Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jim Keeshen's Studio Animatics SMC Contracts Exposed

This is the second of a two-part series pertaining to consultant contracts obtained by Jim Keeshen through his fictitious company Studio Animatics. The contracts were for consultant work for Santa Monica College and paid for by a Title VI-A federal grant. You can read part one, entitled, "Piercing Jim Keeshen's Various Corporate Veils" HERE.

As previously shown, Animatics allegedly received two consultant contracts from SMC, respectively dated
April 3, 2000 and November 13, 2000. The first was for $10,000 and the second was for $40,000. Both contracts have been withheld by the District despite our requests for production and inspection under the California Public Records Act. Additionally, SMC professor of animation Jim Keeshen operated under various corporate identities including, but not limited to, James Keeshen Productions, Jim Keeshen Productions, Studio Animatics, Animatics, and Animatics, Inc.

Let's move from the year 2000 to 2001. During this period, Animatics received a consultant contract from the SMC Board of Trustees, pursuant to their minutes dated
July 9, 2001. Here's a screenshot from the minutes pertaining to Animatics' contract:

Jim Keeshen Animatics SMC Contract for July 2001

Compare this with the Board of Trustees minutes from
November 13, 2000:

Jim Keeshen Animatics SMC Contract for November 2000

The November 2000 Board of Trustees' recommendation "authorizes" the "contract with Animatics to produce a minimum of eight one-minute animated modules to be replicated in seven different languages" while the April 2001 Academy of Entertainment and Technology Board item approves "Animatics to complete the development of animated modules in seven languages during the Summer 2001 semester."

If the second contract if for completion of this federally funded project, then Animatics received an alleged total of $73,000 from the Title VI-A grant! That's a tremendous amount of money. Is it any wonder Keeshen wished to conceal this under the assumed name of Animatics and that Robert Sammis, by and through the District, continues to withhold the original November 2000 contract?

Did Animatics perform its obligation under the contract and finish the project within the allotted timeframe? Of course not! There's another amended Animatics contract from the SMC Board of Trustee minutes for
September 10, 2001. Here's the relevant screenshot:

Jim Keeshen's Amended SMC Animatics Contract for September 2001

Here's Animatics July 2001 contract and amended September 2001 contract. For convenience sake, I have scanned both public records provided by SMC and converted them into Adobe PDF format. These contracts are exactly as provided to us by the District under the California Public Records Act.

Now, the SMC Board of Trustees has agreed to "amend the agreement with Animatics to complete the development of animated modules in seven languages by December 30, 2001." Keep in mind that Piedad Robertson authorized these contracts as then president of SMC while her friend, Margaret Quinones, sits as Board of Trustees approving them through the Board. Meanwhile, who is authorizing the payments, but Robertson's friend Katharine Muller who happens to be the Dean of the Academy of Entertainment and Technology where Keeshen is employed during this period.

Now, what was Professor Jim Keeshen doing during the period of February 15, 2001 when the first contract expires and the new one begins on July 9, 2001? Well, Keeshen went on a trip to Rice University to present the Title VI-A CD-ROM project. According the Rice University website, James Keeshen was the presenter at the
IALL 2001 Conference for the periods of May 24th through May 26th, inclusive. I assume this conference was paid for by SMC through one of its federal grants. IALL stands for International Association of Language Learning Technology. Here's the presentation details as taken from their website:

(ID 287)

Presenter: James Keeshen, Santa Monica College
Date: Conference Sessions: Thurs, May 24 through Sat, May 26.
Exact date will be posted end of March.
Time: (start time TBA) to (end time TBA)
Location: room to be assigned


Santa Monica College is developing a new International Trade Center to teach students international business pertaining to the entertainment industry. Our Animation Department, in conjunction with the Language Department, has been developing a CD-ROM interactive program.

Business students, utilizing this interactive CD-ROM will be able to access and learn any one of twelve different languages set within a business environment. The students will see and hear animated scenes of business related situations one may encounter in a foreign country.

Airport, Transportation, Hotel and Meetings are a few of the 12 categories that will be covered in the CD-ROM.

Users of the CD-ROM will have the capacity to pause and explore the text and the animation utilizing hot spots and links. The student will be able to repeat any part of the animation/text as well as check out the meaning of the words and the grammar. Other features will include the ability to hide or show the text as the animation plays and a repeat function in slow mode. There will even be a hot button on cultural tips, such as etiquette of greeting individuals, how to tip taxis and bellhops as well as the proper way to ask where is the bathroom.

The CD-ROM will have 6 of the 12 modules working by the end of February 2001.

Wow! The federal government, by and through our tax dollars, has paid Jim Keeshen approximately $73,000 for a animated multi-lingual paperclip (appropriately named "Mr. Bent Wire") which teaches us "the proper way" to ask where the bathroom is located? Let's take a closer look at a screenshot I made:

Rice Unversity Presentation by James Keeshen for Title VI-A

Now here's something to thing about: James Keeshen (a.k.a., Jim Keeshen) is presenting this CD-ROM in his capacity as a professor of Santa Monica College. So, three burning questions come to mind. First, why did Katharine Muller authorize the $40,000 payment in that SMC
Instructional Consultants document to Keeshen under Animatics, stating that he was not an employee of the district? Second, why did Keeshen himself sign the 2001 contracts stating that he was not an employee of the district when he was? Third, if this project was financed by federal funds and it belonged to Santa Monica College, then why does Keeshen place his Studio Animatics copyrights on it instead of the copyrights belonging to Santa Monica College?

Here's the screenshot from the Title VI-A CD-ROM showing Keeshen's copyrights in the opening load screen:

Studio Animatics copyright in load screen of Title VI-A CD-ROM

And here's the "Studio Animatics Production 2001" copyrights in the closing credits:

Studio Animatics copyrights to SMC federally funded project

Shame on Keeshen. Not only did he take credit for a project belonging to Santa Monica College, he used other people to create the project, one of which was
Isabelle Decencière, who also worked on Keeshen's "Day of the Dead" animated film. In fact, I emailed Jim Keeshen on or about December 17, 2005 at his animatics@aol.com email and asked him the following:

In 2001, using the fictitious name Studio Animatics (a.k.a., Animatics), you received a consultant contract from SMC in the amount of approximately $33,000, paid with Federal Title VI-A grant money from the U.S. Department of Education, to produce a multi-language CD-ROM. This project was done for SMC's alleged International Trade Institute (a.k.a., I2). In the credits of the actual CD-ROM, there is no copyright for SMC. Rather, the only copyright is by "Studio Animatics 2001" in the load screen and "Studio Animatics Production 2001" in the end credits. Your name also appears on this project along with Dean Katharine Muller, Joan Abrahamson, and Piedad Robertson, among others.

So, if you were paid to do this project with federal grant money, this project was done to benefit SMC, not yourself, and you had a specific written consultant contract, then why are your copyrights placed on this project and not the school's?

Of course Keeshen had no response. Here's another screenshot from the Title VI-A CD-ROM showing our tax dollars floating to the ground:

Keeshen's Animated CD-ROM funded by federal tax dollars

Now, let's go to the money which Santa Monica College paid Jim Keeshen for his alleged work. I received three invoices from Studio Animatics pursuant to the California Public Records Act requests we made to SMC. All the invoices show the address for Studio Animatics as Jim Keeshen's home address at 1516 Colby Ave., Suite 7, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Of course his home phone number is redacted by SMC. Of course Jim Keeshen's name and signature appear nowhere. Did anyone at SMC question a company that does not list even a single person responsible for it?

All the invoices are addressed to Santa Monica College at 1900 Pico Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405. And whose signature appears on the "okay to pay"? Why of course, AET Dean Katharine Muller. Shame on her for her part in this alleged fraud. Now, didn't Katharine Muller authorize payment for "Animatics" in the amount of $40,000 on or about
October 30, 2000? Now there's a lot of stuff added, crossed out, and redacted here. Yet, Keeshen's name is nowhere to be found, as it isn't even on the Studio Animatics invoices. If this is the same project, then didn't Muller question why "Animatics" is the consultant for the Title VI-A grant and then "Studio Animatics"? So, whom were the payments made to: Animatics, Studio Animatics, or Jim Keeshen? SMC has failed to provide the public records we've sought. Well, what should Muller care as long as she gets billed in the credits for this project:

Katharine Muller's name on Keeshen's federally funded CD-ROM

Here's the three Studio Animatics Invoices broken down:

Date: August 20, 2001
Invoice #: 10108
Amount: $10,000
Job Description: International Language Project
Beginning interactive programming, Voice Recording
Paid: September 12, 2001

Date: November 15, 2001
Invoice #: 10109
Amount: $11,500
Job Description: International Institute Language Project
Interactive programming, XML, word cutting, Scripting
Paid: December 3, 2001

Date: December 5, 2001
Invoice #: 10115
Amount: $11,500
Job Description: International Language Project
Final Payment for Interactive Language Programming
Paid: Date not specified

Now these Studio Animatics invoices are very fascinating. SMC is billed for "programming." But, Jim Keeshen, to the best of my knowledge, can't write code in any programming language. So, who actually did the programming of the animated language modules? Let's see the screenshot:

Title VI-A Studio Animatics CD-ROM Programming by Jerry Hamby

The interactive producer-programmer is listed as Jerry Hamby. That name won't ring a bell to most of you, but it should, as Jerry Hamby was a professor at Santa Monica College. Where did he work?
Hamby was an instructor at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology with Professor Jim Keeshen and Dean Katharine Muller. Now, the Keeshen-Hamby relationship warrants another several future blog articles, so we'll just cut to the chase. The Animatics' contracts signed by James Keeshen state the following: "CONSULTANT understands and agrees that he and all of his employees are not employees of the DISTRICT..." But both Jim Keeshen and Jerry Hamby were both professors at AET! I think someone at SMC has some explaining to do.

AET Professor Jerry Hamby AET Professor Jim Keeshen AET Dean Katharine Muller
From left to right: Jerry Hamby, Jim Keeshen, and Katharine Muller.

Happy 57th birthday, Jim Keeshen! You managed to stealthily obtain approximately $83,000 of the taxpayers' hard earned money with your Animatics contracts by and through Santa Monica College's administration. Kind of reminds me of that saying, "You went to Disneyland and all I got was this crummy t-shirt." But in this case, it's a "prototype" of a talking paperclip. Does this mean that it never was actually used at SMC?... that the student body never benefited from it?... that it was merely another notch-in-the-entertainment-bedpost for
Jim Keeshen's resume? At least Keeshen gave me my copy for free.

Can someone tell me in Korean where the bathroom is located? Oh, I forgot, Jim Keeshen's avatar "Mr. Bent Wire" can. Art mirrors life. As the faces of the waitress and the businessman are invisible in the CD-ROM screenshot below, so too was Jim Keeshen's name absent on the SMC Board of Trustees minutes as well as the Studio Animatics and Animatics payments, invoices, and I2 budget.

Keeshen's Mr. Bent Wire needs to use the bathroom

This ends our two-part series, but this is not the end of the story. We will reveal much more in future blog articles. At one point in Keeshen's Studio Animatics CD-ROM, Mr. Bent Wire wants to know what happened to all his money. Well, so do we, but this time, it's our money that's missing. Perhaps Jim Keeshen can explain THAT in seven different languages!

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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