CSBA Scott Plotkin’s troubling resignation
Caught in lies he told the news media last week about questionable credit card expenses and about salary cuts over the past year that he claimed he took – but didn’t, Scott Plotkin resigned Friday as executive director of the California School Boards Association. In a brief statement on CSBA’s web site, Plotkin wrote, “I am sorry if my actions have damaged the reputation of CSBA and the vital work being conducted by the Association. It was certainly not my intent.”
There is no “if” about it. Plotkin, who effectively led the organization for nine years, has scorched it on his way out. And the CSBA officers and board members must go beyond their tight-lipped responses to questions about pay and expenses if it’s to rebuild credibility with the public and the nearly 1,000 school districts whose CSBA dues are funded through tax dollars.
CSBA, which is suing the state over inadequate funding for K-12 schools, paid Plotkin $540,000 in 2007-08, including a bonus of $175,000. That same year, Plotkin, used his business credit card to draw $11,000 in cash advances at casinos.
A CSBA spokeswoman would not disclose Plotkin’s current salary, and CSBA President Frank Pugh wouldn’t give the answer to another obvious question: What will be Plotkin’s retirement package through the California Public Employees Retirement System? Both said the information is confidential. Pugh said that CSBA would hire an independent firm to review salaries and expenses. What he should have promised is that the CSBA would make those findings public.
A records check of the most recent tax filings by the Sacramento Bee found that Plotkin earned $290,000 in 2005-06, $353,000 in 2006-07 and $365,000 in ’07-08 plus the $175,000 bonus. The base pay was $100,000-plus more than that earned by CEOs of similar California associations that represent local governments.
Last week, Sacramento TV station KCRA first revealed the use of the business credit card for gambling expenses. Plotkin said he repaid CSBA the money, and KCRA said records show that he did. But in an interview with the station, Plotkin said that the CSBA board of directors was aware of the use of the money and that he had taken a 4 percent pay cut this year. In his resignation statement, Plotkin acknowledged both statements were untrue.
Along with lobbying for school districts in Sacramento, CSBA offers an extensive range of seminars and trainings in governance and finances that are supposed to prevent the embarrassments and improprieties in which CSBA now finds itself. The $5 million in dues that districts pay to CSBA is a small fraction of 1 percent of state funding of K-12 schools and a small piece of CSBA’s largely fee-based budget. But the high salary and loose control of expenses won’t help CSBA’s lawsuit for more funding – at least not in the court of public opinion.
“Hearing about this compensation package is absolutely incredulous and undermines any moral authority that CSBA had in filing their lawsuit,” Sen. Gloria Romero, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told the Bee.
The Association of California School Administrators, the state PTA, nine school districts and lawyers representing dozens of low-income, minority students also filed the suit, Robles-Wong v. State of California.