Thursday, March 10, 2011

ML King School sale: done deal

The Seattle School District confirmed last month that the sale of the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School site in Madison Valley had been finalized and ownership transferred to the First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), as approved by the School Board in a controversial decision late last year.  FAME was the lowest bidder for the site, and the District walked away from the millions of additional dollars it would have received if it had sold the property to neighboring Bush School.

Recently, there has been speculation by some opponents of the sale that the FAME purchase could be overturned.   The Seattle Weekly was the first of the media outlets to pick up the story, followed by KING-TV on its 11:00 broadcast last night.  The basis for the hope of re-opening the MLK school-sale decision is the fact that then-District official Fred Stephens, boss of the now-notorious Silas Potter, was heavily involved in FAME at the time the District agreed to sell MLK to the Church.  According to the Weekly, Stephens' father was a one-time pastor at FAME, and Stephens himself was active in the Church. This connection has led some to speculate that Stephens had an unfair role in getting the School District to accept a lower offer for the MLK property from FAME.

The School District, however, rejects these claims of possible conspiracy or, at minimum, conflict of interest in the MLK sale. School Board member Michael DeBell was interviewed on KING stating that Stephens had nothing whatsoever to do with the District's decision-making process.  However, Adrienne Bailey, leader of the Madison Valley residents who wanted to create a community center at MLK, was also interviewed, stating that she has evidence in the form of emails that show Stephens was, in fact, involved in the District's process.

Short of proving the sale of MLK was a fraudulent transaction, however, it is hard to see how the District could be forced to try to recover the Elementary School property, now that the deed has been transferred.   There's been no comment, apparently, from FAME on the supposed Stephens connection to the property sale.

Meanwhile, we have been asked whether FAME has the right to dispose of the MLK site and keep any profits the Church might realize from the sale.  We have read the MLK purchase and sale agreement and the related restrictive covenant agreement, and it appears that FAME is not prohibited from selling the property so long as certain community-use conditions continue to be met.  The draft documents are available here for those who want to look for themselves.  For some reason, the executed documents are not available online, but the School District has confirmed to us that "the draft was not significantly different from the final" documents.

As a practical matter, however, it seems unlikely that anyone would want to buy the property from FAME with the restrictive covenant in place.  If community use of the site does not continue at the level contemplated by the agreement, rent will have to be paid to the School District for the conversion to non-public purposes.  For example, $6,000 would due as an annual penalty for each classroom redeveloped for non-public use, and $20 per hour would be charged for each hour of contemplated public-use of the gym space that does not, in fact, occur.  These rents or "value-sharing payments" would continue for the 40-year life of the restrictive covenant.  After that point, the School District would apparently no longer have any control over the property's use.


  1. To the Seattle School District: “No, no, no that’s not the way it’s done. You take the lowest amount of money when you are bidding to have work done for you, not when you are selling something.” You see, the idea is to make a profit on selling your property and that means getting as much money for it as possible. That is the responsibility you have undertaken when you work for the parents and students of the City of Seattle. I guess the SSD had the same crew involved in the MLK deal that was handling the billing for the “touchy, feely” classes that no one was attending down at headquarters and being run by Silas Potter.

    “Short of proving the sale of MLK was a fraudulent transaction”, you must be kidding me Mr. Blogger! You have been hinting from “day one” that this deal has stunk and you know it smells of the insider dealings that reeked during the recent ouster of the Seattle Schools Superintendent. It is only by this incredible bit of timing that this deal should be shown to the City for what it is: Fred Stephens maneuvering behind the scenes talking to the right people, instilling a little bit of guilt in the community and telling the FAME people, “Yah and then hold onto the property for a couple of years and then sell it for the really big bucks.”

    It will be interesting to see the roll the local media and The Seattle Times will play in this after our bloggers fine work. The Times exposed the recent scandal so they know who the players are and the public is sick of incompetent beaurocrats who are mis-managing public funds, assets and property. The restraint that the Madison Valley representatives and the Bush School leadership have shown is commendable.

    I say get the auditors in there to continue their work; they know the address since they were just there last week. Also Mr. Blogger please continue shining your light under those dark rocks.

  2. Absolutely disgusting situation. I hope those FAME members enjoy their ill-gotten property. And they call themselves religious people? I wonder how God will judge this kind of treachery.

  3. They have yet to engage the community that the school is in. They have their own agenda, and it appears their "community center" is not for the community in which it is located. Maybe they will rename it "The Fred Stephens Center"

  4. good job Madison Park blogger even though I felt like I needed to wash my hands after reading about this kind of skullduggery going on in our community. The greatest irony is that the school was named for that wonderful black man MLK, who is probably rolling in his grave. The 'religious' loudmouths so often are the most morally backrupt.

  5. Ms. Goodloe was paid $260,000 per year! I wonder how much Potter and Stephens were paid (with our money). We get under-educated, overpaid, corrupt officials because they are hired by equally unqualified, selfish bureaucrats. Mediocrity feeds itself. Affirmative Action promotes it. And our kids pay for it.

  6. Oh no, it is not just our kids who pay for it, it is you and I, through property taxes higher than they otherwise should be. The city lost out on $1M in money that could have been used for other purposes, due to this underhanded deal.

    Someone really needs to go to jail over this.

  7. This sale was a travesty. What a disaster for us taxpayers in the neighborhood!

    The property should have been sold to Bush School. In these times of government deficits the school system and the city could have well used the funds provided by this sale. And Bush School would have continued to use the property for education. All of us taxpayers would have won.

    But this was not to be. The mismanagement of our city schools continues and this is but one more example of its gross mismanagement.

    I suspect special interest groups were involved in influencing this non-sensical decision. No sane business person, manager or property owner would have sold to less than the best bid on this property.

    As a voter and taxpayer I believe the process should be investigated by the county prosecutor or even the state attorney general.


    Steve Waszak, neighborhood member for over 30 years.

  8. from
    Does this mean anything to anyone? Found it on a site - 2009 Regular Legislative Session November 4, 2009 - See the pdf file -Attendees- minutes...etc REALLY

    " Ted Howard-Disposition of MLK - First AME" is this FAME?


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