The multi-million-dollar budget shortfall facing the Clark County School District should be viewed against a backdrop of waste. So say whistleblowers who alerted Contact 13 to dumpsters full of furniture at the district's purchasing warehouse.
All summer long, Contact 13 tracked the trashing of furniture at the CCSD purchasing warehouse.
Employees took cell phone video and photos to document the dumping, and so did Contact 13.
"These people who are working there see all this waste going on and this is taxpayers' money so they're very concerned, very upset and frankly frustrated because they don't see that the district has been accountable," said Elena Rodriguez, a school placement program processor in the special education department. She used to work in purchasing and helped 13 Action News expose similar scenes at the warehouse in 2012.
"The same department is still throwing out furniture and other items paid for by taxpayers."
Recently, we found media carts and televisions left out in the summer heat, dumpsters piled high with tables, chairs, desks, cabinets and a brightly colored kindergarten floor rug.
Some things have definitely seen better days.
Others appear just fine.
"A lot of these items were actually in good shape and some of them could have been fixed and their concern is that there is a policy -- a regulation by the district," said Rodriguez.
That regulation requires excess material and equipment to first be made available to other CCSD schools, then other Nevada school districts.
Items still unclaimed must be put up for sale to the public on dBay, the district's version of eBay.
Anything not sold must be made available to nonprofit organizations at no cost.
"And there's nothing in statute that talks about simply trashing equipment, so it's certainly a concern," said Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson after we showed him our pictures and video.
"I think that we are entitled to answers. I think the public's entitled to answers," Frierson said.
The district wouldn't give us any answers on camera.
In emailed statements, they say, "The Purchasing and Warehousing department takes great care to repurpose and utilize items that are in good and safe condition."
Items that are broken and can't be repaired in a cost-effective way "may pose a safety risk and may need to be disposed" or recycled.
"What they're saying and what's happening behind closed doors in the purchasing department are two different things," Rodriguez said.
Contact 13 asked CCSD to provide documentation that each item went through CCSD's process of being offered for sale or made available for donation before going into the dumpsters.
Their response: "There are no documents responsive to your request."
"As a taxpayer, and I'm sure a lot of taxpayers, we are very concerned that we cannot trust the district with more of our taxpayer dollars," Rodriguez said.
Assemblyman Frierson said, "Even this last session, Clark County School District requested far more and we said the same thing -- that in the past we have provided money and it hasn't been used necessarily in the way that it was represented, and so we're not gonna give folks a blank check."
Contact 13 discovered that while all that dumping was taking place over the summer, the board of school trustees approved a purchasing award to Machabee Office Environments: $3.5 million for new office and classroom furniture.
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The Purchasing and Warehousing Department takes great care to repurpose and utilize items that are in good and safe condition by sending them to other schools and district buildings that are in need. It is important to note that if items are broken and can't be repaired, they may pose a safety risk and may need to be disposed.
From July 1, 2015, through July 2017, the Clark County School District has redistributed and reutilized $911,734.82 worth of standard furniture within the District. Obsolete furniture and equipment sales via our third-party auction site have netted $158,151.50. In addition, the District has redistributed $19,660 worth of non-standard furniture and equipment via D-Bay.
The $911K figure is a direct cost avoidance for need that would otherwise be filled by the purchase of new furniture. The age and condition of the items on the auction site typically result in low sales prices; however, the District does manage to reap some benefit out of items that are no longer usable within the District. If items fail to sell in public auction, then those items will be sent for recycling, along with broken items that are unsafe or of no use to anyone.
It does not benefit CCSD to store a warehouse of furniture that is either obsolete or no longer safe to utilize."
"Our Purchasing Dept. takes great care to determine whether or not items are in good/reusable condition and are safe to be used by students and staff. Items with broken welds and rivets, or that are badly dented, are not considered reusable because of the safety hazard they pose to students and staff. The plastic wrap on items in the dumpsters was applied when the furniture/items were removed from sites for easier/safe transport. Items that are in good/safe condition are ready for reuse, other items are placed in recycling bins.
Once welds or rivets break on furniture it's virtually impossible to repair them in a cost-effective way."