Originally created 08/11/01

Schools' audit lists problems



An internal audit of the Richmond County Board of Education's Public Safety Department found several weapons either missing or unaccounted for.

The audit, completed last month and released to the Board of Education, also found discrepancies in the receipts of confiscated property, questionable expenses, irregularities in nondepartmental purchases, duplicate payments of several invoices and overpayment of security personnel.

The scope of the audit included a review of all records related to police vehicles, uniforms, weapons, confiscated property and financial data from July 1, 1999, to March 19.

The audit and school officials say most of the blame for the poor management of the Public Safety Department rests with its former director, then-Maj. Mike Farrell, who was dismissed last year after school officials became aware of allegations of misconduct and poor management of the department's overtime account.

Changes in school policy and employee management practices have resulted in a $250,000 decrease in operating expenses in the past year, according to the audit and other school records. For example, school public safety officers now work on 10-month contracts (only when school is in session) rather than yearlong contracts and the school department hires Richmond County Sheriff's deputies to work high school athletic events rather than pay school officers overtime.

An examination of weapons inventory records revealed that two weapons could not be accounted for.

Chief Julia Porter Stein, who took over the Public Safety Department in February, was unaware the weapons were missing and has reported them as such to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

One weapon, belonging to Sgt. Jackie Turner, was lost. A search resulted in the weapon being located in Philadelphia.

The audit found invoices from Pipeline Work Clothes Inc. disclosing that two expenditures were for individuals not employed by the Public Safety Department, including a jacket with embroidery purchased for Donald Porter, former schools public information director.

Mr. Porter told the auditor he received the jacket as a gift from Mr. Farrell.

A second receipt revealed expenditures for embroidery of the name of Trustee and RCBE on shirts costing the school system $54.

Also, the audit revealed an invoice for $625 for commercial emblems that were not utilized as part of the official uniform of the Public Safety Department.

With the backing of her colleagues, school board member Barbara Padgett has asked school attorney Leonard "Pete" Fletcher to bill Mr. Farrell for the questionable expenses listed in the audit. Mrs. Padgett said the expenses, which total $752, were not related to public safety and should not have been made.

"Major Farrell should pay for those expenditures," Mrs. Padgett said.

Board member Y.N. Myers suggested the board just forget about Mr. Farrell and chalk up the $752 as a loss. "Major Farrell's gone. Let's move on," he said.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.