Reported by Katy Penland
The Board of Trustees of the El Tejon Unified School District voted 3-2 to extend the investigation into ASB funds irregularities back to years 2006-07 and 2007-08.
At the Wednesday, Nov. 4 meeting, a lengthy discussion began with trustee Paula Regan reading a statement into the record, part of which said: “I decided that I should prepare my response to this agenda item since it is clear that there are some who may misunderstand, misinterpret or misrepresent my thoughts on this item…. The fact that I don’t ask questions during the board meeting should suggest that I have done my homework ahead of time, that I have asked most of my questions in advance so that I am prepared at the time of the meeting…. Based on the information provided by the KCSOS [Kern County Superintendent of Schools] audit, I do not see the benefit in doing an audit of any additional years, when Mr. Kaff stated that due to the data or lack there of [sic], the outcome would predictably be the same.”
Trustee John Fleming followed by saying that it has been his experience in life that “if you find a problem, you should probably go back farther. If there are injuries—meaning, monies were spent from that [ASB] account that shouldn’t have been spent—the question then should arise, have those funds been found? Has the problem been rectified? The ASB is the injured party, and there should be some resolution for their injury. Going back two years will help us determine how large those injures are. ASB may forgive the loss of funds, but it’s our responsibility as a board to find out how serious the injury was.”
Trustee Anita Anderson concurred: “What are we talking about here? What are the gaps? How serious are the problems? From this we can build a financial record so that we have a more accurate picture so that as we move forward, those mistakes and problems will not happen again.”
Trustee Cathy Wallace echoed Regan’s statement that she, too, does a lot of her research prior to board meetings, and her lack of asking questions doesn’t mean she doesn’t care or is not interested; it means she has done her homework. She referred to minutes from the May 13, 2009 ETUSD meeting that said since the April board meeting, ASB officers have pored over the records from the past two years. “We have journals we found to be incorrect. I believe that the information coming from the ASB at that time and from Rachel Unell has revealed there has been inaccurate recordkeeping. I believe the audit we all want has already happened.”
That same evening, May 13, The Mountain Enterprise met with ASB President Nick Onyshko and John Fleming. We learned that nothing resembling an audit had occurred. In fact, the consultant hired by this newspaper to help the ASB students reported that the data presented by the high school administration was spotty and inadequate, raising alarm flags. All explanations to students were oral. No written explanation of fund discrepancies were ever provided.
Board president Ken Hurst said, “Kern County’s auditor went over the 2008-2009 books and he did make the statement that the records were not available for previous years. It’s not clear to me, however, that we can’t generate additional information from examining those two previous years. What would we discover from that, I don’t know, and what would we do with that information, I don’t know. I’m leaning toward saying, ‘Let’s have a look at those books again.’”
Terri Geivet said that there are no records missing, as in records having been destroyed. She said that the procedures for keeping records then were not adhered to, “so they may not be as complete as would be desired.” She said, “They would find the same procedural errors and that the records aren’t good, but they’re not destroyed.”
Hurst reiterated that “it seems to me something might be gleaned from looking at those two years. Going back farther seems pointless. But I think it would be worth having him [Jason Kaff] go back over those years.” Hurst also pointed out that there are 43 accounts within ASB and only two have problems.
Fleming referred to two occasions where money from ASB accounts was spent without ASB authorization: approximately $500 for envelopes, which was an administrative expense, and for the golf cart.
Geivet explained the golf cart situation: “The golf cart was not an approved ASB expense because at that point in time, there was confusion on the board because the money was collected at the gates [of athletic games]. Those gate funds are athletic funds. In our minds, athletic funds belong to the athletic department even though they’re kept in the account with ASB. So the athletic department didn’t take it from the ASB. What we learned from Jason is that if it’s in the ASB account, the ASB must approve the spending. We need to get those monies out of the ASB and put in the general fund so that money can be spent by the athletic department.”
Trustee Regan then moved that the board go to a vote on the agenda item under discussion (whether to go back and audit years 2006-7 and 2007-8), but two trustees opposed (Fleming and Anderson) so further discussion ensued on how the audit would take place. Geivet said that she was not able to do it and Regan stated emphatically that Geivet “absolutely would not do it.” The agenda item was then amended to say that the audit would be conducted “with the assistance of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.” The item was passed 3 to 2 (Regan and Wallace opposing).
Regan moved to table the next agenda item, requested by Anderson, until a “syllabus or something in writing” was available for the board to read before the board was asked to vote. The item was entitled “Consideration and Approval of Discussion of Trustee Presentation to Frazier Mountain High School ASB and/or Government Class.” The motion was seconded by Wallace, and the vote was 4-1 to table the item until the next meeting (Anderson opposing).
–Additional reporting by Patric Hedlund
This is part of the November 13, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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