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Mills asks state to investigate former district administrators

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  • | 4:00 a.m. March 12, 2014
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EAST COUNTY — Manatee County School District Superintendent Rick Mills formally asked the Department of Education’s inspector general to investigate the financial activities and behavior of the former school district administration during years of overspending. 

If it agrees to do so, the Inspector General’s Office would investigate the district for potential fraud, waste and abuse. 

“When I go out into the community, I get a lot of questions about accountability,” Mills said. “I have some concerns myself. This community needs closure.”

As evidence of the need for a state inspection, Mills wrote a letter March 6 to Inspector General Mike Blackburn and FDOE Commissioner Pam Stewart that lists findings related to the school district’s finances, including that the school district failed to meet state-mandated minimum fund balance for five consecutive years and the district overspent by $13 million cumulatively between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Mills’ letter specifically asks the inspector general to investigate the behavior of the district’s former leadership team — led by former Superintendent Tim McGonegal and Jim Drake, former assistant superintendent — from 2010 to 2012. 

McGonegal took over as superintendent in fall 2008 and resigned September 2012 after announcing a multimillion-dollar deficit. Drake retired in February 2012.

Mills assumed his role March 2013.

In the letter, Mills states he was shocked by “the sheer scope and magnitude of the financial errors, neglect, incompetence, malfeasance and misfeasance.”

“It appears the reality regarding school district finances were kept from the Manatee County School Board and community or purposely reported inaccurately,” he wrote.

Manatee County School Board Chairwoman Julie Aranibar also sent a letter to the inspector general, dated March 7, seconding Mills’ request.

An independent forensic audit report showed no criminal activity for financial accounts, but did not address the issue of malfeasance or misfeasance, she said.

FDOE spokewoman Cheryl Etters said Stewart would decide whether to investigate the district. In the last several years, the inspector general has only investigated one school district: Lee County.

Rick Mills, Manatee County School District superintendent, says the following findings support his request for a state investigation:

• The school district has failed to meet the state-mandated minimum fund balance for five consecutive years;

• The school district overspent its budget by $4.5 million during fiscal year 2011-12 and by $8.5 million in fiscal year 2012-13; and

• Audits from the Florida Auditor General’s office of the 2012-13 school year determined the district would have to pay more than $10 million in fines.

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].



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