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Albert Robinson of Navigant, formerly with the FBI, said assistant superintendent Jim Drake was responsible for the budget as its direct manager.
East County Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 5 years ago

Manatee School audit: Former assistant superintendent at fault

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

Auditors blamed former assistant superintendent Jim Drake for the Manatee County School Board’s 2011-12 $3.4 million budget deficit, but faulted him for incompetence — not criminal or illegal activity.

Investigators from the global consulting firm Navigant, hired by the board in October to conduct an audit of the district’s finances, said former superintendent Tim McGonegal, who resigned in September, when the deficit was announced, had no knowledge of errors in budgeting until July 2012.

Albert Robinson of Navigant, formerly with the FBI, said Drake, who oversaw the district’s finances until he retired this past February, was responsible for the budget as its direct manager.

Robinson said Drake installed a flawed computing process to replace a reliable but cumbersome method — which had been in place for 10 years — that tracked employee compensation and benefits.

The flawed process resulted in the district failing to properly budget for employee benefits, teacher salaries, recurrent program like Manatee Technical Institute.

It produced errors in 17 of 18 schools the auditors tested.

Still, as the budget shortfall deepened, board members were left in that dark from August to May 2012, unaware of any problems.

The report, compiled from over 30 interviews — including ones with Drake and McGonegal — hundreds of budget entries, financial statements and emails, found a lack of a “lack of proper management support, oversight and leadership in the budget process.”

After being alerted to the deficit, McGonegal and finance department staff reviewed accounting records to find errors that would eliminate and correct the deficit.

Then, over two weeks, McGonegal prepared a Sept. 5 memorandum to the school board, revealing the deficit.

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