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No politics in Rhee complaint, Brannum says

If there's something Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has said or done over the last three years that Robert Vinson Brannum actually likes, he's kept it pretty much to himself. Count him among the hardest of the hard-core anti-Rheeites.

"Chancellor Rhee seems to take personal joy in being hostile, rude, petulant, and disrespectful," Brannum blogged in 2009 after one of her marathon appearances before the D.C. Council, where he is a fixture on the witness list.

Then there's this from last January: "Regardless as to how hard Chancellor Rhee seeks to reinvent herself, she will never measure up to the competence, intellect or professionalism of [Rhee's predecessor] Dr. [Clifford] Janey as a solid educator. Chancellor Rhee cannot remake her image or shed new skin and be viewed other than as a failed classroom teacher. There is a difference between being a fearless administrator and a reckless tyrant. There is a difference in respecting alternate views and rejecting to hear them."

Brannum, a Ward 5 activist and one-time school board candidate, is also supporting D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray in his attempt to unseat Rhee's boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. But he insists that election-year politics have absolutely, positively nothing to do with his decision to pursue an ethics complaint with the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) against Rhee for her dealings with the private foundations that are funding a portion of the new teachers contract.

"Individuals are free to say what they wish," Brannum said Monday, but he pointed to OCF's decision to investigate Rhee's solicitation of $64.5 million from a group of four private foundations to support the new teachers contract. OCF director Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery said in a June 4 letter that there is "reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred." Brannum asserts that Rhee improperly burnished her own job security by doing business with funders who reserved the right to pull their money if school system leadership ever changed.

"Until she is held accountable she cannot hold teachers and others accountable," Brannum said.

A Rhee spokeswoman calls his claim "nonsense, " pointing out that the leadership contingency is a standard part of private funding agreements.

Kathy Williams, OCF general counsel, said the agency is just doing its job.

"We have to look into the matter," she said. "The man made a complaint and we're going to look into it."

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By Bill Turque  |  June 7, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
 
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Next: Raymond: Gray or Rhee is a bogus choice

Comments

Anyone who's ever gotten a private or public grant knows that the funder makes various standard criteria part of the agreement, like "do what you say you will" and "let us know of major changes". I am still amazed the any private funders were willing to throw money down the holes that are DC schools. DC parents and Brannum should be grateful, not hateful. Of course, I'd be delighted if Rhee left and/or the funders refused to give money, DC simply does not deserve such generosity given its historic mismanagement.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 7, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Bill - Let's see an article on how the Washington Post editorial board defends Rhee no matter what.

It will be much juicier than anything you could write about Robert Brannum, who after all, got a public official to take his claim seriously -- on the merits of the case -- not on spin and corporate backing.

Posted by: efavorite | June 7, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

efavorite,
you are so bloody right on the money.
Jo-Ann Armao got over rather fast being offended by Helen Thomas to protect her "rock star" hero.
And again, Jo-Ann got the ear of Michelle that Bill missed.

Poor Bill.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/07/AR2010060703784_Comments.html

Posted by: edlharris | June 8, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad to hear Robert Brannum took this step. The whole thing with Rhee and the donors could set a bad precedent. Donors could start dictating to those they give money to. I've heard the Gates Foundation is already doing that with medical organizations they give money to.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 8, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

All of the private funders are corporate criminals who are using their "charitable" foundations not to burnish their reputations as humanitarians and philanthropists, as the original robber-barons such as the Rockefellers and Mellons did, but rather to promote their politcal and corporate agendas. After all, charity begins at home.

Posted by: mcstowy | June 8, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

DCPS is not a private institution. Therefore, private donations should not have strings attached to keep the Chancellor in place. DCPS is PUBLIC. Our tax dollars pay for DCPS, whether or not our children are in the system. It's hard enough to live with decisions that the politicians put in place (Mayoral take over of the schools, an unqualified Chancellor), and to have private donors call the shots is worse.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | June 9, 2010 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Dccitizen1, are you okay with the city foregoing these donations and raising your taxes?

Posted by: goldgirl96 | June 9, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Nationwide, 47 percent of "taxpayers" pay no income tax. In the District, one might guess that the number of nonpayers is higher. This is all perfectly legal and moral, and all who meet the District's residency minimums are full-fledged citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities attached to that status.

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