If requested Audit had been done, would potential embezzlement have been caught?

DISCLAIMER:The following is my personal opinion and may not be agreed with or supported by a majority of the School Committee.

For whatever reason people like Ryan Johnston continue to want to hold the former Superintendent blameless for anything negative or wrong with the finances of the Lowell School Dept.

I’ve never claimed to be all knowing or always right and there is no way to use the possible embezzlement solely in justifying the Superintendent’s termination but it highlights his slow response to School Committee request and his and his Asst. Superintendent of Finance lack of presenting 100% accurate and requested information to the School Committee.

For the soon to be 12 months I’ve been on the School Committee I’ve clearly questioned the finances, response times and accuracy of the information we were receiving from the former Superintendent and Gary N. Frisch, Assistant Superintendent of Finance/School Business Administrator.

In fact, the night we placed the former Superintendent on termination notice I stated clearly my concerns about finances along with never being informed he submitted a budget without approval of the last or current school committee and noted he gave Dominic Lay and I a budget that contained inaccurate information. I also expressed my concerns with slow responses and lack of 100% factual information being supplied from the Superintendent’s Office.

This latest incident involving possible embezzlement can be used to show why those concerns I had were justified.

Fact: At my request SC members Doherty and Martin filed this motion in December of 2017 after the IRS audit of Boston Schools found irregularities in student activity accounts.

December 20, 2017
VI. [By Connie Martin And Jackie Doherty]:
Request that the administration provide the committee with assurances by January meeting showing we are 100% in compliance in the use of Student Activity Funds.

Fact – It wasn’t until February that an outside auditor was hired because the School Dept and our own titled “internal auditor” couldn’t handle this and the School Committee approved this permission to enter.

PERMISSION TO ENTER February 14, 2018
Permission to Enter – Rescheduled February 7, 2018 School Committee Meeting

100 Quannapowitt Parkway Suite 101 Wakefield, MA 01880
To provide for the Student Activity Audit for K-8 and Lowell High School. Funding provided by Contracted Services
$ 13,000

Fact – It wasn’t until the end of June that the SC was given this information about the so called audit.

Date: June 20, 2018
Time: 6:30PM

Student Activity Audit Update

Which included the following statements from Gary N. Frisch, Assistant Superintendent of Finance/School Business Administrator

Background: The School Committee approved the hiring of Powers and Sullivan, LLC to audit the student activity accounts. They audited the high school activity funds and the Morey Elementary School. Attached is a separate audit report for both schools.

Sadly while we were looking to see if accounts were being spent correctly and thought we were having a fiscal Audit done, it turned out Powers and Sullivan were told to look at just the processes and procedures of these accounts. They state in their report they didn’t do an audit and I’m not sure who in the Central Administration ( Superintendent or CFO) chose not to do an audit after we voted in February for one or who chose which accounts were to be reviewed.

If requested Audit had been done, would potential embezzlement have been caught sooner?

Before we could delve more into this matter in subcommittee we were faced with the CFO leaving before year end closing was done, reports of the superintendent looking for a new job, then the July 18 meeting where we voted on termination and since then having to deal with the budget and all issues related to the financial state of the school system.

Clearly our or at least my intent was for a financial audit after what was discovered in Boston and that was ignored and it took 6 months to even get the procedural audit done and for us to find out the fiscal audit we wanted wasn’t done.

My limited understanding of the current situation is that since no audit was done when requested, this possible embezzlement wasn’t discovered until this week.

The lack of a financial audit being done after one was voted for, clearly in my view falls to the Superintendent and Gary N. Frisch, Assistant Superintendent of Finance/School Business Administrator

Sadly, I’m betting Ryan and others will continue to support the former Superintendent and hold him and his Assistant Superintendent of Finance blameless for the fiscal mess we are in.