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School Board Rejects Outside Funding for Audit Presentation

Cherokee legislators Michael Caldwell and Scot Turner and resident Rick Davies proposed to pay $1,400 to cover the cost of the audit presentation.

Credit: Patch file photo
Credit: Patch file photo
A last-minute proposal to accept a donation from two state legislators and one citizen to cover the cost of the district's fiscal year 2011 audit presentation was rejected by the Cherokee County School Board.

The board on Thursday voted 2-5, with board members Kelly Marlow and Michael Geist in favor, to deny a request from Marlow to use the funding to extend the time auditors Mauldin & Jenkins would appear before the board on Jan. 16, 2014.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), State Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) and Cherokee GOP Chairman Rick Davies collectively raised $1,400, which would have been applied towards the cost for the presentation. 

Marlow noted the extra time could be used for the board to engage in a "robust" discussion on the audit.

"They are not seeking to use their positions for political influence over this process," she said of those who volunteered to put forth the money.

Davies set up a Rally.org webpage, Let's Rally for CCBoE Auditor Appearance to Put This Issue to Rest, in an effort to get more citizens to donate. Broken down, the site notes Turner donated $500, Caldwell contributed $250 and Davies put up $650. 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo warned against the board adopting such a measure.

"I believe this would be a very bad precedent to set," he said, adding there could be some residents who decide to donate money towards the system and later use their actions for "political rhetoric."

Geist noted he didn't see the harm in allowing the group to contribute towards the cost, adding the money could be used to offset costs to the taxpayers.

On Friday, Caldwell, Turner and Davies said the purpose was just to cover the cost of the presentation itself, not to extend the time the auditors would appear before the board.

"There must have been some miscommunication," Davies said of the statements made by Marlow. 

Davies added he understood Petruzielo and the board's concerns about accepting the money, but noted there were no intentions of using the gesture for political purposes.

Turner added the board was "well within their right" to not accept the money, and insisted the proposal was not political in nature.

"It was meant to be a kind-hearted gesture and simply to keep taxpayers from having to pay for it," he added. 

Caldwell said he didn't fault the board for rejecting the proposal. He also said the original intent was just to "offset the cost to the school system" and to the taxpayers. 

The fundraising page noted that any excess money donated towards the audit presentation cost would be donated to the Cherokee County Educational Foundation.

After the board decided to invite the auditors back, the three men got together as citizens — not as elected officials — and decided to raise the money so they could see the questions surrounding the audit resolved once and for all, Davies said. 

"Speaking for myself, we were getting very weary of the back and forth on this and wanted to see this put to rest," he added.

Now that the money has been rejected, Davies said he will refund the money Caldwell and Turner donated, and make a personal contribution to the Foundation. Caldwell also said he plans to contribute to the nonprofit. 
Susan L. December 06, 2013 at 11:23 PM
And yet again, Ms. Marlow manages to make the Cherokee Republican Party look really, really bad.
Herbert Baird December 08, 2013 at 02:31 PM
No, the board of education is the one responsible for looking bad. Across the country school board administrations have over spent and many cases overpaid and stolen tax payers money. Marlow has only ask the board to provide the financials and budget allowing public excess to review. Obviously the board has given themselves huge raises over the years along with bonus and don't want it public. It reminds me of the most recent story in Fulton county where the superintendent of education along with her board members paid her $500,000 in bonuses. Wonder how much each board member received? This is occurring in every major city. Marlow wants to know where several million dollars are that is missing as I understand. If the board didn't have something to hide, they wouldn't be rejecting full cooperation. This could of been resolved long time ago if nothing to hide. I smell something and other tax payers will wise up soon and hold anyone accountable for abuse of funds. I find it interesting the ones opposed to public knowledge are the ones working in our school system.
Holly J December 08, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Mr. Baird, you apparently have not been following this story very closely. There are NO missing "millions" as Ms.Marlow continues to insinuate- with absolutely no proof whatsoever to back up her outrageous claims. The money was listed in one category when it should have been listed in a different one. The correction was made and neither the audit firm nor the state auditors had a problem with it. I am sure that if the money could not have been accounted for, the audit firm would not have given the district an unqualified audit- meaning there were major issues. Missing millions would certainly qualify as a major issue and one that the firm would need an explanation for before signing off on the audit. The state would also have demanded an explanation. Yet, nobody asked about it. So, that leads me to conclude that there were no missing millions. So, why does Ms. Marlow continue to harp on this? Because she WANTS there to be a problem. She desperately wants to find a smoking gun to prove how awful Dr. P is, and when she can't find one, she makes one up. Kind of like accusing him of trying to run her over. I wonder if she is raising these same concerns at CCA,where her children attend, and where they cannot seem to get a budget together to save their lives. Where are her questions to them? Why is she not at that school "helping" them get their house in order? Dr. P and the BOE have not gotten huge raises. There is no financial malfeasance, much as Ms. Marlow and her followers want to believe it. Wishing- and saying it ad nauseum-does not make it so.
Holly J December 08, 2013 at 08:49 PM
That should read: "...the audit firm would not have given the district an unqualified audit- meaning there were NOT major issues." An unqualified audit is a good thing. I'm not sure I made that clear.
Thyme Tugeaux December 08, 2013 at 09:44 PM
The missing millions are in Gwinnett.
Frank Jones December 09, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Ms. Marlow is concerned about the audit so let's take a look at what an audit is and what it means. An audit is performed by an INDEPEDENT Certified Public Accountant who has thorough understanding of Governmental accounting and CCSD policies and procedures. The auditor reviews the procedures to determine if they're sufficient and will make recommendations to fix weaknesses. The auditor will test transactions to ensure they were properly approved and processed. If any errors are found, the auditor will test additional transactions and any issues will be reported to the board. If the auditor discovers any fraud or resistance from management, they will report such to the board. If the auditor cannot issue an Unqualified report, they may issue a Qualified report disclosing the issues. If the auditor isn't comfortable issuing an qualified report, they must disengage. Basically, if there are any issues the board would have already been notified by the auditors. Ms. Marlow apparantly doesn't understand the role of the auditor or purpose of an audit.

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