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Invoices Show P/R Firm Bilking Bellflower Unified $5,500 for ‘Urgent Need’

 

 

By Brian Hews

When HMG-CN exclusively reported in late June the results of a Bellflower Unified School District audit by the state of California that found complete incompetence and negligence by the BUSD administration, many were shocked but not surprised, the blame laying inside the BUSD Superintendent’s office.

The article led to Superintendent Tracy McSparren’s release.

Two days after the report, HMG-CN received a 2,209-word statement defending the actions of Bellflower Unified from the Blaine Group and owner Devon Blaine.

Unknown to many, and highly unusual for a public school district, BUSD, authorized by Associate Superintendent Sulema Holguin, had retained Blaine’s company, a Beverly Hills public relations firm with a small client list (that included Playgirl) and a corporate address near Rodeo Drive.

Bellflower Unified’s Current PR Firm Boasts Playgirl Magazine as a Former Client

A public records request revealed that Holguin signed a contract with Blaine for a whopping $5,000 per month on Dec. 20, 2021.

In addition to the $5,000 per month, Blaine was authorized to charge an unheard of $350 per hour for additional work labeled “urgent needs.”

If that was not enough, the contract allowed Blaine to submit expenses “without prior approval” for postage, mileage, long-distance telephone calls, publications, copied materials, and other “individual expenses under $100.”

After learning about the agreement, HMG-CN requested all invoices submitted by Blaine and found strong evidence that the administration was trying to keep the contract under the radar.

The Superintendent’s office uses a time and date stamp to establish when documents are delivered, Blaine invoices had the stamp and showed that the company demanded payment in advance. For example, the January 13 invoice charged for services occurring from January 20-February 20.

Three Blaine invoices were received on the same day, stamped March 2, 2022: 12/13/21 invoice for $5,000; 1/13/22 invoice $2,500 and marked “50% discount” and 2/13/22 invoice for $5,000.

 

 

The first three invoices for Dec. 2021 and Jan. & Feb. 2022 were submitted and received March 2, 2022, they were paid the next day.

 

Sources told HMG-CN that they questioned why Blaine waited to submit her invoices when the contract was signed in December, but it fell on deaf ears.

The very next day on March 3, Blaine was paid over $12,000 for the first three invoices, which made the contract legally enforceable. Contained in the signed agreement was a paragraph that read, “It is further agreed that if agent [Blaine] receives payment from client but not a signed contract, such payment be deemed as acceptance of said contract.”

The 3/13/22 invoice for $5,000 was received and stamped on March 17, 2022, but this one was different; it had a handwritten purchase order number that was not on any BUSD Board documents until its April meeting. The invoice was paid 10 days later.

 

 

 

All subsequent invoices for April, May, and June were submitted on or after the 13th and marked with the PO number, with the exception of July’s invoice.

Per the contract, the July invoice contained Blaine’s $5,000 retainer but had an extra charge for her 2,209 letter sent to the press after the audit revealed complete incompetence at the Superintendent’s office.

Apparently unable to complete the letter using the monthly $5,000 retainer, Blaine charged an additional $5,500, using two other people, at $350 per hour, to finish the letter.

According to the document, Blaine spent 12.5 hours and charged $4,375; her employee Adam Ruseling spent 3.5 hours and charged $1,137; another employee, Linda Kaplan, spent 15 minutes for $87, “in response to state auditors an investigative reporters.”

Searching the California State Bar Association membership page for Ruseling and Kaplan reveal they are not attorneys – yet they charged BUSD like they had an office in Century City.

“So Blaine charges $5,000 a month, for what, I certainly have not seen a press release prior to this one,” said one disgruntled parent who did not want to be identified, “and then when something extra is needed, Blaine charges 350 an hour, a total of $5500 for a letter, outrageous.”

Several emails into Blaine Group owner Devon Blaine have gone unanswered.

Invoice showing the extra charge of $5,500 for a press release.

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