(Editorial Note – As I was a part of this NC STEP meeting in Rutherfordton, I couldn’t guarantee that I could be objective about the events. However, under no circumstances could I allow the attempt to hide the facts behind a subcommittee meeting about legal and ethical distribution of STEP funds go unnoticed.)
January 20, 2014
TO: RC Catalyst, Roy Cooper, Dept. of Justice, Sharon Decker, Dept. of Commerce, Richard Lindenmuth, Dept. of Commerce
Rutherfordton Town Council, Rutherfordton STEP Committee
I worked passionately to have the STEMulate Rutherford project to promote science, technology, engineering, and math subjects for the school children of Rutherfordton accepted by the STEP committee. The STEMulate Rutherford program began with high hopes to generate jobs and to encourage our youth to look at new technology as possible career paths. Having spent hours preparing nonprofit 501-c-3 papers, developing coursework, writing grants, and securing interest in a S150,000 STEM coursework Lab for the project, Joe Whiteside as co-chair and owner of Fablab Rutherford, the night before accepting the equipment, informed me on December 9, 2013 that he no longer wanted to participate in this project . He had made the same statement before his FabLab members meeting. Given Whiteside’s statements, I cut all ties and association with FabLab Rutherford and Joseph Leo Whiteside III.
My understanding is that Whiteside communicated since the December statements with Cindy Adair, Steve Seyboldt, and Brian Rathbone that he wished to receive the STEP funding of $12,500. However, Whiteside has skipped meetings, shown poor personal judgment on financial & legal matters, been served eviction papers on one of his facilities which was redeemed by an “investor”, refused to pay for consulting services to date, and has had Fablab members confront him for accountability for their monies. His website is currently offline due to non-payment, and he has two pending court cases. One of which demonstrates a continuing lack of good judgment with children (NC Court System Cases 2013701794 IF & 20140000147 CR).
A subcommittee meeting was called to address Whiteside’s involvment with Stemulate Rutherford and to mitigate any bad press that may become of this issue – this is the copy of the notice I was sent.
Gayle has requested we meet Monday Jan. 21. We will meet at Town Hall before the regularly scheduled STEP Meeting. Thank you Cindy
I was not informed of the time, place or correct date until after the meeting had convened. After a text from Cindy Adair, I arrived late to a meeting chaired by Larry Gregg with Brian Rathbone, Steve Seyboldt, Cindy Adair, and Joseph Leo Whiteside III (all subcommittee members) in attendance.
The use of state funds directed by a person ineligible to fulfill the grant to bring seminars to schools mandates that for personal integrity and transparency that I share this information with all parties, not just the ones the subcommittee thought it appropriate to share. From the NC statute:
Regardless of any law, the public schools have a duty to protect our children as they learn. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to see the importance of this.The subcommittee abdicated making a decision on Whiteside’s involvement and had voted (5-1) to let the steering committee decide the future of this STEMulate project. I declined to participate in such a meeting as all attendees save the chair knew the exact reason why Whiteside would be ineligible to enter into work with our school children. Whiteside self-disclosed a prior drug conviction for which he served time.
However, most importantly, Whiteside with his seemingly poor financial management & judgments and a criminal past has made it an impossibility for the seminars to be done in a school situation as it originally was structured. The state law mandates the use of background checks before working with children. Neither should school age children be exposed to an unsafe, improperly supervised work environment.
At this time there is no competent business manager who has stepped forward with the ability or desire to see this project through. Perhaps the steering committee will find someone. Until then with great regret, I am recommending that we return the funding for the STEMulate Rutherford project and terminate any further development on this project.
As my work on reporting issues of fraud and investigation in the use of state and public monies takes priority, I seek to avoid any conflict of interest. In the pursuit of transparency I am resigning as the STEMulate Rutherford project chair effective immediately.