During Monday's school board meeting, the board voted on a law firm that will select a forensic auditor after a recommendation was made by Audit Committee chairman Jim Toomey. In related news, board attorney John Bowen stated during the meeting that former superintendent Dr. McGonegal was not required to answer questions during the upcoming forensic audit of the budget; Linda Schaich expressed concern that the audit's focus would be much more narrow than it should be, and members of the board voted unanimously to replace superintendent of the interim, Bob Ganon, with another interim until a permanent one is found.
Mr. Toomey recommended the Pinellas County firm Trenam Kemker for identifying and appointing the auditor for the troubled budget. A concern was brought up by a citizen during the meeting that there may be a conflict of interest because Mr. Bowen resides in the county where the firm is located. Mr. Toomey said that the firm was recommended out of his own research, and the board attorney did not provide any information during the search.
After discussion on the issue concluded, board member Julie Aranibar amended the motion from the board discussing their preference for a firm to appointing the Trenam Kemker firm. The vote on the motion passed 5-0.
During public comments, Dr. Richard Connor addressed his concern that, as Mr. Bowen had previously stated, Dr. McGonegal is not obligated to participate in the audit.
(Dr. Gonegal, who resigned earlier this month days after the board's admittance of a shortfall of more than $8 million in the budget, previously admitted that he knew about the financial discrepancy back in August. There has been much speculation that the former superintendent has pertinent knowledge regarding the financial debacle that has not yet been revealed.)
Mr. Bowen, in responding to Dr. Connor, said that this was the case as Mr. McGonegal had already resigned, and thus the board, or someone who was hired by the board to investigate, could not subpoena him to answer questions during the audit. Mr. Bowen noted that Dr. McGonegal could still come in to answer questons on his own volition, and that the board did not yet know if there will be a refusal from him to come in during the auditing process.
Board member Karen Carpenter
agreed with Dr. Connor's sentiments, saying that Dr. McGonegal, as well as the board's former Chief Financial Officer, may have information that would be useful to the forensic audit. Dr. Connor replied, "I would suggest it's not premature to get clarification on (whether Dr. McGonegal could indeed not be compelled to participate in the audit.)...immediately upon the appointment of a law firm. This community is screaming for transparency and accountability."
Linda Schaich, who was at Monday morning's Audit Committee meeting, also commented, stating that the chair of the Committee stated "that they were following Bob Gagnon's request for a narrow scope...they're saying that they want this audit really limited to jut the one little thing that Tim said was wrong." Mrs. Schaich called for a much broader forensic audit. "Unless you look at (all of the things that could have gone wrong), the public is not going to be satisfied."
For full agenda results of Monday's meeting, click here.