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There is a I wuz asked by a travel blog to write a guest article, so I just naturally wrote something the blog and its readers probably would never learn from the Florida Keys Tourist Devleopment Council post today at goodmorningfloridakeys.com, and there is a mystics, madmen & muses – an attempt to start an online discussion about mystics today and yesterday post today at goodmorningbirmingham.com.
Meanwhile, more entertainment from our favorite blackboard jungle.
From Larry Murray yesterday:
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2013 08:48:18 -0800
Subject: Innovation In The Finance Department
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
I have had an opportunity to review your agenda for the March 11 meeting. As always, you have much to do. However, as you move forward, there is another subject which you might wish to address.
We all know that the School District, and the Finance Department in particular, have reached a crossroads in both leadership and activity, specifically responding to the Auditor General’s report. I am hearing more and more conversation that perhaps the best way to address the continuing problems in the Finance Department is by contracting out some or all of their functions.
The fact that the AG’s report includes a number of repeat failings strongly suggests that it may be beyond the capacity of the Finance Department, at least as currently staffed, to make the necessary changes and improvements. Those talking about contracting out tell me that there are several large national accounting firms that routinely perform “back room” accounting procedures for school districts.
In any event, I believe that the idea of contracting out District financial services may be an idea whose time has come. Certainly it is a subject that deserves your expertise. Regardless, change within the Finance Department is imperative and there is no group better skilled to make recommendations in that regard than your committee.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
I replied to All:
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: RE: Innovation In The Finance Department
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2013 05:48:30 -0500
Larry copied me with his email to you members of the Audit & Finance Committee.
In a perfect world …
Not the case here …
All of you know that the School Board does not view the AFC as a perfect vehicle to do anything but let the School Board dupe the public into believing that the School Board is serious about straightening out the School District financially. Time and events proved over and over again that the School Board wants no input from the AFC. I came before the AFC in February 2012, and said that during citizen comments, and I told the AFC members they should resign in protest. That AFC blew me off, and in doing so, blew its only chance to bring serious pressure to bear on the School Board and the School District.
I make the same recommendation to you today, an AFC with some of the old AFC members on it, and with some new AFC members. You have the recent State audit to back you up, among the deficiencies the State found, were a serious default in payment of the Horace O’Bryant construction loan installment, and continued significant and, apparently, intentional understating of contingent liabilities, especially in the workmen’s compensation area, which continued significant and, apparently, intentional overstating of the reserve fund balance.
Last below is the Keynoter’s latest effort to elucidate the public to the chicanery that is systemic in the School District, and in the School Board. Unfortunately, the article does not mention the tampering with the reserve fund balance. The consolation prize is the article answers my Freedom of Information Act request, several times made, re whose heads rolled, as per John Dick’s boast to Bill Becker on US 1 Radio. No heads rolled, as expected.
I say you, the present AFC, should publicly call for the heads of the entire School Board, except for Ed Davidson. I say you, the AFC, should publicly call for the head of Mark Porter, who by now should have been on top of the HOB loan repayment chicanery, and on top of the reserve fund balance chicanery. Then you, the AFC, all should resign, because you did not put the public heat on the School Board and on Mark Porter, which you should have put on them.
School Board blasts staff after another poor audit
By SEAN KINNEY
Posted – Saturday, March 02, 2013 10:25 AM EST
The School District received its fourth consecutive state audit last week that shows, among other serious bookkeeping flaws, finance staff did not report the district was in default for almost a year on a $36 million construction bond.
The Monroe County School Board Tuesday put Superintendent Mark Porter on notice that things have to change, even calling out two top financial administrators by name.
Board member Ed Davidson railed about the finding that the School District in December 2011 failed to pay its annual debt of $2.1 million for the $36 million bond to rebuild Horace O’Bryant Middle School in Key West. That payment was made 267 days late, on Aug. 24, 2012.
“Why the hell didn’t anybody tell the School Board?” Davidson asked. “Who thought they had the authority to conceal a default on a $36 million bond issue? That’s just utterly unconscionable.”
Davidson told Porter, “I would like to know, Mr. Superintendent, who knew that, when they knew, who made the decision? This is the kind of chicanery that has gone on long before you got here.”
This time last year when board members found themselves in a very similar situation, then-Chairman John Dick called for “heads to roll.”
“No heads rolled,” he acknowledged during the meeting at Coral Shoes High School in Tavernier. “I think the fact that no heads rolled, that’s why we’re here again. Heads should roll.”
He told Porter, “I’m directing that you clean this up. To me, it needs to be done. It’s not a matter of shuffling things around. The same people are producing the same stuff over the years. You can’t shuffle the deck; you need to clean the house.”
Davidson said lack of accountability is a culturally “endemic” problem in the School District.
“This kind of slipshod performance on the public payroll has been acceptable, and virtually nobody has ever been held accountable,” Davidson said. “You’re not really in charge, Mr. Superintendent, until you fire somebody for cause. Or don’t renew them.”
The Florida Auditor General’s Office in Tallahassee blasted the district’s bookkeeping practices in its latest report.
Other issues in the audit include:
“District procedures did not always ensure that minutes for meetings were appropriately maintained and timely approved, contrary to Sunshine Law,” which governs governmental transparency and public records.
“Payroll processing procedures could be enhanced to ensure that employee work time is appropriately documented and approved, accurately recorded and not in conflict with other employment.”
Vehicle logs were not always complete, accurate, and reviewed and approved of record by supervisory personnel.”
“Controls over the review and approval of construction contract change orders could be improved.” Ken Gentile, the district’s director of finance and performance, said 18 findings are unacceptable and that the buck should stop with him. But he said some issues in the audit have been resolved.
“I would just like to have a balanced approach, a discussion about how we can move forward … and not look to hang somebody through innuendos, talking points to the press or things that you’re throwing out,” he told board members.
Davidson told Gentile that Michael Kinneer, director of school operations and former chief financial officer, deserves to share the blame. Kinneer did not respond.
Porter said he would bring a detailed analysis of the audit findings to the board at its March 12 meeting at district headquarters in Key West.
Looks to me we all now know what prompted Mark Porter to call the School Board members last Friday afternoon and tell them he was not renewing Ken Gentile’s and Michael Kinneer’s contracts. Absent being shown something else, I figure Porter decided not to renew Cheryl Allen’s contract, because she was so intertwined with Gentile and Kinneer.
The irony is, Kinneer told the superintendent at that time, Joe Burke, and the teachers union, that the school district did not have the money to fund the collective bargaining agreement under discussion. Thereafter, Kinneer did not attend any further collective bargaining agreement sessions. They then agreed to the collective bargaining agreement Kinneer had told them was not viable. And we have been reading about that fiasco in the newspapers ever since, except the newspapers never mention that Kinneer told them it was not going to work, and they blew him off.
Terminally dysfunctionally insane sums the school district up pretty darn well. Only a Florida Board of Education takeover stands any chance of straightening out the school district, although each school could vote itself to be a charter school, and in that way liberate itself from the school board and the school district administration, and from the teachers union. All of which I said over and over again during the school board races last year. Maybe somebody is listening now? Naw, probably not.