**UPDATED BELOW WITH NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ONE DISTRICT**
Two years ago, letters went out to five charter schools from State Auditor Tom Wagner letting them know they were in violation of Delaware’s Budget and Accounting Manual (BAM). For the purposes of this article, I looked to see how many districts and charters violated BAM in one area. That was where they write checks from petty cash accounts for more than $500.00. That is a big no-no according to BAM. I looked in both FY2017 and FY2018 up until May 31st. There were many offenders, including two who were included in the 2016 letters! The reason I started with FY2017 was to give the benefit of the doubt just in case districts and charters were not clear of the rule before that fiscal year. This isn’t just a few districts and charter schools.
Some of these could be clerical errors but some are highly suspicious. Including one of the charter schools that was a part of the 2016 letters. Originally, that 2016 letter spree was supposed to be an overall investigation with a firm audit investigation. For some inexplicable reason, Wagner did not release a report and sent the letters to the five charters. Those letters were not made public until State Representative Kim Williams obtained them and published them on her blog, Delaware First State on October 11th, 2016. It is not a coincidence, in my opinion, that the petty cash letters from 2016 went out beginning June 21st, 2016. Kathleen Davies was put on paid leave at the Auditor’s office in May of 2016.
The following is the list of the offenders for most petty cash amounts over $500.00 and the total of those payments.
Appoquinimink School District, 32 payments, $27,920.32
Sussex Tech, 25 payments, $22,717.06
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, 18 payments, $28,197.85
Charter School of Wilmington, 14 payments, $12,268.52
Campus Community School, 7 payments, $5,014.15
Delmar School District, 6 payments, $5,327.96
Providence Creek Academy, 6 payments, $4,932.90
Department of Education, 3 payments, 2 payments sent to Woodbridge’s petty cash account, 1 payment sent to DAPSS petty cash account for the Delaware Fire School, $2,850.00
Woodbridge School District, 3 payments, $2,075.00
Capital School District, 2 payments, $1,120.44
Caesar Rodney School District, 1 payment, $614.25
Colonial School District, 1 payment, $1000.00
Polytech School District, 1 payment, $7,890.00
Laurel School District, 1 payment, $625.00
Seaford School District, 1 payment, $600.00
An interesting note is Providence Creek Academy. In the beginning of FY2017, they tried putting a ton of money into their petty cash account under “Instructional Supplies”. How much? $26,260.76. But they reversed all of that out. They did the same with a $3,000 expense in FY2018 as well. My guess? They got word about other charters getting slammed for their own petty cash audits and course corrected themselves lickety split! But not enough to totally stop doing it as shown by them continuing to accrue 6 more payments over $500.00.
When this stuff is entered in First State Financials? Don’t they have some kind of control in there that says “Do not move forward. Are you sure you want to do this?”
So who is asleep at the wheel? Is there no one at the Delaware Department of Education who goes over what schools are putting in FSF? Why doesn’t the Division of Accounting notice this stuff? Treasurer Ken Simpler’s office? The Office of Management and Budget? How come Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn does nothing? Or do none of these state agencies care until the districts or charters get caught? Or was that the point with getting rid of Kathleen Davies? Guess what folks- I’m that wild card you continue to ignore. So while you are all sitting in your merry offices, oblivious to what is going on, I’m on here making literal asses out of all of you. I’m exposing this while you do NOTHING!!!!! And I do it time and time again. As a result, the citizens of Delaware get more disgruntled each day and see how either lazy or corrupt we are. Probably a bit of both.
The best part? Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got very firm warnings. Want to know what they did with those letters? They said “Screw you BAM!” They gave you the middle finger and you were too busy doing whatever you aren’t doing to notice. They knew not to do it and they did it anyways. How the Delaware DOE missed this in DAPSS’ charter school performance report AND their formal review is beyond me! But they miss a lot when it comes to charter schools. But who watches over the districts as well? They are just as guilty of this practice as the charters.
And Tom Wagner- you are still the State Auditor until December 31st, 2018. Do your flippin’ job! Stop trying to railroad the one employee who probably knew all this. Stop trying to downplay audit inspections because state agencies don’t want you to tell the whole truth. Yeah, we both know the truth is what you decide to reveal! You need to be called out for the abysmal failure you are. And Simpler, you are the State Treasurer! Are you going to tell me these petty cash payments over $500 were approved by your office? You need to do your job as well. This little game of hide and go seek with state finances is coming to an end. Consider this your “anonymous” audit tip Wagner!
Do you want to know who I want to thank? I want to thank Brandywine, Cape Henlopen, Christina, Indian River, Lake Forest, Milford, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, Red Clay, Smyrna, Academia Antonia Alonso, Academy of Dover, Charter School of New Castle, Delaware Design-Lab, Delaware Military Academy, Early College High School, East Side Charter, First State Military Academy, First State Montessori, Freire, Gateway, Great Oaks, Kuumba, Las Americas ASPIRA, MOT Newark Charter School, Odyssey, Poly-Tech, Positive Outcomes, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison. Even though some of them did this in the past, none of them did for FY2017 and FY2018. You should all be proud of yourselves. Especially the ones that got the 2016 letters and changed course. I’ll give a needs improvement to those who only had one or two on the lists above.
The biggest shocker when I ran these reports from Delaware Online Checkbook was Appoquinimink. Really Burrows? Are you going to let your CFO continue this illegal practice? And Sussex Tech… how much corruption can come out of one district? The one where all the teachers want ALL the board members replaced!
To see the full list of FY2017 and FY2018 petty cash payments by district and charter, please see below. Take note of the many different categories these schools like to put them in. And I would just love to know how you can take Federal funds and put them in a petty cash bank account! After that, sample the letter State Auditor Tom Wagner sent to Sam Paoli at the Charter School of Wilmington.
*Updated, 6/18/18, 12:46pm: Polytech Superintendent Mark Dufendach called me this morning to explain my reporting of a petty cash expense over $500. He explained this was a Federal reimbursement involving their Junior ROTC program and it was coded in error but was corrected. I appreciate him reaching out to me on this. As I wrote the other day, I see many of the situations where there were one or two of these as potential clerical errors.