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News Section: Local Government

Superintendent Asks Inspector General to Investigate Previous Administration

Published Friday, March 7, 2014 9:00 am

BRADENTON – On Wednesday, Manatee School District Superintendent Rick Mills sent a letter to the Florida DOE Inspector General requesting an investigation into predecessor Tim McGonegal's senior leadership team that served from 2010-2012.


Mills listed a number of major financial errors and other scandalous information in the letter, including the district having overspent its budget by over $38 million over the last five years, and school board members and county citizens being kept in the dark about the reality of district finances.


"I am regularly asked by asked by teachers, parents, school district employees and community members who will be held accountable for these catastrophic actions. I believe that is a fair and reasonable question. That is why I am asking for an investigation by the Inspector General," he wrote.


The full letter is below.


Dear Inspector General Blackburn,


This letter is a follow-up to a recent conversation I had with Commissioner Steward and it is meant to serve as a formal request to have the Florida Inspector General's office conduct an investigation into the financial practices and activities of the senior leadership team of the School District of Manatee County of 2010 through 2012.


I accepted the position of Superintendent of Manatee District Schools in March 2013 at a time when the district was reeling from a fiscal crisis that resulted in the resignation of the previous superintendent and other senior district officials. Although I was aware financial problems existed upon accepting the job, I was ultimately shocked by the sheer scope and magnitude of financial errors, neglect, incompetence, malfeasance and misfeasance in subsequent months as I built a new senior leadership team. 


Findings related to the Manatee District's finances are as follows:


  • The Manatee District failed to meet its state-required fund balance for five-consecutive years. No other school district in Florida missed meeting its fund balance two years in a row during that time.


  • The Manatee District was the only district in Florida that failed to post a balanced budget two consecutive years.


  • The Manatee District overspent its budget by approximately $4.5 million during the 2011-2012 school year and by approximately $8.5 million during the 2012-2013 school year and by approximately $8.5 million duing the 2012-2013 school year - resulting in a two year spending deficit of close to $13 million. 


  • It is estimated the Manatee District overspent its budget by more than $38 million over the last five years. 


  • Regularly scheduled Operation, Financial and Federal audits of the Manatee District performed by the Florida Auditor General's Office for the 2012-2013 school year resulted in 44 findings amounting to more than $10 million on questionable costs and potential penalties.


  • When the Auditor General's findings were reported to the Florida Legislature's Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, members of the committee called the findings "appalling" and "radioactive." 


  • There have been numerous instances in which past accounting and budgeting practices have come into question. The workers' compsensation rates wre inequitably changed to modify the impact to the general fund balance.


  • It appears the reality regarding school district instances were kept from members of the Manatee County School Board and community or purposely reported innaccurately. 


The list could go on, but suffice it to say that as Superintendent I am asked regularly by teachers, parents, school district employees and community members who will be held accountable for these catastropic actions. I believe that is a fair and reasonable question. That is why I am asking for an investigation by the Inspector General. 


We have a new senior leadership team in place - the overwhelming majority from outside Manatee County - and we are working colosely with the United States DOE, Florida DOE, the Auditor General and the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee to return the Manatee District to a state of financial health. We have implemented a Fiscal Recovery Plan and as of this letter we are projecting a blananced budget for the 2014-2015 school year with a positive fund balanace. 


Thank you for consideration of this request, and I look forward to your response.


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