Gov. Mel Carnahan has ordered immediate audits to scrutinize
the money and management of the financially strapped Special School
District of St. Louis County.
Carnahan took the action Thursday based on a nine-page report
he got this week from state officials who had reviewed the
district's operations at the governor's request. Chris Sifford, a
spokesman for Carnahan, said the report had raised "very
significant issues" that merited audits.
One key finding: The district violated state law when employees
got paid before they performed work. The report offered no other
details on that issue.
Political in-fighting and administrative reshuffling cause
extensive confusion and conflict.
Accounting methods and deficit spending don't meet acceptable
business practices for public agencies.
Administrators lack a detailed strategic-planning process and
Board members have overlooked a potential conflict of interest
involving a board member marketing financial services to district
Administration hired staff without board approval and overspent
the budget for personnel.
Transportation runs inefficiently, food costs tally too high,
and a leased warehouse wastes space.
Interim Superintendent Ronald W. Rebore said he welcomed the
"I believe . . . they will address and resolve the issues,
controversies and political fragmentation surrounding Special
School District," Rebore said.
He said the district would open records to auditors and offer
cooperation from staff.
The audits will be done independently and on separate
timetables. State Auditor Margaret Kelly will take responsibility
for going over the district's finances, including its accounting
methods. A private firm yet to be hired by the state will look at
management, including how the district runs its operations and
organizes its administration.
An hour after being notified Thursday, Kelly sent Carnahan a
letter agreeing to start the financial audit as soon as possible.
Frank Ybarra, a spokesman for Kelly, said it was impossible to
predict other details about the audit, including cost, time frame
or scope. "You don't know yet the issues involved, " said Ybarra.
The state will advertise next week for bids from private firms
that want to audit the district's management. Carnahan sought an
outside firm on the review team's recommendation that an
independent organization do the management audit.
The team also urged that any recommendations from the audit be
implemented as soon as possible. In addition, they said
recommendations that are rejected should still be made public and
that reasons should be given in open session as to why they were