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November 28, 2007

DiNapoli: Required Background Check Would Have Prevented School From Contracting with a Sex Offender

Fallsburg School District Also Overpaid Former Superintendent $44,400

The Fallsburg Central School District could have avoided hiring a contractor convicted of a sex crime if the district performed state-mandated finger printing and a background check on the contractor, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit also found the district paid the former superintendent $44,457 more than he was entitled to.

“To state the obvious, no one convicted of a sex crime should be working in a school,” DiNapoli said. “School districts can’t cut corners when it comes to children’s safety. All school employees and school contractors that could come in contact with children are mandated by state law to undergo finger printing and criminal background checks.”

The audit found that the district failed to perform state-mandated background checks on two contractors. One contractor, Julius Anthony, was originally charged in 2000 with child molestation but was later convicted of sexual battery in Fulton County, Georgia. Anthony was the primary consultant for Gateway Learning, Inc. and worked in the district’s elementary school from Feb. 2004 to Nov. 2004, when he began to work in the district’s business office, which is connected to the high school.

In addition, auditors found the district inappropriately paid $44,457 to the former superintendent. The payments included:

  • $17,810 in unsupported purchases on district credit cards;
  • $9,414 in salary overpayments, mostly for unused vacation leave;
  • $8,000 more than his contract allowed for moving expenses;
  • $7,000 in personal expenses on district credit cards for meals, cell phones charges, video and car rentals and for gas, car washes and oil changes for his personal vehicle;
  • $1,977 in unsupported reimbursement claims; and
  • $256 for personal long-distance telephone calls.

Under the supervision of the former superintendent, the district also made inappropriate payments to contractors and district officials, including:

  • $5,658 to Gateway Learning, Inc. for reimbursements that were not provided for in the contract with the district;
  • $5,235 to a former assistant superintendent for unearned paid leave;
  • $5,000 to a former business official for moving expenses that were not provided for in her employment contract; and
  • $1,342 to another former business official for unsupported expenses and a car rental.

The audit recommended that the board and district:

  • comply with education law and perform fingerprint-driven background checks on all prospective employees and contractors;
  • consult with an attorney to determine if improper payments can be recovered; and
  • establish policies and procedures to pay district officials in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

The district contacted the Office of the State Comptroller, requesting an audit of the school to look into the activities of the former superintendent. The district generally agreed with the audit’s findings and agreed to implement corrective action. The district’s full response is included in the audit.

School District Accountability
In order to improve accountability of the state’s schools, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office will audit all of New York’s 832 school districts, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and charter schools by 2010. The State Comptroller’s office has completed more than 300 school audits and approximately 230 audits are currently underway.

Click here for a copy of the audit.



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