Duluth School Board member Welty reveals Central purchase price
The purchase price of the Duluth Central High School property is $10 million, according to a blog post by School Board member Harry Welty. The board Tuesday voted to move forward with a purchase agreement with an as-yet-unnamed developer for the ...
The purchase price of the Duluth Central High School property is $10 million, according to a blog post by School Board member Harry Welty.
The board Tuesday voted to move forward with a purchase agreement with an as-yet-unnamed developer for the 77-acre property, which was listed for sale at $13.7 million. At the time, the district declined to reveal the sale price until the deal was closed, citing a non-disclosure agreement with the buyer. Welty later disclosed the figure on his personal blog, a move he said was “inadvertent.”
The sale would include the Central building and two Secondary Technical Center buildings. The property, at 800 E. Central Entrance, is zoned for housing, recreation, higher education and commercial use.
Superintendent Bill Gronseth on Friday wouldn’t confirm the sale price, again citing the non-disclosure agreement with the buyer. A purchase agreement has yet to be signed. He said the details of the deal would be made public when the sale is finalized, and that board members were told to keep those details confidential.
Welty said Friday that he would not confirm that what he wrote on his blog was true. When he wrote about the prospective sale, he said, he was mindful to not say who the buyer was - but thought the sale price already had been revealed in a News Tribune story on Wednesday. It had not. He also said it’s possible the $10 million figure came from another, separate offer on the property.
“I’m quite embarrassed to discover that was a piece of information that had been withheld,” Welty said of the purchase price. “The prospect that I may have spilled too much and put the deal in jeopardy is a great concern to me and I am immensely flummoxed at my faux pas, if that’s what it was, and not just pulling a figure out of my memory.”
All School Board members have participated in closed meetings with regard to real estate transactions, member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp said.
“We know what the rules are in keeping information private and confidential,” she said, noting an email reminder came from Chairman Mike Miernicki after the closed meeting.
“It is disturbing to me that a board member would be so reckless and show such disrespect for working as a board member and disclosing (private data). It does not create a climate of trust amongst board members,” Loeffler-Kemp said. “I would hate for the recklessness of one board member to hamper the sale of the property.”
The property has been on the market since 2011, when the high school closed and the majority of its students went to Denfeld High School. The move was part of the district’s $315 million long-range facilities plan, or Red Plan, done to consolidate schools, build new or renovate existing sites in the face of both deteriorating buildings and years of declining enrollment.
Board member Bill Westholm, expressing worry about violation of a non-disclosure agreement, said the matter was “unfortunate.”
“It’s not atypical for people to not want details to be made public while (a sale) is being finalized,” he said.
Welty, an avid blogger, also disclosed in a blog post and in a column he wrote for a Duluth weekly publication details of the investigative report regarding member Art Johnston before it had been redacted and made public. Johnston has been accused of violating the board’s code of ethics, improper conduct and abuse of authority related to staff members, among others. The redacting was done to follow privacy laws regarding district employees and educational data.
A letter from district business services manager Bill Hanson - which Welty also posted on his blog - told members that the report they had been given had not yet been redacted for public viewing, so it wasn’t to be discussed with anyone.
Regarding the report, member Annie Harala said board members “have a duty and an obligation to keep our staff and students safe, and that includes keeping data we are told to keep private, private.”
In writing about the Johnston report before it was released, Welty said Friday, he was hoping to “help frame public discussion,” and was careful to leave out information that would later be redacted.
Welty is finishing out the first year of a four-year term; he also previously served on the board for two terms from 1996 to 2004.