everything had been run by his managers and other Seattle School District management and that they supported him 100%," the report stated.
Oshitoye was told "not to question (Potter's) reasoning," the report said, but to know that everything he was doing was for the benefit of the program, "all small businesses, and his staff."
Potter made it clear, the report said, that "ultimately, it is up to him to make a final decision."
And, in a little Dickensian touch, Potter told Oshitoye that if she and the staff were not in full support of his efforts, "that he would find others that would be and that they were free to go."
Patrica Eakes noticed Oshitoye's lone voice of reason.
"She stood out, for me, in terms of her willingness to challenge what Silas was doing," said Eakes, the Seattle attorney who interviewed many of the players in the probe.
"Based on the investigation that I have done, she has not engaged in any wrongdoing," Eakes said of Oshitoye, "even though she was emotionally abused and battered by what (Potter) was doing."
Contrast Oshitoye's actions with those of Gary Ikeda, then the general counsel for the school district.
When told about the misleading and false numbers Potter gave to the School Board, Ikeda all but shrugged his shoulders.
He's now working for state Attorney General Rob McKenna, in charge of the University of Washington's legal dealings and is a man who — presumably — knows the value of education and doing the right thing.
And yet, Ikeda declined to speak with the school district's investigator, or to comment for stories on the probe, doing a dance of attorney-client privilege that Eakes assured him was unnecessary.
McKenna, who prides himself on running an open shop, would do well to urge Ikeda to share what he knows. Immediately.
If that isn't enough to convince you that Oshitoye should be cloned, consider what happened just Wednesday in our fine region, where there's a distinct shortage of moral compasses.
A former employee of the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens in Seattle was fined $2,000 for violating the city's ethics code by using her position to give her boyfriend and her ex-husband breaks on their electric bills.
(Did I mention the boyfriend was a King County employee making $64,000 a year?)
A day earlier, a former corrections officer at the Kent City Jail was charged with stealing money from inmates.
Meanwhile, after being tracked down by The Seattle Times in Tampa, Fla., Potter spoke about himself in the third person, playing the victim with the kind of delusion that made Charlie Sheen look like Walter Cronkite.
I tracked down Oshitoye, still at the district, to see if she had anything to say.
She referred me to the district spokeswoman. I guess she didn't think she did anything worth speaking up about.
See what I mean?
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org. How much is a moral compass?
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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