Manatee School Board calls for probe into its own actions

eearl@bradenton.comMarch 11, 2014 

MANATEE -- Manatee County School Board members unanimously voted Tuesday to request the Inspector General investigate possible malfeasance by the prior administration, and of board members who served during the period between 2010-12.

Three current board members -- Karen Carpenter, Bob Gause and Chairwoman Julie Aranibar -- were on the school board during this time when Tim McGonegal was superintendent.

The school board members voted 4-0 for Superintendent Rick Mills to include a request the Inspector General investigate board members as well as past administration. Aranibar was not present at the board meeting.

The request, made initally by Gause, follows a letter Mills sent Thursday to the Inspector General .

Gause said he wants a “broader review.”

“If we are going to go down this road, it is important to also have the Inspector General investigate and conclude if there was any board member misconduct,” Gause said.

Carpenter agreed.

“Mr. Gause has a really good point,” Carpenter said. “Maybe there is an opportunity to solicit questions and get the questions on the table we want answered. The forensic audit was too pinpoint and too narrow in its questions that were asked on the record and did not ask enough questions to get the complete and final answers. It had a very broad base and should not just include liability and responsibility of staff, but also board members.”

Mills said he would include a probe into the past school board in his request to the Inspector General. Mills said he plans to speak with the Florida Department of Education Inspector General Mike Blackburn at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“During the last year, I have routinely been approached by teachers, other district employees, parents and community members wanting to know who is ultimately accountable for the financial mismanagement of the school district,” Mills said Tuesday. “As I stated in my letter to the Inspector General, this is a reasonable question.”

Mills said he did not see a problem in broadening the scope to include board members.

“There may be times of passionate discussion and even disagreement, but this is not a symptom of dysfunction. It is a sign of productive conflict,” Mills said.

Mills also emphasized all current board members and he registered perfect attendance at all master board training sessions and earned a “gold star.”

Audit Committee Chairman Joseph Blitzko called for more analysis from the school district management around financial statements.

“The current management discussion and analysis is not meeting requirements,” Blitzko said.

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