Cost of Ingram’s ‘incentive’ way too high for taxpayers

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

August 8, 2011

Words are funny things. Just when you thought you understood the meaning of a word or a group of them strung together, they can shift like sand under your feet.

In a letter written to Springfield School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram dated June 30, 2008, Stephen Lisauskas, the executive director of the Finance Control Board (FCB), explained that Ingram was receiving $30,000 to “compensate for the higher cost of real estate in Springfield.”

Granted, in June of that year the bottom had yet to fall out of the local housing market, but I wonder if there was that much of a difference in the costs of homes. The idea, though, was to avoid the situation of the former superintendent who never bought a home here and actually have the highest paid person in the municipal government permanently live in the city in which he serves.

What a concept!

According to that letter, Ingram was obligated to move to the city by June 2009. He would be reimbursed by the city for his moving expenses. Documents showed that the FCB paid $1,000 for the transportation of his car to Springfield and also paid for a mover to bring at least part of his household items to the city.

The taxpayers also paid for eight months of his rent, provided it didn’t go over $2,000 a month.

According to information released by School Committee member Antonette Pepe, Ingram received that $30,000 as part of his payroll — despite the fact it wasn’t part of his salary — on Aug. 1, 2008. He had the money in hand, but there was a failure to launch. He never bought a house.

Let’s fast forward to June 25, 2009. Lisauskas now writes Ingram a few days before the FCB’s reign is over in Springfield to inform him that he has never moved to Springfield — meaning he has never bought a home and his wife still lives in Oklahoma — but don’t worry. With the power invested in him by the FCB, Lisauskas can extend that deadline to June 30, 2011.

“This [extension of the reimbursement benefits] will continue to provide you an incentive to relocate to Springfield and further deepen your roots in the community,” Lisauskas wrote.

Really? Really! An incentive is something that is held back until a task is done. People receive bonuses in the real world for completing a task by a set of requirements set by an employer. If you can’t get the job done within the parameters given you, you don’t get the extra scratch.

I’ve never heard of someone being given the incentive first, before the task is even undertaken.

What’s left for the city to pay out — moving Mrs. Ingram and her stuff to the city? We’ve already paid the “transitional” expenses.

So was the $30,000 an “incentive” or was it part of his pay?

According to City Solicitor Edward Pikula, who reviewed the contract and side agreements, while the city could ask for the $30,000 back, Ingram is under no obligation to pay it back. His contract — as opposed to the side agreement — Pikula wrote does not require Ingram to buy a home in the city.

So thank you FCB for saddling the taxpayers with a lousy contract that pays out way too much for what we received so far from the superintendent in the way of results.

Mayor Domenic Sarno has called the discussion of the contract and what Ingram has received as a “distraction.” This is an election year and voters concerned about the city’s schools and how their money is being spent may not agree with that assessment.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper..

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