Over the last three years the Adams 12 Five Star School District has cut its budget by more than $56 million, eliminated more than 200 jobs, cut after school programs and passed educational costs on to parents. “I can barely afford to send my kids to school,” said, Brie Abrams, the mother of four.
But a three-month investigation by FOX31 Denver exposes how the superintendent, the man behind those cuts, may have been cashing in at the taxpayers’ expense, and possibly breaking the law. Allegations the superintendent, Chris Gdowski, vehemently denies.
When asked if he had “ever used district property or district resources for personal gain,”Gdowski said, “No.”
But documents obtained exclusively by FOX31 Denver indicate the superintendent may have provided his wife, Carolyn, a local real estate agent, with unauthorized access to the district’s internal web site. “A blatant violation” of the superintendent’s own policies, said Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch.
Page two, section six of the superintendent’s policy on Employee Use of Computers, the Internet and Electronic Communications clearly states, “Employees are expected to protect personal log-in and password information and should not share access with anyone.”
The policy goes on to state that “using information systems or resources for personal gain” is “a primary example of unacceptable use.”
But that did not stop the superintendent from allowing his wife to log on to the system on at least seven different occasions.
“It’s an unauthorized access for personal gain and it’s something that should be taken very seriously,” said Toro.
Over a 10-month period the superintendent’s wife posted at least four real estate listings on the district’s ”Employee Marketplace,” an online flee market that requires a district issued employee ID and password.
“I have a Buyer,“ states one listing. They’re looking for “3,000 square feet or larger” a “3 car garage” and their “budget is around $700K.”
A four to five percent commission would bring in roughly $30,000. The listing is signed by Carolyn Gdowski, but was posted under her husband’s account.
“I think it is an obvious conflict of interest and in fact nepotism,” said Toro.
“It is his wife who is not an employee of the district and she is getting access to this government created information and using that to identify prospects for her business. That is an advantage that no one else has and she is getting a boost in her competitive profile by having access to this government information that was created at taxpayers’ expense.”
In a statement released by the superintendent late Tuesday afternoon, Gdowski admitted he may have violated the district’s policies by allowing his wife to post “two messages concerning real estate needs.”
He goes on to state, “We recognized putting those items there hadn’t been a wise decision, and we haven’t done that again.”
When asked if the school board should hold the superintendent accountable for his actions, the director of Colorado Ethics Watch said, “well absolutely and I think the school board would be remiss if they didn’t take strong action on this.”