An April 21 meeting between Dorchester District Two board members and the Oversight Committee of the school improvement building program cleared the air about the board’s recent decision to terminate M.B. Kahn.
The Oversight Committee is comprised of community members appointed by the Board of Trustees to monitor and report to the community-at-large on the various facts of the building program approved by voters in November 2012.
On March 24 DD2 board members announced their decision to terminate their contract with M.B. Kahn, the contractor that had been selected to handle all of DD2’s construction projects. The reasoning behind the board’s decision was that M.B. Kahn’s cost estimates for the project turned out to be more expensive than what had previously been determined.
At a called-in board meeting April 14, members of DD2’s Oversight Committee expressed concerns over the level of communication going on between board members and the public. Committee members were particularly concerned with the board’s decision to terminate the contract with M.B. Kahn.
During that same meeting board members held an executive session, during which they voted to submit a letter to M.B. Kahn recapping the reasons for termination.
On April 21 board members sat down with Oversight Committee members to discuss the letter and re-address concerns about the level of communication between both parties.
DD2’s attorney Bick Halligan reviewed the board’s exchange of letters with M.B. Kahn and reason for terminating the contract. “We have nothing bad to say about M.B. Kahn,” Halligan said. “Nothing is more important than completing the projects to the people as promised.”
Halligan informed attendees that M.B. Kahn performed 10 months of work for the district. In March things were getting “a little slick” with cost estimates. The gap in price, Halligan said, accumulated to millions of dollars for two of the three schools M.B. Kahn was working on – about $1.5 million in excess on one school and more than $2 million on another.
Committee members asked why they never knew about any problem. Christine LaRue, vice chair for the committee, said she wished she had a way to answer the questions posed by confused community members when they heard the news about M.B. Kahn.
“I need to be able to explain it to them, because this is very complicated,” she said.
Committee member Wiley Johnson added his concerns as well. “We’re asking to be kept abreast with the decisions that are being made,” he said.
DD2 Board Chairwoman Gail Hughes told committee members that when the board made the decision to let go of M.B. Kahn on March 24 there was a seven-day window when board members were not legally allowed to discuss it, but somehow the news was leaked.
“We are talking to you at the earliest possible time to inform you of it,” she said. “It leaked out, but it did not come from us and legally we could not speak on it.”
Board members and committee members agreed to work on communicating appropriately with each other.
After the meeting LaRue said she felt better about the situation. “I was glad that the board understood the communication issue,” she said.
Hughes said she too felt like it was a good meeting. “I certainly think that communication stems from our side as well as their side,” she said. “It’ll be a better building project going forward.”