Davis Enterprise Reporter Working for Tahir Ahad

The Vanguard has learned that Davis Enterprise Reporter Jeff Hudson, who has covered the Davis School District for ten years, has also been working for Tahir Ahad since August 2008 on an educational newsletter called EdBrief.  It was last year that the Vanguard presented a four part series on Tahir Ahad who served as DJUSD’s CBO from 1999 to 2006.  During his tenure at DJUSD he used district resources and district personnel to form his company Total School Solutions.  As we discovered, Mr. Ahad took district personnel from DJUSD and hired them to work concurrently with his company.  This enabled him capital and resources to help start up his company which has now greatly expanded its influence throughout the state.

 

This was merely the tip of the iceberg.  There were numerous complaints from former employees of Ahad and the district of abusive behavior.

His side-work was also costly to the district as the district missed a key deadline that cost the school district state matching funds for Montgomery Elementary school–funds that it took numerous years and a great amount of staff time and energy to recoup.

Moreover, in the process of losing those matching funds, the district began shuffling money from project to project to cover up the loss of money.  Thus the school district became alarmed in 2006 when it discovered it did not have the funds to complete construction on King High School.

Now Jeff Hudson who was aware of most of these problems, but chose not to report on it while Tahir Ahad was an employee, is working for Mr. Ahad on an educational newsletter–EdBrief.

According to their website:

“EdBrief is a publication by the Education Media Group, LLC (EMG).  EMG is a joint venture by Tahir Ahad, president of Total School Solutions and Vernon M. Billy, president of Governmental Solutions Group, LLC.”

Tahir Ahad and Vernon M. Billy according to the website,

“developed EdBrief in order to provide educators and the public with a one-stop Internet site for education news and resources they can use to inform their academic, business management and research efforts.”

Jeff Hudson is listed as the editor of EdBrief.

“Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief. Jeff is a veteran journalist with 10 years experience covering issues relating to K-12 education. In 2006, he received a statewide award for education coverage from ACSA (Association of California School Administrators). Jeff has also been honored with awards for business coverage. Jeff’s background includes extensive work preparing stories for different media, including daily and weekly newspapers, public radio, magazines and online publications.”

Other writers for EdBrief include several former DJUSD employees who now work for the Educational Consulting Company, Total School Solutions which Tahir Ahad founded while he worked as CBO for the Davis School District.

Writers include: John Almond, Cathy Bui, Tina Burkhart, Dennis Dunston, Theresa Garcia, Steve Horowitz, Solveig Monson, Aimee Scribner, William Spalding, Nancy Walker, Vern Weber.  By our count at least five of them were former DJUSD employees.

While working on the newsletter Mr. Hudson has covered a number of state educational topics some of which include covering meetings of the State Board of Education, the State Allocation Board,  and the Constitutional Convention Summit (which he also covered for the Davis Enterprise). The newsletter is aimed at superintendents, school board trustees, and other professionals.

Mr. Hudson never worked for Tahir Ahad while Mr. Ahad was an employee for DJUSD.  However, there remains a number of areas of a direct conflict of interest, in addition to the various ethical problems of  working for a former DJUSD administrator who left under such a cloud of controversy while working for the local newspaper.

One such example occurred in October of 2008 when the school district was in danger of losing the $4.5 million that it had recouped just the year before.  However, in covering the missed deadline, Mr. Hudson completely whitewashed what had actually happened.

“The history of the state matching funds for the South Davis school is complex. Davis voters approved funds for the campus in May 2000, as part of a school facilities bond. Construction plans went into high gear, and Montgomery Elementary  opened on a limited basis (serving kindergarten and first-grade students) in August 2001. The remainder of the campus opened for grades K-6 the following fall.

But in 2002, the Davis district inadvertently missed a state deadline to apply for matching funds for the project. The $4.5 million that the Davis district applied for represented roughly half of the $9 million price tag for the school.

The school district — as well as several dozen others in that had missed the same deadline — promptly complained that the state’s regulations regarding matching funds for new school construction were confusing and poorly publicized.”

The Vanguard’s complete coverage from March 3, 2008 paints a very different picture:

Tahir Ahad had assigned the DJUSD facilities person to deal with the application for Montgomery Elementary School.  His facilities person at the same time was working for Total Schools Solutions.  In fact, they missed the deadline twice, by five months.

As Board Member Sheila Allen told the Vanguard in January 2008:

“The chief problem for why we lost the state matching funds was because we missed the deadline. To me, that’s inexcusable to just miss it. For something as huge as this, I don’t know what else that you’re doing, but something so very important as this, you just don’t miss the deadline. That’s the reason that the whole thing started is that you missed the deadline. And there can be speculation as to why one would have missed the deadline, but the bottom line is that the deadline was missed. I don’t think there was a sufficient consequence for such a large mistake as that.”

Yet seven months after the Vanguard’s report, Mr. Hudson once again whitewashed actions that he never fully covered in the local newspaper to begin with.

From the Vanguard’s standpoint there are several different problems that Mr. Hudson’s employment with Tahir Ahad brings up.  First, is an insensitivity to the school district and former employees that suffered greatly under Mr. Ahad’s leadership.  Second, is the principle by both Mr. Hudson and Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis who somehow believe this is appropriate.  Moreover, it answers some nagging questions from those in the community who have often wondered very loudly why Mr. Hudson, who had full knowledge of much of what occurred, failed to cover it.

Finally there is the conflict of interest, presently, from Jeff Hudson who continues to report on matters pending before DJUSD.  The district in some ways, as exemplified by that story from just five months ago, is still dealing with fallout from Mr. Ahad’s regime.  As the October article demonstrates, it is unlikely that Mr. Hudson will be willing to look at and scrutinize issues surrounding the legacy of Mr. Ahad.

Under normal conditions, it would not be a problem for a reporter to take side-work such as this.  But given the history of the district, it is difficult to comprehend why either the reporter or the editor believed this was the right thing to do.

For us it is just another example and explanation for why Mr. Ahad was able to turn his position serving the public and the children of the Davis School District into a multimillion dollar business that reaches across the state and has developed tremendous influence.  The Davis Enterprise was a chief enabler for Tahir Ahad, by not only turning a blind eye to his malfeasance, but in fact later “crawling into bed” with him after the extent of the damage of his regime was already known.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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31 Comments

  1. Lorne

    WOW! Let’s see how the Enterprise decides to deal with this gaff. Is the Paper unaware of Hudson’s “other” job ? How can readers, or former readers of the Enterprise, trust that Hudson’s articles on education are objective ?

  2. wdf

    David,

    It’s troubling to learn this, but I think it would be impossible for Mr. Hudson to be a professional journalist and not encounter potential conflicts of interest as you describe. As you may be well aware, newspapers are cutting staff and salaries and even giving up on print editions. I don’t think the Enterprise could offer him enough paid work for him to be their exclusive employee.

    I have heard/read and appreciated his work in the Sacramento News & Review and local NPR station, as well as the Enterprise.

    But, if you want to work in the spirit of good practices for investigative journalism, though, I think you realy owe Mr. Hudson the opportunity to offer an explanation in your article.

  3. Dean H.Gaumer

    This is only the tip of a corrupt iceburg that stretches over all school districts. In fact school districts are thought of as fattened calves to take to the slaughter to foment some personal agenda. I worked for 38 years in a similar district just east of us and was able to survive 18 superintendents who knew that board members were not smart enough to be elected dog catcher.The State of California encourages this by funding everything and nothing and letting locals think they are in control. 80 % OF BOARD MEETINGS AGENDA ARE FLUFF. Everyone just loves the childern but nothing is done to critically examine the funding, the corruption and unending garbage that goes on by management in the name of education

  4. David M. Greenwald

    WDF: I have a lengthy explanation from Jeff, just not permission from him to use it. I have no problem with him writing for Sac News, NPR, or another other media outlet. Tahir Ahad is not simply another media outlet, he is a former employee of the district who had a long and tarnished history here. I think there is more than a small difference between the two. I agree he does not get enough money from the Enterprise to put his sons through college. I sympathize with that. There is also a line between acceptable side ventures and unacceptable ones. He and I disagree on that. If he wishes to explain himself to the public he is always welcome to do that here or elsewhere.

  5. My Concerns

    “It’s troubling to learn this, but I think it would be impossible for Mr. Hudson to be a professional journalist and not encounter potential conflicts of interest as you describe… I have heard/read and appreciated his work in the Sacramento News & Review and local NPR station, as well as the Enterprise. But, if you want to work in the spirit of good practices for investigative journalism, though, I think you realy owe Mr. Hudson the opportunity to offer an explanation in your article.”

    You’ve got to be kidding! Mr. Hudson is always free to comment on this blog, but I very much doubt that he will have the courage or character. For years I have been frustrated as to why the Enterprise has not reported much of what has gone on at DJUSD, and now I know much of the reason for it. And the Enterprise wonders why it is going under? It has no credibility in my book. If the Emptyprise sees nothing wrong w this gaff, what else is it not reporting on bc a reporter has a conflict of interest connection – such as to developers. That would explain the pro Covell Village article recently…

    Egads!

  6. madame shoes

    I agree with this. It’s troubling to me the Jeff Hudson has refused to honestly and openly cover what’s really going on in the schools. This is a clear conflict of interest on the part of Tahir Ahad and he relied on Davis liberals and their trust to expoit the system and take money from students and teachers and put it to his own personal demands. This is indicative of what’s been happening in California to public resources and funding. It’s been largely privatized and money has been funneled from the public to the private sector. Same as with low income housing, and other key public goods and services. Many of these private “non-profits” amask millions from the people they claim to serve and take the money for themselves. In low income housing, they have a “resident services” fund and the residents never see a dime nor do they get service. This kind of stuff should be referred to the department of justice hopefully will be on the chopping block of programs that don’t work under the Obama plan. If they don’t work, then the money should be returned to the government or put towards its proper application for what it was originally intended for. This is why I don’t read or subscribe to the Davis enterprise. They have continually white washed over environmental concerns, education concerns, public safety concerns. It’s clear that they don’t have the residents of Davis’s welfare at heart and need to be held accountable. Thanks again to the People’s vanguard for continually keeping us informed. This link should be forwarded to the DOJ for further investigation. Many of these agencies have been investigated and shut down due to fraud and abuse. They have been holding the people who are supposed to be benefiting from these services as slaves and pocketing the rest for themselves. It’s disgusting

  7. Not so surprised

    I’m a bit surprised, but then when I stop to think about who is involved I quickly realize that poor judgment is expected.

    After all, remember that Debbie Davis, the editor of the Davis Enterprise, was serving on the Davis Chamber of Commerce at times when residents wondered why the Enterprise was not covering certain stories pertaining to businesses or potential big box businesses in Davis.

  8. wdf

    “I have no problem with him writing for Sac News, NPR, or another other media outlet.”

    David: You see a clearer case of conflict of interest in this case for the moment, but a few months down the line you could see compromised judgement if he were asked to write a possibly critical piece on Sac N&R or NPR for the Enterprirse. Or maybe Sac N&R doing a critical piece on the standard media as represented by the Enterprise or NPR. The latter situation is rather plausible for SNR; they love to tweak the other conventional media sources.

    I think it would be hard to be the kind of journalist for hire that he is w/o running into things like this. Not to excuse it, but to explain it. With more than one media source around, it’s possible to cover angles that get missed for whatever reason, as you do.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    WDF: While I wouldn’t completely discount the possibility, think there is more than just a conflict of interest problem here. It is interesting that I have received far more emails than posts on this one. But there is a raw angry nerve that Tahir touches off in this community that has caused a very diverse group of people to react pretty strongly to this article.

    I say this as someone who actually like Jeff. I think he works hard and much of the time does a decent job of coverage. He has a blind spot here that is unfortunate and I don’t quite understand it.

  10. Dave

    I wonder if wdf knows why a conflict of interest is so important regarding getting an unbiased article about an issue? And why does he come to bat for hudson who refuses to speak for himself? I have no problem with Hudson taking several jobs, but he certainly should not report on our school issues anymore.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Mr. Hudson never worked for Tahir Ahad while Mr. Ahad was an employee for DJUSD. However, there remains a number of areas of a direct conflict of interest … One such example occurred in October of 2008 when the school district was in danger of losing the $4.5 million that it had recouped just the year before.”[/i]

    That’s an indirect conflict of interest. A direct conflict would be if Hudson had been responsible for the lost money — he wasn’t — or if Ahad had been covering this issue. It’s unfair to accuse Jeff of having “a direct conflict” when he really doesn’t.

    If, in the future, an education story in Davis touches on Ahad’s former performance with the district, Hudson’s position should be disclosed to the readers or a different reporter should cover that one story. However, of the hundreds of articles Jeff writes on education in Davis — he happens to be great at his job — very few will regard the business interests of a former district employee. Anyone who suggests he should thus not continue in his position is being exceedingly sanctimonious.

  12. Disagree with Rich

    Rich: The problem is that Hudson didn’t disclose this to anyone although he didn’t go to great lengths to hide it either. Still, it presumably took Greenwald nearly six months to find out with as many people who contact him about such matters on a regular basis. And he did appeared to white wash the article on the SAB and he made no such disclosure as you suggested. Isn’t that disingenuous? Greenwald himself said he felt Hudson did a decent job, that’s not the point. You argue people who view otherwise are being exceedingly sanctimonious, but I think you are being a bit pedestrian. Perhaps because this hits on the Enterprise which pays you to write for them? I think this is bad judgment on the part of Jeff and Debbie. I’m sorry to see you going along with it, as I respect your opinion and think you’ve done a good job of bringing things to light with your position as a columnist for the Enterprise.

  13. Rick Entrikin

    I’m really torn on this one: I’ve read Jeff Hudson Enterprise pieces for years and thought he did a very good job; also, read the Vanguard and “comments” every day, and thank David for the great forum & all the contributors for sharing views & opinions. On the other hand, I have great disdain for Tahir Ahad (and the DJUSD trustees who brought him here with a heavy bag of dirty laundry).

    Not ready to pass judgement on Jeff, but his alleged association with Ahad conjures up scents of unwashed hands after cleaning raw fish. Something stinky? Tell us more.

  14. Rich Rifkin

    DIS: [i]”Rich: The problem is that Hudson didn’t disclose this to anyone although he didn’t go to great lengths to hide it either.”[/i]

    We don’t differ on this point.

    DIS: [i]”And he did appeared to white wash the article on the SAB and he made no such disclosure as you suggested. Isn’t that disingenuous?”[/i]

    Before I determine why Hudson covered this issue in the manner he did, I’d like to hear what he has to say. Keep in mind that it is possible a reporter could have done a bad job in one respect without having done so for ill-motives. I am happy to disclose I have no relationship, financial or otherwise with Tahir Ahad. However, I feel like (in my outsider’s position as a columnist) I did a poor job in covering this story. I don’t have an excuse, other than laziness. I was told by someone in the know (when Ahad was still with the district), long before David Greenwald did such an excellent series of reports on this, that there were problems with Ahad’s job and conflicts with his business interests. However, I failed to look into it. I regret that.

    DIS: [i]”You argue people who view otherwise are being exceedingly sanctimonious, but I think you are being a bit pedestrian.”[/i]

    I do enjoy a good walk.

    What struck me as sanctimony was this: “he certainly should not report on our school issues anymore.”

    DIS: [i]”Perhaps because this hits on the Enterprise which pays you to write for them?”[/i]

    That’s a fair point.

    DIS: [i]”I think this is bad judgment on the part of Jeff and Debbie.”[/i]

    As I said above, I think his position needs to be disclosed only if Hudson covers an issue that regards Ahad or Ahad’s business. Better still, in those occurrences, an unconflicted reporter should write those stories. (I don’t deny that Hudson has a conflict with regard to Ahad. It’s just not, as David said, a “direct” conflict.)

    DIS: [i]”I’m sorry to see you going along with it, as I respect your opinion and think you’ve done a good job of bringing things to light with your position as a columnist for the Enterprise.”[/i]

    I think it’s fair to judge my comments in light of my position as a columnist, albeit an outsider (non-employee). However, I’ve never considered the opinions of Debbie Davis or Foy McNaughton or anyone else when I’ve written my columns. I just write what I think is right. On most topics, I don’t know what The Enterprise’s opinion is.

  15. p.proudhon

    I think the other side needs to be told. Either that, or “Jeff Hudson was contacted but refused to provide a comment”

    I’ll be interested to see how this story develops. However, at this point in history, stuff like this is usually brushed aside. If Jeff Hudson were making up quotes, that might be explosive. But this registers only about a 4 or so in terms of controversy. Sorry.

  16. Former DJUSD Worker

    “yawn…another non-controversial matter…”

    That’s because you never worked under Tahir and had him disrespect you. I’m outraged that Jeff decided to do this. I personally told him of numerous problems and he chose to not report on them. When David Greenwald first reported on this a year ago, many of us were grateful to him. You’re just ignorant and you show it, “Joe.”

  17. Another Former DJUSD Worker

    Thank you for exposing something that has bothered me for years. Tahir was a line in the sand guy where you were either on his side or you were his enemy. He blatantly solicited people to side with him. I am another person who told Jeff about things that were happening and he still never presented any other side of a story except what was approved by the district.

    The more I read the Vanguard, the more I appreciate someone who is willing to take a stand against injustice.

  18. Skeptic

    “I am another person who told Jeff about things that were happening and he still never presented any other side of a story except what was approved by the district.”

    So, does this explain why the Enterprise never fully reported the situation with Tahir’s side business and the fiscal bungles?

  19. David M. Greenwald

    Neither Jeff Hudson nor Debbie Davis returned my emailed request for comments. I did not feel comfortable saying that yesterday since I sent out the email on Sunday. But after a full day, I feel safe saying that this morning.

  20. and yet another former DJUSD employee

    I am yet another former DJUSD employee that was disrepected by Tahir Ahad. Having endured all of the questionable practices that Tahir employed during his tenure at DJUSD, it makes me wonder of Jeff’s decision to work for him. He obviously is entitled to work for anyone he chooses but I talked to Jeff many times about the way employees were treated and some of the financial “decisions” during the time that Tahir worked for the district and he never once mentioned or questioned these in any of his articles.

    It sure seems like Jeff never truly employed any type of investigative reporting while Tahir was at the district or afterward for that matter. It will be for Jeff to decide if he wants to reply to this.

  21. Skeptic

    The lack of the Enterprise’s reporting on Totals School Solution and the missed grant deadlines is one thing.

    But now there are posts here about abusive and intimidating personality. I don’t think the Vanguard documented that in its reporting.

  22. David M. Greenwald

    I was aware of the complaints, in fact it goes back even before he arrived in Davis, however, no one was willing to speak to these complaints on-the-record. So I focused on what I could prove which was the paper trail and documents.

  23. If Walls Could Talk

    If the “walls could talk” at DJUSD you would know what employees were subjected to who worked under Tajir Ahad. According to employees he was a nightmare to work for and the spineless Dave Murphy allowed it.

  24. huh?

    –That’s because you never worked under Tahir and had him disrespect you. I’m outraged that Jeff decided to do this. I personally told him of numerous problems and he chose to not report on them.

    –Thank you for exposing something that has bothered me for years. Tahir was a line in the sand guy where you were either on his side or you were his enemy. He blatantly solicited people to side with him. I am another person who told Jeff about things that were happening and he still never presented any other side of a story except what was approved by the district.

    –…but I talked to Jeff many times about the way employees were treated…

    –If the “walls could talk” at DJUSD you would know what employees were subjected to who worked under Tajir Ahad. According to employees he was a nightmare to work for and the spineless Dave Murphy allowed it.

    –I was aware of the complaints, in fact it goes back even before he arrived in Davis, however, no one was willing to speak to these complaints on-the-record. So I focused on what I could prove which was the paper trail and documents.–

    Then if no one is willing to go on the record for David, was anyone willing to go on the record with Jeff Hudson? Why would you then blame Hudson for not reporting if no one would go on the record?

  25. Rich Rifkin

    [b]”If the “walls could talk” at DJUSD you would know what employees were subjected to who worked under Tajir Ahad. According to employees he was a nightmare to work for and the spineless Dave Murphy allowed it.”[/b]

    I don’t know if this is true or not. However, there is some fairly good evidence that what you are saying, that Ahad was a horrible person to work for, is a complete lie. You know what that evidence is? Almost everyone who worked under Ahad when he was employed by our school district chose to leave employment with the DJUSD and work for Ahad at TSS. If he was “abusive and intimidating” to his underlings, they would not have left their jobs in Davis and chosen to work again for him at TSS. So on this one, unless you provide your real name and real evidence, I’m going to have to assume that these attacks are calumnious.

  26. David M. Greenwald

    Rich:

    I very much disagree with you. I have pretty good evidence for how classified employees were treated by Mr. Ahad. I do not know how he has treated other employees. I do know there are people who are literally terrified of him to this day to the point where they refuse to come forward. Under normal conditions, I would agree with you, this is the exception the proves the need for anonymity under some conditions.

    I’d also suggest to you anedoctal evidence that your theory is not true, the fact that many victims of spousal, child, and domestic abuse nevertheless defend and stay with their abuser. Obviously there is a complex psychological process that we cannot understand, and therefore I believe we should not draw conclusions in this case based on the fact that some people have chosen to continue to work for him.

    Finally, I would suggest it is completely false that “almost everyone who worked under Ahad when he was employed by our school district chose to leave employment with the DJUSD and work for Ahad at TSS.” Literally dozens of people worked for him at DJUSD and only a handful or two chose to leave DJUSD and work for him.

  27. Geeeeeeeze!

    Rifkin: “If he was “abusive and intimidating” to his underlings, they would not have left their jobs in Davis and chosen to work again for him at TSS.”

    “Finally, I would suggest it is completely false that “almost everyone who worked under Ahad when he was employed by our school district chose to leave employment with the DJUSD and work for Ahad at TSS.” Literally dozens of people worked for him at DJUSD and only a handful or two chose to leave DJUSD and work for him.”

    You’ve got to be kidding Rich? Of course those who left DJUSD to work for TSS loved Ahad – he made sure they were handsomely remunerated for their brown-nosing. Those who had any integrity were left behind, but didn’t want to lose their jobs by tattling. Tattling to who? David Murphy, who was in the pocket of Ahad!

  28. Geeeeeeeze!

    Correction:
    DPD: “Finally, I would suggest it is completely false that “almost everyone who worked under Ahad when he was employed by our school district chose to leave employment with the DJUSD and work for Ahad at TSS.” Literally dozens of people worked for him at DJUSD and only a handful or two chose to leave DJUSD and work for him.”

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