Auditor General slams 'sloppy oversight' in audit of Moon Area schools
February 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Chris Knight/Associated Press
Eugene DePasquale's audit of Moon Area School District largely focused on the “poor judgment” and “lack of oversight” for former Superintendent Curt Baker.
By Elizabeth Behrman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The former superintendent of the Moon Area School District frequently acted without appropriate oversight from the school board, resulting in wasted tax dollars and potential risks to student safety, according to a state audit released Thursday.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called the actions of former board members and former superintendent of the school district “alarming.” Under their leadership, the district paid nearly $900,000 for construction change orders — on work that remained unfinished — with insufficient paperwork, spent an additional $450,000 in leave benefits for staff during an extended winter break in 2015-16, and allowed administrators and support staff to spend more than $300,000 on district credit cards in violation of district policy, the audit found.
“This kind of sloppy oversight of district resources is completely unacceptable and moves money away that should be used for the education of our children,” Mr. DePasquale said during a news conference.
His audit largely focused on the “poor judgment” and “lack of oversight” for former Superintendent Curt Baker.
Mr. Baker said Thursday afternoon that he hadn’t had a chance to read the full report and couldn’t specifically address the allegations made against him. He was “surprised and disappointed” that the audit was released since he was never contacted by the auditor general’s office to answer questions or provide input.
“I’ve had no opportunity to address any of the issues or share my side of the story,” he said.
Mr. Baker was suspended in December 2015 — a month after a new majority was elected to the school board. Members moved to officially terminate his contract early 2016. Now the superintendent of the Wilson School District in Berks County, Mr. Baker filed a federal lawsuit against Moon, alleging breach of contract.
The audit, which spanned July 2012 through June 2015 included six findings. Among them:
• The board belatedly approved about $880,000 in change orders related to the renovations of three elementary schools despite a lack of required documentation for the costs of labor and materials.
• The board paid 95 percent of the $26 million cost of the construction without ensuring that the work had been completed, as required by the Pennsylvania School Code. Mr. DePasquale noted that some of the work remained unfinished in November 2016.
• Twenty-one district administrators and staff members spent $348,727 using district credit cards and in violation of district policy. Multiple people had access to the business manager’s card, the audit found. Some transactions exceeded the $500 limit and the $1,000 daily limit. The cards were used to purchase meals not related to the education of students and for unauthorized travel, including trips to Ohio State University with the boys’ wrestling team and a trip to Penn State with the girls’ volleyball team. A dozen members of the maintenance staff spent almost $250,000 in three years with little oversight.
• Mr. Baker started a rugby club without board approval. He failed to ask participating students about prior injuries, failed to obtain the required accident insurance and took the students on overnight trips without board approval. He spent $10,204 on purchases related to the club using district credit cards.
• Mr. Baker, without board approval, extended the winter break during the 2015-16 school year. The move resulted in an additional $450,000 cost to the district for leave benefits.
• Mr. Baker spent $87,000 for unauthorized and redundant legal work and failed to cancel a $26,000 software contract before entering into another contract.
Board members referred questions to district solicitor Jack Cambest, citing the pending litigation. He said the district will cooperate and follow any recommendations made by Mr. DePasquale.
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