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Clerk of Court’s office may be tapped for school district audits

By Staff | Mar 23, 2009

The Lee County School Board is trying to quell uneasiness over not having a board auditor by entering into an agreement with the Lee County Clerk of Courts for auditing services.

Critics in the community have berated the school board after they decided not to replace the board auditor position vacated by Julie Nieminski in 2007. Last spring the board said no to replacing the position to save $100,000 – the price tag of the board auditor position – to deal with the worsening economy.

If the agreement is approved Tuesday, the school board will be able to order audits on a case-by-case basis. According to Clerk of Courts Charlie Green, the office will provide an estimate of services per case and charge the district a much lower rate in the long run.

He also said his services to the school district are similar to those he performs for the county.

“We review areas that they want us to look at and make sure people are in compliance,” he said.

Green’s office can perform either procedural audits to make sure the district’s operations are sound, as well as financial audits to make sure all transactions are proper.

Board member Jeanne Dozier brokered the deal with Green’s office when debate over the need for an auditor reached a fever pitch. She believes that the board will approve the agreement next week.

“All of the board members indicated they are supportive of it, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t go through,” said Dozier. “It is an example of using taxpayer dollars to be more efficient in what we do.”

The board hasn’t held a collective discussion on what areas should be audited by Green, but Dozier said she wants to make sure the school district is being as efficient as possible with funding. Specifically she would like Green to look into academics to ensure schools are getting the best deals.

“Anywhere where we can save dollars is where I’m interested in him looking,” said Dozier.

One of the main advocates for contracting an auditor has been Board member Robert Chilmonik who has repeatedly expressed his concern over what he says is a lack of financial controls.

“It is my hope that the recommendation will pass because we desperately need the services of an auditor in the school district,” said Chilmonik. “We have been without those services for a year and it is a $1.5 billion organization that needs constant oversight and review.”

At the end of January he sent a letter to a number of state officials describing “an inadequate fiscal oversight of a multibillion dollar budget.”

His concerns included the district’s alleged inadequate record system, allegations of bartering on construction job sites and cases of the same job happening more than once.

“I still have concerns that I’ve already detailed and forwarded to the state,” said Chilmonik. “Whether that is a proposal taken by the board is undetermined because we haven’t had a workshop.”