George Fahnestock is now on board as the official spokesperson for the campaign. Since Fahnestock has a history of supporting every project that comes down the pike, it's certainly not surprising to see his name associated with this bond proposal.
So what is his motivation?
It does seem strange that someone who doesn't live in the Wichita Public School district, would be the spokesperson for the USD 259 bond. Sure, George might know what's best for us, but he isn't going to be paying the taxes, nor will members of his family have to deal with the BOE's wrong headed priorities.
To allay fears that he has a financial interest, Fahnestock said that his company didn't do any of the air conditioning work from the 2000 bond issue.
The mystery is which company he meant. Usually George Fahnestock's name is associated with Fahnestock Heating & Air Inc, but he is also a 25% owner of Central Air Conditioning Company Inc. Fahnestock Heating & Air Inc is primarily in the business of residential heating and cooling. Central Air Conditioning works on a much larger scale and installs industrial HVAC systems.
Fahnestock worked a deal to purchase Central Air Conditioning in 2001, as the Wichita Business Journal reported:
The new owners say their strategy is to use their relationships in the local business community to add to Central Air's business.
"We're not a silent ownership group," Fahnestock says. "We're going to be active in providing leads and expertise."
Apparently some of that business is coming from the Wichita Schools. Central Air Conditioning Co appears on page 7 of the USD 259 approved bidders list. It seems unlikely that they would jump through the hoops to get on the approved bidders list for the purpose of NOT getting any jobs on district projects.
With the various levels of project managers, contractors and sub-contractors involved with the building projects from the 2000 bond, and district leadership bent on stonewalling, it will most likely take an open records request to determine if Mr. Fahnestock's 'other' company did any of the work.
Considering what's at stake, USD 259 should clarify George Fahnestock's involvement in past projects. To avoid an obvious conflict, Mr. Fahnestock would do well to remove all his companies from the approved bidders list and pledge not to undertake any of the HVAC work if the bond passes.
Until that happens, Wichita voters will be wondering what they are saying 'yes' to, kids or 'yes' to something else.