The former Superintendent of Indian River School District who is now the Delaware Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, was well aware Patrick Miller, the former Indian River Chief Financial Officer, was stealing money. Despite telling the Auditor of Account’s office, Delaware media, and the staff of Indian River that she was shocked and had no clue about what Miller was doing, she knew. In fact, she knew going back to at least 2008.
Patrick Miller was stealing massive amounts of money from the district in ways that were never touched upon in the 2016 Audit Investigation final report. The Auditor’s office could have found it but they seemed to be in a rush to get the report out before Indian River’s first referendum attempt in November, 2016.
Several current and past employees interviewed explained that anyone who questioned the District’s CFO was subject to his intimidation and bullying. They further explained that the CFO used department budgets to control and manipulate both people and the District’s financials, using funds however he wished to cover costs, and making some people look as if they were coming in over or under budget when they really were not. We were unable to substantiate these claims due to the timing of our investigation.
Due to the nature of what happened and the massive amount of cover-up by not only the Indian River School District, Susan Bunting, and another state agency, I will not name my source.
So how did he do it? Miller used grant funds to fill his own wallet. Whenever Indian River ran a program that required grant money, he would charge the grant an “auditor fee”. He did this to “run the program” and oversee it. Who received this “auditor fee”? Patrick Miller. At one point, he was charging $500.00 a month. As an example, say the district received $25,000.00 for a grant. $15,000 would go towards salaries and $10,000 towards programming. With Miller’s “fee”, that would mean the grant was charged $6,000 in a year. This money went into Miller’s pocket. When confronted by the person who discovered this, Miller told them to worry about their own job. He also told them the purpose of this was to “manage the money”.
Susan Bunting was aware of this. She was approached in 2008 about this and her response was she “will look into it”. Instead of looking into it as she promised, the person that approached her about it was released from their job functions by the Assistant Superintendent, Gary Brittingham. But it went a step further. Miller used trumped up charges against the person to submit a tip to the Auditor of Accounts office. The person told the Auditor’s office they felt this accusation was a direct response to their discovery of Patrick Miller stealing money. While the audit investigation cleared the person of any wrongdoing, the person who ran the investigation at the Auditor’s office told the person they should just forget the incident ever happened. Why didn’t the Auditor’s office investigate the person’s claim that Patrick Miller was stealing money from grants back in 2008?
While the audit investigation in 2016 only covered fiscal years 2012-2016, there was no mention of this incident whatsoever in the 2016 final report. I also find it highly unusual and even suspect the investigation did not delve into the matter of employees allegations Miller would play around with programs that were over or under budget. Because that is exactly what he did with grant funds. Delaware’s State Auditor was Tom Wagner in 2008. He has held that position since 1990.
The Delaware Department of Education did not monitor those grants efficiently. The district didn’t provide any oversight of those funds. Perhaps they do now. But it is hard to tell since the coding structure for school expenses in First State Financials is so disorganized and it is impossible to tell what is what in many situations.
The Indian River Board of Education did not find it. But were they aware of it? I would say yes. According to sources, Board President Charles Bireley runs the district. It doesn’t seem to matter who the Superintendent is. Nothing happens without him knowing about it. He injects himself into any and all employee complaints. Some feel as though the Superintendent is Bireley’s puppet.
As for Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, it has become overwhelmingly clear she knew about Patrick Miller stealing money and she allowed it to happen for at least eight years. She knew about parent complaints regarding his behavior and did nothing. She has been on radio silence since my article last week. I have received no response from Governor Carney. I do not anticipate Carney will fire her. She will quietly resign and we will have some feeble excuse for her “retirement”. I now find myself in the very uncomfortable position of questioning every single decision she has made as Secretary of Education. It’s not like I didn’t warn Carney about his decision on December 29th, 2016.
While many can agree that she made some changes at the Delaware Department of Education in the past year and a half, can we trust those decisions? Bunting hired many folks there. Were they the right decisions? And can we trust the Delaware DOE? If they failed to properly oversee grant funding is this practice still going on to this day? I hate to ask this question, but what if other districts or charters have been doing this for years without anyone knowing? We know some of the charter school leaders that were found guilty of embezzling from school funds dipped into grant money. How deep does the corruption and fraud in our education system go?
The State Auditor of Delaware, Tom Wagner, needs to come clean. Did he have a role in the Indian River audit final report? Was this one of the reasons Kathleen Davies was put on paid administrative leave? So she wouldn’t find the skeleton hiding in Tom Wagner’s office? The audit investigation into the person at Indian River in 2008 cleared them. But they told the auditor’s office they felt this was retaliation for outing Miller as stealing grant money. I would think there would be some type of information retained by the Auditor’s office in regards to this. Davies was not at the Auditor’s office in 2008. She was put on leave as the Indian River audit investigation was beginning. Coincidence? For those who aren’t, she oversaw the audit investigation into Millville Fire Department. When she was put on leave, that inspection was pulled from the Auditor website and was redone. Based on what I am learning about Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, where Patrick Miller is the President, I believe there has been activity to keep things quiet. There are far too many connections between the district and the fire company that were not touched upon in the investigation.
We know Indian River School District Board of Education member Leolga Wright was on the Board of the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company when the whole ATV scam began. The IRVFC purchased the Polaris ATV on June 3rd, 2015. They did not purchase the ATV from the manufacturer directly. It was purchased from Robert Brown, who owns E.D. Supply Co. Patrick Miller’s brother Steven Miller works for that company. Miller sent the Polaris ATV to a sign company so the ATV could be painted with the Sussex Central High School logo. He then sold it to the district at a substantial profit. He also knew the high school was looking to purchase an ATV because they requested it from the district for over a year but Miller denied it on several occasions.
The ATV came up at the IRVFC 6/15/15 board meeting. The meeting minutes said they were going to do a “raffle” for it. But the reality is this. When IRVFC purchased the ATV from Brown for $14,500 it put their checking account in the hole by over $4,300 for a week.
The company transferred money from an M&T money market account to get it back in the positive. IRVFC then paid $435 to get the Sussex Central logo painted on it and sold it to Indian River School District for $19,500 netting the fire company a $4,565 profit. While this isn’t news to anyone who read the audit investigation, this part is. Indian River Board of Education member Leolga Wright was the Assistant Treasurer of the fire company at the time. She was at their June 2015 board meeting when this subject came up. She knew it was the same ATV sold to the district she served as a board member for. Why was this never written in the audit investigation final report?
One could say the Auditor’s office never interviewed Wright, but they certainly interviewed Board President Charles Bireley. As it was his company that conducted the annual audit for IRVFC, he would surely have known Wright served at the fire company.
You would think the IRVFC would question the purchase. Their finance oversight committee did question it.
Of course he did. It looks like Miller explained it to the satisfaction of the committee. Would they have known it was illegal for Miller to sell it to a school district for a profit? The Steve Smyk mentioned in the above screenshot is not the State Rep. Steve Smyk. It is his father. The school district requested reimbursement of this fraud from the fire company but has not received it.
I don’t doubt the 2016 audit investigation’s findings but they did not probe deep enough. Why did they start at Fiscal Year 2012 when Miller had been with the district since 1998? Who was the actual Audit Manager from the Auditor of Accounts office assigned to this investigation? We know it wasn’t Kathleen Davies because she was the head of that office when she was there. She would have assigned audit managers to cases. Whoever it was didn’t even come close to doing their job with the Indian River audit investigation. Was that by design?
We do know a Delaware citizen sent a tip to the Auditor’s office regarding the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company. This was revealed last week on social media. As well, a picture making the rounds on social media shows an email from IRVFC Treasurer Michael Eisenhauer to IRVFC Fire Chief Steven Deerey.
While a volunteer fire company is not the same as a school district, in this case they do have one thing in common- Patrick Miller. Who sits around free reading his Sunday morning News Journal on the taxpayer’s dime. We can only begin to guess, between two school districts and a fire company, how much money he has stolen over the years. But he has always had protection. When one of his sources of protection is now the Delaware Secretary of Education, we have a major problem.
Susan Bunting is a coward. She could have stepped up at any time and ended Miller’s financial reign of terror. She said and did nothing. Even when the audit investigators came to her, still she said nothing. That makes her an accomplice to his crimes. When the state fails to act, the truth will always come out.
I’m a firm believer in karma. As the noose tightens around Patrick Miller after screwing over the fire department he has served at for a quarter of a century, the secrets of his shenanigans involving education funding are coming to light. I have no doubt there will be more. He brought in a ton of people into his web of lies and deceit. Those people should have known member. They all need to resign and confess. Susan Bunting. Charles Bireley. Leolga Wright. Anyone else involved in this complete and utter mess. Patrick Miller needs an arrest. This MUST happen at this point. How many investigations does it take before our Delaware Attorney General acts? Is the corruption so widespread that we need the FBI coming into Delaware and overseeing this? Because we have shown, as a state, that we are incapable of not only stopping it but preventing it.
I sincerely hope Governor Carney is more prudent with his next Secretary of Education nomination. Perhaps he won’t go for who Rodel wants. Perhaps he will listen to all stakeholders and have his staff do their due diligence. Perhaps the Delaware Senate will not listen when they are told not to ask certain questions of the nominee when they face their confirmation hearing. This is what happens.
It is a new day in Delaware. The “Delaware Way” does not work. The days of backdoor meetings where things stay quiet and transparency goes out the window can no longer be tolerated. The “Good Old Boys” network where folks cover for each other and deals are cast to keep things quiet are done. Our legislators need to move away from this archaic way of thinking and actually craft legislation to prevent the obvious theft of taxpayer money by people with the moral conscience of a demon in Hell. Delaware’s education funding is built on a house of cards with secrets buried in the foundations.