Forensic investigation report on Manatee school district expected in January

kbergen@bradenton.comDecember 12, 2012 

MANATEE -- Forensic auditors from the national consulting firm Navigant have told audit committee members that a report on what led to major financial mistakes in the district will be ready by Jan. 14.

In late September, the school board enlisted Tampa-based law firm Trenam Kemker to find a forensic audit team to determine the cause of a $3.4 million budget deficit that rocked public trust in the district. A team from Navigant -- the selected firm -- began its investigation in mid-October, interviewing school board members and district staff, as well as former superintendent Tim McGonegal and former assistant superintendent of district services Jim Drake, who oversaw finance.

School attorney John Bowen expressed concern at a Wednesday morning audit committee meeting that lawyers may reap more than is necessary.

"I have reviewed some of the legal billing," Bowen said. "I am concerned that there are charges in there that are beyond what was authorized by the school board."

He pointed out that Tre

nam Kemker associates sat in on interviews with McGonegal, Drake and other board members, even though the school board had not instructed them to do so.

But committee chairman Jim Toomey doesn't believe the law firm representatives were necessarily out of line, since the committee had charged them with finding out if McGonegal and Drake could be forced to participate in an investigation. Both former school officials willingly met with auditors.

Both firms will not be paid until after that first report is finalized, Toomey said.

The committee will request detailed billing for review.

Also at the meeting, Toomey passed his chair position to Bobbie Windham, an internal audit manager for the Manatee Clerk of the Circuit Court. Board members also decided to include the names of speakers who participate in public comments at committee meetings in future minutes.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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