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Waukee school district accused of spending tens-of-thousands of dollars on “improper disbursements”

DES MOINES – A school district in the suburbs of Des Moines is accused of blowing tens-of-thousands of dollars on “improper disbursements” like fancy lounge chairs for the Superintendent’s office and a financial officer has been suspended.

Mary Mosiman

Auditor of State Mary Mosiman released a report on a special investigation of the Waukee Community School District (District) for the period July 1, 2013 through December 31, 2017. The special investigation was in response to Legislative and citizens’ concerns regarding allegations of misconduct by the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the District.

Mosiman reported the special investigation identified $130,244.98 of improper disbursements and disbursements which were not in the best interest of taxpayers. The improper disbursements identified resulted from altered timecards and timecard errors.

The $128,676.56 of costs identified which were not in the taxpayers’ best interest include$83,234.08 spent on retreats for the District’s administrators, $17,539.47 of purchases made with procurement cards, and $27,903.01 for lounge chairs and furniture purchased for the Superintendent’s office.

Mosiman also reported additional costs were incurred for the retreats attended by theDistrict’s administrators. However, as a result of the various methods in which costs associatedwith the retreats were processed, it was not possible to determine the total costs for each retreat. In addition, because only certain procurement cards were reviewed, additional disbursementswhich were not in the taxpayers’ best interest may have been identified had additionalprocurement cards been selected.

This report includes recommendations to strengthen the District’s internal controls andoverall operations, such as improving segregation of duties, ensuring compliance with the Iowa gift law and Board policies, and ensuring the Board provides sufficient oversight regarding District operations.

Copies of this report have been filed with the City of Waukee Police Department, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Dallas County Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General’sOffice. A copy of the report is available for review in the Office of Auditor of State and on theAuditor of State’s web site at https://auditor.iowa.gov/reports/audit-reports/.

The District has made some changes to its policies since fieldwork began, is in the process of making additional changes, and released statements after the accusations were leveled:

Cindi McDonald, Superintendent :

After reviewing the State Auditor’s report, our focus remains on doing what we do best and that is educating our students at the one of the highest level in the state, supporting our teachers, staff and principals, with a positive learning and growing environment. We acknowledge some of the findings noted in the report fail to reflect the high expectations we set for our district leaders. The audit findings confirm policy and procedural changes we have implemented or will be implementing, to strengthen our administrative and operations controls, protocols, policies and procedures. As a district, we continue to look for ways to improve, foster positive work environments, collaborate and create opportunities for our staff to continue to learn.  In response to the findings in the State audit, Waukee Community School District has placed Chief Operating Officer, Eric Rose on paid administrative leave, effective December 7, 2018. The audit report provides an opportunity for the district to consider the detailed findings and the recommended control procedures. The findings reported in the audit confirm policy and procedural changes implemented by the district since July 1, when the current chief financial officer assumed her role. Additional changes will occur as appropriate, and action plans will be developed to address the other recommendations in the audit report.  The Board will engage in dialogue on Monday, December 10 at the Board meeting regarding recommended control procedures on page 31 of the audit report.

Wendy Liskey, President, Waukee Community School District Board of Education:

The members of the Waukee School Board believe there are inaccuracies in what the audit report states as “improper disbursements and disbursements which were not in the best interest of taxpayers.” We are currently gathering the supporting documents to refute how these purchases were attributed by the Auditor’s Office. We take our fiduciary responsibility seriously and we will work with the administration to improve processes that create greater transparency. Through this audit report, the Waukee School Board’s oversight of the district has been questioned. Recommendations for improvement were given and we as a Board intend to follow through on those recommendations, some of which have already been implemented.  A full listing of the recommendations and the status of policy or procedure changes will be available on Monday, December 10 at the Board Meeting (7:00 p.m. in Conference Room 102A, 560 SE University Avenue).

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