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August 13, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Proper Monitoring Could Have Prevented $100,000 in Inappropriate Payments at Elmira City SD

By not following established procedures, Elmira City School District inappropriately paid $100,000 to employees and a BOCES without board authorization, which included $35,512 to the former assistant superintendent for vacation days he was not entitled to and $50,000 to a BOCES to keep this administrator temporarily in his job after he retired, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Taxpayers depend on district officials to spend money properly,” DiNapoli said. “Established policies at Elmira school district were disregarded. This resulted in $100,000 in spending that was not in line with employment and BOCES contracts.”

DiNapoli’s audit, covering July 2005 through June 2007, found the board failed to adequately monitor whether district management followed established procedures and employment contracts, which allowed inaccurate interpretations of policies and procedures.

Auditors found that when the former assistant superintendent of management services retired in January 2006, the district paid him $48,200 for 93 unused vacation days even though the terms of his employment contract only allowed him to be paid for 25 days. This resulted in a $35,512 overpayment to the assistant superintendent for 68 vacation days he was not entitled to. The district is exploring litigation to recoup the overpayment.

In addition, auditors learned that after the former assistant superintendent retired from the district, the Greater Southern Tier Board of Cooperative Educational Services contracted with him to provide services to the district for five months after he retired. The district paid BOCES $50,000 for the former assistant superintendent’s post-retirement work at the district. The district entered into the arrangement without board authorization.

Auditors also found that six employees transferred from the district’s business office to BOCES. These employees were paid a cumulative sum of $9,272 for unused accrued vacation time when they left the district, even though such payments were not specified in their employment contracts. In addition, the district paid $6,000 to BOCES so the employees could also carry over unused vacation days. Board members never authorized the arrangements the district made with BOCES. The district is now reviewing the legality of the arrangements.

Auditors found that the district entered into professional service agreements with three former school administrators without board authorization. The agreements were submitted for board approval only after the payments reached $20,000.

The audit recommends that district officials:

  • seek to recoup the $35,312 in overpayments made to the former assistant superintendent;
  • monitor oversight procedures to ensure that employees are paid according to their specific employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements; and
  • adhere to purchasing policy limits regarding the approval of BOCES contractual changes.

DiNapoli’s office referred the audit to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System to determine if the assistant superintendent’s post-retirement work at the district should affect his pension. The district generally agreed with the audit’s findings and has initiated corrective action.

Click here to view the audit.

School District Accountability:
In order to improve accountability of the state’s schools, DiNapoli’s office will audit all of New York’s 834 school districts, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and charter schools by 2010. The State Comptroller’s office has completed 470 school audits and approximately 200 school audits are currently underway.

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