Fayette Schools Audit: Poor Management And Communication, But No Criminal Activity
State Auditor Adam Edelen says his financial audit of Fayette County Public Schools found chronic management problems, but no wrongdoing.
While the report uncovered no criminal activity, Edelen pointed to poor management, weak policies, and failed communications as the root causes of the allegations by FCPS budget director Julane Mullins in May.
Mullins had alleged that a $20M budgeting discrepancy and "suspected violations of law and numerous acts of mismanagement, fraud, waste, and abuse of authority" had led to the district's recent budget shortfall.
Edelen called the management issues "troubling" in the state's second largest school district. Among the problems uncovered were salary and perk disparities between administrative and educational staff, excessive travel and training within one department, violations of the procurement process and other board policies, and potential conflicts of interest.
In a statement, FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton stresses the lack of any criminal activity found in the report, but notes that "tough decisions lie ahead for our district" as it seeks to overhaul its budget and finance departments.
Read the full audit report.
Statement from FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton:
Dear Key Communicators:
The release of the Auditor of Public Accounts’ review this morning affirms the fact that there is, and never was, any money missing in the Fayette County Public Schools. We also welcome the assurance that there has been no criminal activity. It is vital for our community to hear that all public dollars are accounted for and that the allegations of improper journal entries causing a budget shortfall are absolutely not true.
The report also shows that tough decisions lie ahead for our district. Many of the findings contained in the auditor’s report are deeply troubling and I assure our employees, families, and community-at-large that our leadership team will not allow adult issues at the district office to distract from our core mission of serving children.
Early in my tenure, I recognized that despite previous attempts to address the issues, significant areas of dysfunction resulting from a serious lack of communication and professionalism continued to exist between the Department of Budget and Staffing and the Department of Finance. We had begun taking steps to correct these problems prior to the Auditor of Public Accounts’ examination.
The state auditor’s recommendations reinforce our belief that we must overhaul the operations of our budget and finance departments. We will strengthen, formalize, and communicate improved policies, procedures, and practices related to budgeting, accounting, internal auditing, trust fund administration, salary determinations, travel, and procurement in order to address the weaknesses identified.
At 1:30 p.m. today, we will host a press conference to respond fully to the audit report. The press conference will air live and be replayed on cable Channel 13, will stream live on the district website at http://www.fcps.net/administration/departments/channel-13/channel-13%27s-live-streaming, and will be available for viewing on demand on both the district website and YouTube channel. Please feel free to share this email with your constituents and contacts so they can tune in too.
Despite our agreement with much of the report, we must point out that some of the state’s assertions are based on faulty calculations, factual errors, and false assumptions. There are serious inaccuracies in four of the report’s 10 findings. We also take issue with the language in the report that seemingly vilifies one employee while minimizing the impact of the mistakes of others. Portions of this review amount to little more than “he-said-she-said.”
The district’s full response to the audit, along with the evidence disproving many of the allegations is available at www.fcps.net/audit.
We concur with the auditor’s findings that we must improve our budget and finance policies and management, and acknowledge that the relationship between the Department of Budget and Staffing and the Department of Finance was toxic. However, we vehemently disagree that the deficiencies in our system put the district’s financial situation in jeopardy or impacted our ability to provide an excellent education for the students of our community.
In the Fayette County Public Schools, every action we take and every decision we make must be centered on doing what is best for the students we serve. Accomplishing this mission will require a profound shift in the behaviors, habits and culture in our district’s central office. We cannot and will not allow personality conflicts to keep us from doing what is right.
There is nothing in this report that we cannot address and improve. Every organization can find ways to work smarter and more efficiently. We will endeavor to garner trust and public confidence by doing what is best for kids, being responsible stewards of tax dollars and providing honest, proactive, consistent and responsive communication. Over the next 60 days, our top administrative priority will be to embrace these recommendations and develop a comprehensive corrective action plan for the Board’s consideration.
We know that our district must make substantive changes in order to respond to the shortcomings in current operations. We will need the commitment of our entire team, from the board room to the classroom, to embrace these changes and make progress. Thank you for your continued support of the work we do for the children of Fayette County.
Tom Shelton, PhD
Fayette County Public Schools