Pulaski County School District officials are getting a grilling before legislative audit this morning. You can get some of the flavor from tweets by district gadfly Dawn Jackson. Note particularly her comments on audit findings about a special deal for the brother of new superintendent Charles Hopson.
The special audit is now available for all to read. The highlights are eye-opening for a new superintendent in a fiscally troubled district:
* Hopson's contract includes $205,000 in salary, a car, unlimited fuel, a $56,000 payment into teacher retirement, $25,000 for moving costs, $1,400 a month for insurance, a $6,000 expense account for community activities. All "better than a Baptist preacher," one legislator remarked. He has not been accounting for personal miles driven, which are taxable, and he (like Airport Director Ron Mathieu) charges his employer for his car washes. He's been getting additional cell phone service not provided in his contract, which auditors said should be repaid. The audit also said he made some $24,000 in charges to the district for unallowable moving expenses, mostly undocumented credit card expenses but also a $9,000 down payment on his condo here.
* Administrative salary costs in certain positions are rising almost $700,000 cumulatively for 2010-2011.
* The district left desegregation money, some $4 million, unspent.
* The district paid $78,000 in "consulting" fees to future employees before they joined the payroll. Some $17,000 of that went to Hopson, also under fire for hiring his brother, who was paid $1,087 for days he didn't work.
* The district has spent almost $1 million in legal fees fighting the teachers union and in the desegregation case.
* Three new employees were paid almost $10,000 for days not worked.
* School Board spending — $1,360 in unabllowable travel and cell phone charges; $176,000 for boardroom renovations, laptops, travel; almost $16,000 for iPads; amounts due of $66,000 from Board members, employees and vendors. Several board members are still more than $3,000 in arrears for improper expenses turned up in an earlier audit.
The audit notes that the cash-strapped district spent some $2.4 million together on legal fees, schedule changes (which required new buses) and administrative pay and benefits. Not exactly classroom friendly.
Hopson blames audit on inherited problems, but many of the shortcomings relate to his decisions and money paid him. A bad day. Legislators were talking about prosecutorial referrals. The audit has been sent along. The exceptions noted are numerous and unpaid sums from related parties emit a strong odor.