Audit Committee volunteers want assurance of Manatee County School District legal protection

BRADENTON -- In a step designed to pre-empt a potential lawsuit, Manatee County School Board Audit Committee volunteers asked for assurance they'd be legally covered if anyone decided to sue them.

The Audit Committee, which works with internal and external district auditors and presents information to the Manatee County School Board, was assured Thursday all members are covered by district insurance even though it's not clearly spelled out in school board policy.

"Legal defense is included. You guys are good to go," Bill Kelley, district director of risk management.

No committee volunteers have been sued but Chairman Joe Blitzko said he wanted to head off the issue, just in case.

The committee also heard an update to internal auditor Shinn & Co.'s plan to work with the district as it chooses a company to implement new business software.

The district is not using a typical bidding process. It is hiring a company for the system overhaul, but doesn't have written procedures in place for such as engagement.

The selection process started in September and has

not yet made its way to the board, which will decided upon a company with which to negotiate.

As an adviser, Shinn & Co. will analyze the district process and recommend best practices and potential changes for future hirings.

"As an independent person who is not involved in the process I can say, 'What about this?' or 'What about that?' and that will provide some value," said Donna Henson with Shinn & Co.

Shinn & Co. will provide value for the district, said Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations. When Hall arrived almost three years ago, few processes were in writing, which made coming in as an outsider difficult, he said.

"They have already made a big difference in several areas," he said.

Hall said district officials want to work with internal auditors as the process is developed to avoid having them evaluate and point out flaws after the fact.

"We're just trying to be proactive," he said.

Blitzko also told the board two people expressed interest in joining the six-member Audit Committee, but neither candidate was qualified.

Three-year terms for Audit Committee members will be completed in 2016. Blitzko encouraged the volunteers to look for new faces qualified to join the committee.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.