Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Piercing Jim Keeshen's Various Corporate Veils

In our requests for public records under the California Public Records Act, we sought consultant contracts by and between Santa Monica College (SMC) and a company named Animatics. (See CPRA Requests No. 6, 7, and 8). Here's what we received, what we did not receive, and my belief on why SMC is deliberately withholding them from us. To help you through this vast maze, we have provided Adobe PDF files as well as screenshots of images from various sources.

This is the first of a two-part series. We'll start with the original SMC Animatics contracts for the year 2000 as well as providing an overview of the various corporate veils Jim Keeshen utilized over the years. Part two will go deeper into the 2001 Animatics consultant contracts and the Title VI-A federal grant money Keeshen received from Santa Monica College. Let's begin our online analysis...

According to the SMC's Board of Trustees minutes for
April 3, 2000, Animatics received a consultant contract for the Academy of Entertainment and Technology (AET) in the amount of $10,000 for questionable services and expenses. This money was allegedly paid under SMC's Economic Development Virtual Multimedia / Entertainment Center Grant. The performance period was for a two-day event that same month. What exactly did Animatics do to perform these services? We'll never know as SMC has repeatedly withheld this information and contract from us. Here's a screenshot from the Board of Trustees minutes:

SMC Board of Trustees April 2000 AET Animatics Contract

This contract as referenced in the April 2000 Board of Trustees minutes first caught my attention back in May 2005 when I was rifling through SMC's website. I remember that AET animation
Professor Jim Keeshen used animatics@aol.com as his email address for AET as well as to emails to me. Just place your mouse over his name to see this email address come up at the bottom of the webpage or click on it to see it come up in an email browser. Was I onto something here? Why would Professor Keeshen obtain an outside consultant contract using the name Animatics?

The next SMC Board of Trustees minutes that refer to Animatics is dated
November 13, 2000. This time, Animatics is to receive $40,000 under a Title VI-A federal grant for the purpose of creating animated language modules in seven different languages. The performance period runs from November 14, 2000 through February 15, 2001. Here's a screenshot I made from the Board of Trustees minutes:

SMC Animatics Title VI-A Contract for November 2000

Now, this Board of Trustees document was not made available online until I requested that it be placed there. I would have never known it existed unless I received a related document from SMC entitled "Santa Monica College Instructional Consultants," dated October 27, 2000. You can view the Adobe PDF of the document I made
HERE.

There are a few items that stand out to the trained eye. First, notice that there is no name of any individual associated with Animatics nor is Animatics' corporate identity fully revealed. Is it a corporation? A limited partnership? It's simply stated as "Animatics."

Second, notice the contact information as 1516 Colby Avenue, Suite 7, Los Angeles, CA. This happens to be Jim Keeshen's home address. Here's the notarized
Quitclaim Deed for 1516 Colby Avenue, which is a public record I obtained. Third, the phone number given for Animatics is 310-478-7230, Keeshen's home phone number. Call it and see for yourself. Fourth, the social security number is redacted by SMC. Fifth, notice the amount is crossed out with a new amount for $40,000 written above it. This would seem to indicate that this document refers to the Board of Trustees minutes above.

Okay, if Animatics is the corporate veil for SMC Professor Jim Keeshen, then why is it written at the top of this document: "Only for Persons Not Otherwise Employed at Santa Monica College." As we've shown, Jim Keeshen has been and is currently employed at Santa Monica College. You can view his course syllabus
HERE. Remember Jim Keeshen's biography and resume we placed online? Here's the two relevant paragraphs which ties this Title VI-A Animatics consultant grant with his employment at Santa Monica College:

Keeshen has just recently finished the production of a interactive language CD-ROM program for Santa Monica College's new International Business School Studies. Using current computer programs, including Flash animation, the CD teaches students 7 different foreign languages.

In addition to his production work, Keeshen has never lost sight of the importance of education. He has taught animation and design at Santa Monica College, as well as character animation at Sony Image Works. He currently teaches at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology in Santa Monica, an industry-supported and California state-funded program established in 1997. At the Academy Keeshen developed the curriculum and advised on the buying of the software and hardware for the computer animation and interactive departments.

And remember this relevant paragraph of his biography:

Jim Keeshen is the president and founder of Studio Animatics, and Jim Keeshen Productions. Studio Animatics specialized in designing and producing test commercials for clients such as Disney, Proctor & Gamble, Levi's, Lexus, Toyota, Mazda, Mattel and others. Jim Keeshen Productions specializes in TV and feature stories.

Okay, could Studio Animatics be Animatics? Well, in our blog article entitled "
Jim Keeshen's Day of the Dead," we provided four screenshots from the Title VI-A animated CD-ROM. Notice the 2001 Studio Animatics load page as well as Jim Keeshen's name as Animation Director. So, it is now obvious that Keeshen is hiding behind the corporate Animatics veil.

Let's continue to dissect the SMC
Instructional Consultants document. Notice that the "faculty member requesting consultant" signature section is blank. Randall Lawson's signature is also absent. Now this "completed form" was to be returned to Randy Lawson, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, "at least one month prior to the date of consultant work." But the work was to commence on November 14, 2000 and this form is dated October 27, 2000.

Even more important, the only signature on this document is under the Department Chairperson, Katharine Muller, dated October 30, 2000. I have a little problem with this. First, wasn't Bill Lancaster the chairperson of AET in October 2000? According to a cached webpage from SMC's October 2000 website, he was the chair of Design Technology. This cached webpage with
William Lancaster's resume is currently online and remains unchanged.

Public records provided by SMC for Bill Lancaster’s salary during this period substantiate this. As chair, he received $80,613. Katharine Muller is listed during this same period as Dean of External Programs with a salary of $100,149. Jim Keeshen is shown as teaching one 16 full semester course, ET2 Storytelling, three eight-week online sessions of ET61, History of Animation, and some special assignment with Distance Education. His ET72 Career Exploration course is shown as cancelled. For this, Keeshen received a salary in Fall 2000 of $72,721.

So, with all this documentation, why did AET Dean Katharine Muller sign the SMC
Instructional Consultants document as Department Chairperson? Even more importantly, why did she authorize $40,000 to be paid to Animatics when she knew very well that Jim Keeshen was a professor at AET where she was dean? This doesn't sit very well with me.

Now, if Keeshen is hiding under Animatics, why use his home address? Here's a screenshot I took from SIGGRAPH's
Electronic Schoolhouse Workshop for 1999 which shows that Jim Keeshen was advertising himself online as Animatics, Inc.

Jim Keeshen's Animatics Inc. at SIGGRAPH Workshop

Notice the address Jim Keeshen uses for Animatics, Inc.: 1950 Sawtelle Boulevard, #220, Los Angeles, CA 90025. He uses the
animatics@aol.com email, the same one he uses at AET. Remember the screenshot for the DangerWorld blog article we wrote a week ago? This address is the one Keeshen was using on his jfkproductions.com website for Jim Keeshen Productions. Here's the screenshot again for reference:

Jim Keeshen Productions contact information from his website

How many corporate veils does Keeshen use? Why are they all convoluted and overlapping? At one point, as we discussed in our "
Jim Keeshen Productions" blog article, he even used the Academy of Entertainment and Technology's 1660 Stewart Street school address for Jim Keeshen Productions. In our blog article "Jim Keeshen's Great Big Show," he uses a post office box for Jim Keeshen Productions. On another website, Jim Keeshen Productions once again uses the Sawtelle address where he ran his animation studio. Notice that the phone number matches the one in the SMC document that Katharine Muller signed. Here's the screenshot:

Jim Keeshen Productions contact info with phone number

According to the
Global Animation Production Directory for Winter 2002, Jim Keeshen Productions, Inc. uses the post office box address with the animatics email and his home phone number again. Although his company has allegedly never made a feature film, it credits itself as such. Perhaps Keeshen's worked on one in some capacity, but we haven't been able to find any credits to support this claim.

Here's yet another online
production directory in which Jim Keeshen Productions uses his Colby home address with his home phone number. Here's the screenshot for reference:

Jim Keeshen Productions home address and phone number

And in yet another website, Jim Keeshen is credited for motion control camera work for
Ralph Nader Up Close under Studio Animatics. The year is given as 1989, showing that Keeshen went under this assumed name since at least this time. Here's the screenshot to prove it:

Jim Keeshen's Studio Animatics film credits

So we've now shown that Jim Keeshen operated individually as a professor at SMC's Academy of Entertainment and Technology as well as under the assumed names of Animatics, Animatics, Inc., Studio Animatics, and Jim Keeshen Productions. How many of those companies were actually registered with the State of California or as sole proprietorships in Norwalk, CA? None of them! Our attorney service didn't find Keeshen listed in Norwalk. Another Animatics company was found, but it was not related to Keeshen.

What did our cyber journey on
California's Secretary of State Business Portal reveal? There is one registration for Animatics Corporation, active since October 21, 1987. However, this corporation is located in Santa Clara, CA. You can view Animatics website to see that this company is completely unrelated to Jim Keeshen. There were no listings on the California Business Portal for Studio Animatics or Jim Keeshen Productions.

The only company found was for
James Keeshen Productions, Inc., which was created on or about October 1, 1982. This company is active with the post office box address we've seen in previous documents above. The agent for service of process is James Keeshen. The business address is the familiar Colby home address for Jim Keeshen. Here's the screenshot for reference:

James Keeshen Productions Inc. corporate information


So, the burning question remains that if Jim Keeshen only had one legitimate company in California, why did he uses Animatics to secure consultant contracts with SMC? Why did Dean Muller authorize this knowing very well that Jim Keeshen was an employee of Santa Monica Community College District? Why didn't the Board of Trustees question the legitimacy of Animatics before they signed away our tax dollars? Well, the second Animatics contract, which was to begin on or about November 14, 2000, coincides with the election of Margaret Quinones to the SMC Board of Trustees.

And remember that in 2004, when Margaret Quinones ran for Board of Trustees re-election, her campaign was funded by then SMC president Piedad Robertson and AET Dean Katharine Muller. Also, recall that Robertson and Muller were no strangers. Both had worked at Miami-Dade College and it was Robertson who hired Muller to work as Dean of External Affairs for SMC in addition to overseeing the newly created Academy of Entertainment and Technology. Remember that Jim Keeshen became the first chairman under Muller when the Academy opened back in 1998. There was simply no oversight when the entire hierarchy of power was all somehow strangely inter-related.

SMC has failed to produce either of the two Animatics contracts discussed herein. What is Robert Sammis hiding behind excuse after excuse? Since January 1998, Sammis was the Vice President of Human Resources. In such capacity, he had intimate knowledge of Professor Keeshen's employee records. Clearly, he understands the importance of these contracts we are requesting and that this information should be fully disclosed to the public.

Did Jim Keeshen even file any proposals to justify the initial $10,000 he received for the first Animatics contract? Given the fact that Sammis continues to claim that Keeshen never filed the mandated sabbatical report for his Fall 2003 SMC sabbatical with Klasky-Csupo, I wouldn't be surprised. After all, who would ever find out? No one, until now.

-- Des Manttari,
Editor-in-Chief,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP


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