by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A DeKalb County school board member says the final results of an audit he requested prove mismanagement and lack of oversight in an already troubled district.
Auditors say DeKalb school district employees violated purchasing policies nearly 700 times and spent more than $200 million before those purchases were approved.
"I sort of feel vindicated by what I've seen here," said outgoing board of education member Paul Womack, "I think it's atrocious."
Womack says in his 16 years on the school board, he's never been as fed up as he is now.
38-page audit released this month spotlights a host of mismanagement issues, including the movement of cash between various accounts, the rehiring of employees whose positions had been eliminated and purchases made without necessary approval. Auditors noted 676 records in which "the invoice date preceded the purchase order date," meaning the school board didn't approve purchases until after they were already made.
"I don't know that I would categorize it as corruption, it's more of 'we've done it this way and we're going to continue to do it this way,' said Womack.
School district policy at the time said all purchases over $50,000 must have prior board approval. Earlier this year the district changed the threshold to $100,000.
"And that policy is put in place for a reason," said Womack, "It's a form of checks and balances."
Just last week, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, put DeKalb County on probation after a
six-month investigation into scores of complaints of mismanagement. Nearly 500 parents have signed an on-line petition calling for Gov. Nathan Deal to remove the entire school board.
Womack says he doesn't blame parents for being fed-up, "They should be, sometimes somebody has to step in and say enough already."
Womack also supports the district attorney's decision to convene a special purpose grand jury to investigate.
"He should scrutinize it very closely," said Womack, "Sometimes the truth hurts."
Womack says the school district has already made a number of changes to financial policies and personnel which should improve practices and oversight over time.
The superintendent issued a statement saying she's concerned about all of the issues highlighted in the report. She added, "We have a lot of work to do and we want to assure our parents and the public that we will resolve all of the issues raised."