Delaware Audit Investigation Slams Indian River School District For Nepotism, Fraud, Conflict Of Interest, And Personal Spending

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released the Indian River School District Audit Investigation at 2pm today.  The numerous allegations in the report include using facsimile signatures for purchases, the Superintendent receiving gifts in the form of jewelry, the former CFO donating over $50,000 to non-profits where he served as the President of the boards, the business office lying to the auditor about a discrimination lawsuit against the former CFO, incorrect paychecks and salaries for teachers, not following the state rules for accounting, the CFO’s sister-in-law working in the business office, almost $160,000 in payment vouchers that had half for invalid purchases and the other half breaking rules all over the place, possible allegations of the district paying for a board member’s tuition at a Maryland school, many reimbursements to the CFO’s personal American Express Card, over $20,000 on in-state food purchases, the Superintendent buying White House Christmas ornaments, over 20% of certain scholarships given to relatives of board members, and much more.

Indian River has a referendum in five days, on November 22nd.  Do you support this referendum after reading this report?

Updated: 3:02pm, 11/17/16: The Dover Post is reporting the district will hold a press event tomorrow at 10am to discuss the Auditor’s report.  Newsflash, Bunting was mentioned in this report a lot.  She doesn’t get to just walk away and blame everything on Patrick Miller, the former CFO…

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52 thoughts on “Delaware Audit Investigation Slams Indian River School District For Nepotism, Fraud, Conflict Of Interest, And Personal Spending

    1. Good for you Kristy. You are saying yes to incompetence and a lack of controls that the Superintendent (who is still there mind you) let the CFO get away with for six years. It is HER job to oversee the district. She failed. But yes, vote for more of the same…

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      1. So do you think I shouldn’t vote for more funding for the kids!? Why should we punish them for something the adults have done for a $100 a year?

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        1. Because you still have the same leader at the top who OBVIOUSLY lacks the capacity to lead the district. Under her rule, this district got away with a ton of stuff that would get you arrested at any other job. As well, the district has to contend with a discrimination lawsuit for breaking special education law, which affects local, state, and federal funds. But yeah, lets give ’em more money when, looking at this audit, they can’t account for a ton of money they already had. That makes sense… NOT! And don’t tell me Bunting didn’t have a clue about this. Whether she did or not, it is HER JOB to have a clue.

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          1. You advocate for children on your blog and by voting no you deny students money they need. I understand what you are saying and it looks like the district will have to take care of Bunting a different way. I have not looked into how to get rid of her (can we do that now?) but I can’t deny the kids finding that is needed. Maybe you can, but I can not.

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          2. I advocate for children all the time on my blog but I also advocate for fiscal responsibility and making sure the funds that are supposed to go to the students actually do. This district has failed in that category. They are a huge district and they spent six years (probably more) playing fraud games with taxpayer money. Miller is gone, but many of the same players are still there. You don’t reward incompetence. You get rid of it. Only then, and after you have replaced the rot with something worthy of serving kids, should you go out for a referendum.

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          3. You are seriously misinformed. How much did Mr. Miller actually take? Was it anywhere near your $15 million you blogged about with your fear mongering? I never said I knew 10,000 students, but I can assure you that I know a ton of people and can assure you that in this county, yes everyone knows everyone.

            Are the adults wrong with the things that have been done…yes. But I would never deny the students and teachers money they deserve. That can be taken are of when we vote these board members out.

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          4. Okay, so how long until that happens? You can only vote board members out at school board elections. The district already denied students and teachers money. And lots of it. I never once blogged about Miller taking $15 million. It was $5 million, and I always wrote about it with “I’m hearing”. And that was exactly what it was, people reporting it to me. I don’t know where those figures came out or how people came to that conclusion, but sin is sin. It doesn’t matter if he took $100 or $5 million. He broke the law. The district broke the law in many ways. So you can defend the district and the referendum all you want, but like I said, until the district weeds out the rot, how can they ask any citizen to trust them with their hard-earned tax money? I don’t really care how many people you know. It doesn’t take away from the issue at hand.

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          5. Don’t blog about things outside of your coverage area if you don’t want a response. I don’t need my own blog. I have better things to do with my time, like spend time with my family. If you don’t want a contrary opinion, then maybe you shouldn’t blog about it.

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          6. If you have better things to do with your time why are you reading my blog you always seem to disagree with and commenting throughout the night? I don’t mind a contrary opinion. What I do mind is someone telling me how I should blog or what I should write about. That isn’t your place.

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        2. And don’t pin it on not sending funds for kids. The district and the board should have had kids in their mind first when they decided to play their nepotism and conflict of interest games with kids funds. Any board member who participated in this crap should immediately resign, along with any district staff member and Dr. Susan Bunting.

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          1. There was one evidence of nepotism with millers sister in law…that is not unusual in an area such as Sussex county. When reading the report, there are not many students who apply for scholarships and those that did won the scholarship. Not enough evidence to support nepotism. The funds taken does not equate to the shortfall that the referendum is requesting funds. So I will still vote yes, for the kids.

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          2. I think five out of twenty-two recipients for scholarships being relatives of board members also shows A LOT of nepotism. Furthermore, I just read this part, they used FEDERAL SPECIAL EDUCATION funds as a donation to the Boys and Girls Club. That is a HUGE no-no and pisses me off to no end…

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          3. Not when the board member excuses themselves and there is only one applicant…..keep reading. I agree with you that it shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Again, the money stolen does not equate to the referendum money that is being requested. I bet that a lot of the board members will not be there in the future.

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          4. In my opinion, every single public school entity in this state needs a top-down investigation of funds. It is preposterous, in this day and age, that these charters and districts are getting away with this crap. The fact that there is no oversight until someone calls the auditor’s tip line to report this crap is archaic at best. It is the auditor’s responsibility and legal duty, as required by Delaware state law, to audit EVERY school district in the state. They should be proactively finding this stuff. But since they don’t, school districts play games with money that should be going to kids. Until systems are in place to ensure money is going to kids and not to fraud and cash in the trash consultants, I will have a hard time supporting ANY referendum in this state. And don’t even get me started on the charters and their mindgames with finances…

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          5. If you don’t know how small our community is and that everyone knows everyone, then maybe you should stick to blogging about your own district!

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          6. Oh, so you know all 10,000 students in this district as well as ALL the citizens that live in the district? I don’t care if everyone knows everyone. There are things in this audit report that the adults know damn well they shouldn’t have done. I don’t buy the cheap excuses I’m hearing. I will blog about any district or school in this state thank you very much. You are the only person I’ve seen actually defending this crap. You might want to go on the Cape Gazette Facebook page and see what people are saying on there. Maybe a select few people know each other and maybe they are the ones supporting all the bad decisions made by this district. Maybe that is more indicative of the problem here…. And by the way, I did blog about my district last night.

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          7. I comment on blog posts that I see as incorrectly portrayed….just like this one. My kids are in bed, just like I will be soon. I post so people can see a different point of view than the bias you post. I told you to stay in your area since I feel like you know the area better. You can do what you want, obviously.

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          8. Thanks, and I will. Like I said, I don’t mind different points of view. But just as you are entitled to your point of view, I am also entitled to argue that point of view, or agree with it, as I see fit. It wouldn’t matter what “area” this happened in Delaware. Anyone can read this audit report and see outright lies, theft, manipulation, intimidation, conflict of interest, nepotism, and serious violation of state law. I write about Christina and Wilmington all the time, but I don’t live there. Never once heard you telling me not to…

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          9. Because I don’t live there, nor do I know enough about the Christiana and Wilmington area. Why would I comment if I don’t know enough about it?

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          10. Sigh. Why would I trick you? I have been nothing but open about my beliefs, even if I disagree with you. I think overall we agree that we want what is best for the kids. I just think that in this instance, the kids need to be given the funds and the board members voted out at the next election. And no I do not know when that is.

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          11. It depends on who it is. How can you ever trust anyone with $? That is why there are supposed to be audits….which there were. They all just came back as fine. The superintendent is human though. I would trust an audit if it came back as fine.

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          12. The Superintendent had to know this stuff was going on! Come on Kristy! The guy had a prior history to boot. If everyone down there knows each other, and payments are going out to non-profits that the CFO is President of, are you really going to tell me no one knew that was wrong? Or the purchase of gifts and whatnot? They don’t put rules and laws into place so people can figure them out. Schools and districts are forcefed this info from the state.

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    2. I will not vote in favor of the referendum. Racism is still occurring with the IRSD…another lawsuit identifies it. It is occurring when a member of the Board of Education continues to point at the “Hispanic” population increase. It occurs with the sport mascot at IRHS, SMS, LB to mention a few. It occurs when their are so little diversity among our educators, Administrators. The good old boy and girl to process in all levels of the District, including the members of the Board of Education and the IRSD Administration.

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      1. Are you aware that there is a nationwide shortage of students going into education? Especially minority candidates? WilmU’s student teachers are down by 50% and only 1, I will say it again, 1 percent of candidates is minority.

        Are you aware that IRSD had a “Grow Our Own” program that promotes current paras, several of whom are minority? These paras are placed in their current buildings for methods, practicum and sometimes student teacher placements so it is beneficial to students who already know these paras and less disruptive to the paras who do not have to take additional leaves of absences to complete methods and practicum courses.

        Are you aware that IRSD provides tutoring to paras who are having trouble passing the praxis tests? Minority students traditionally have lower pass rates due to bias embedded in the test questions. Some of my colleagues have taken advantage of this tutoring.

        As a result of collaboration between the union and the district, there are up to 4 $2500 stipends that assist paras, many of whom have families and expenses, with expenses when they take a leave of absence to student teach? These paras to teachers then give back 2 years of teaching to the district in exchange for the stipend.

        I am a para and hopefully part of the next ” Grow Our Own” cohort when I approach student teaching.

        In the spring of 2016, IRSD hired its first cohort of “Grow Our Own” teachers. There were 8 teachers hired and 2 of the teachers are African American females.

        I was just looking at past articles and felt obligated to reply.

        I know that people have many assumptions about our district so I thought I would put it out there that administration is thinking out of the box to identify and guide minority candidates through the process to becoming a teacher. I should know because I am one of those candidates, and some of these other interest groups do not speak for all minorities, and they certainly do not speak fir me. I hope to be a teacher and make a difference in the lives of students for the next 30 years at least.

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  1. You have to love a system where you mismanage money, and still get to ask for more. Even better, you can paint opponents as “not supporting the children, since they will be the ones that suffer”.

    Maybe money shouldn’t be given until adults face consquences. The board can easily do that to gain some goodwill, but won’t.

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    1. I think the board started when it took the finance director out of his job. They got the audit yesterday, should be given time to act? Should they be given time for the process to act like posting a meeting? Just curious how that sentiment goes over here?

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      1. Not sure what you mean by that Elizabeth. Given that the board was named in this report for giving scholarships to 5 out of 22 recipients who were also relatives, I don’t see them as being out of the woods on this. This audit investigation covered just six years. six years they did nothing.

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  2. Voting against the referendum doesn’t support the status quo, it takes resources out of students’ hands and prevents the hiring of new teachers in one of the fastest growing areas of the state.

    If you want to hold people to task, call your board member and let them know that this gets fixed or they get voted out.

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  3. Just like Sandusky’s wife, she could never hear the screaming because she didn’t want to. It doesn’t matter how close or how loud. She didn’t want to because denial was more comfortable than doing anything about it. Lots of people got savaged by her dysfunctional team and we will never hear the full extent of the damage. We will never be able to track the full extent of the losses or determine blame because there are no records.

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      1. Okay, I’m just going to come out and ask Kristy since you seem to know everyone down there. Are Jan Steele, the new CFO, hired by the assistant Superintendent, Mark Steele, related in any way?

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  4. Has anyone asked why Indian River, under Patrick Miller, passed every audit? Is this a way for the auditor to CYAnand deflect?

    Didn’t the Board, the district and the community have the chance to attend finance committee meetings each month?

    Weren’t finances discussed and voted on at EVERY board meeting?

    Does the state have proper checks and balances in addition to school districts?

    One employee made horrible, potentially criminal choices, but many of the items in the audit are most certainly done by every district in the state, i.e. the teacher of the year recognition, retirement recognition, etc.

    I am NOT defending parts of the audit that are obviously wrong, but If districts are disallowed from many of the ways they recognize employees and that they have been transparently doing for decades, why haven’t they been notified by the auditor that this is not okay. What does Appo do to recognize staff? Does Sussex Tech feed its staff during the work day? Does Seaford recognize teacher of the year? Does Woodbridge hold a diner for “potential hires” and not even current employees? Does Lake Forest send newborns onesies because they are future Lake Forest students?

    Isn’t thus okay and under the jurisdiction of the LOCAL school boards and taxpayers????

    Is Tom Wagner’s office going to investigate all districts? Is there no discretion of local funds? Do our school boards have NO local control? Is this a first step for the state to begin a takeover of local funds because it is in such a budget crisis?

    Kevin, these SHOULD be the questions you should ask.

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  5. Heard through the grapevine that Wagner’s office rushed the audit report to coincide with the report that his home is facing foreclosure. Things that make you wonder……

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  6. Heard a rumor that AOA will be conducting expense audits on all Delaware districts and charters. Seems many of the findings not directly related to Patrick Miller will be findings for many if not all the other districts. If I were Sussex Tech, I would be nervous.

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