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USD 417 Faces Auditor Questions on COVID-19 Funds | Free

COUNCIL GROVE – The $417 Morris County Board of Education held a special meeting for superintendent evaluations on Tuesday, a week after an independent reviewer accused his superintendent of misusing COVID-19 relief funds by buying two vehicles outright instead of leasing them.

Aron Dody, who has led the district since 2018, previously served as $251 superintendent of schools in North Lyon County. His contract renewal with the district had previously been terminated at a January 30 meeting by a 4-3 vote.

On February 13, April Schwartz of Varney & Associates told board members that two audits had been conducted to meet state and federal requirements. During that trial, Schwartz said the district failed to meet a state requirement for competitive bidding for purchases over $20,000.

According to a letter sent to the Board of Education by Varney and Associates, the 2021-22 fiscal year audit found six major issues with the audit.

Such problems included failure to meet federal grant requirements, a violation of the Kansas Bid Law, lack of segregation of duties, and failure to comply with council policies and procedures. Varney & Associates also recommended that the board “engage with a local attorney to represent and assist them with routine legal matters” and said that the board should have cybersecurity policies in place “that prevent access to the district’s network from part of any unprotected computer”.

The district was found to be non-compliant with federal grant requirements regarding two vehicle purchases using federal funds for a grant that did not allow for capital purchases; the concession only allowed leases.

“The Board’s response does not agree with our assessment,” Varney & Associates said in the letter. “However, we are required to report disputed costs and the granting agencies have the authority to further investigate and make a decision. The district has requested one-third of the total ‘rent’ on the KDHE grant for the fiscal year ending 30 June, 2022, with the intention of requesting the other two-thirds over the next two years, but the entire amount was paid during the year ended June 30, 2022.”

Regarding the violation of Kansas bidding law, Schwartz told the board on Feb. 13 that purchases were made during AF22 that “exceeded the $20,000 threshold, yet the bidding requirements were not met.” .

Schwartz said that Varney & Associates’ position was for the superintendent to make purchases without following policies and procedures. He said it appeared that Dody was given “too much authority” to make decisions without board approval. He recommended that the district follow all applicable statutes, policies and procedures and have no oversight.

In response to the district’s Varney & Associates and the Kansas Association of School Boards, the district denied that the bidding law had been violated. The district said the superintendent felt the cost of the vehicles would be lower for the district if the leases were paid up front, rather than if the district continued to pay the lease for the duration of the term. time.

“He unilaterally chose to pay the purchase price for those vehicles to buy them outright without board approval and without going through the bidding process,” Schwartz said, reading the letter sent by the district.

Dody’s response, as read by Schwartz, was that he was unaware of any purchases where he did not follow the Kansas Bid Law.

In response to Varney & Associates, KASB’s board and attorneys disagreed with the reviewer’s findings.

Varney & Associates has recommended that there be a clear separation of duties and has recommended that someone review the monthly bank reconciliations, such as the board treasurer.

The education board released a statement on social media on 17 February saying it was aware there was “hard work to be done” and recognized there were areas for growth.

“We want you to know that when concerns about financial practices in the district came to our attention, we acted quickly to investigate them,” the district said. “We recognize that we have room to grow in this sector and that you are entrusting us not only with the education of your students, but also with being fiscally responsible stewards of public funds.

“We know you all want immediate answers and action. Please understand that, as advice, we focus on listening, learning and reflecting, and we ask for your patience as we work through these stages. Our advice is well-intentioned to welcome others to be a part of our work, to be able to see the changes to policies and practices we make to correct these problems, and to walk alongside us as we attempt to remove the obstacles that hinder our ability to focus on customer satisfaction needs of students”.

The district said individual privacy rights limited what they could say publicly about specific staff members or students.

“While increased transparency will be a goal of ours moving forward, we ask for your understanding that there are lines we cannot cross as a board or individual board members when it comes to confidential information,” they said. “Please keep in mind that we are committed to clear and consistent two-way communication with our employees, families and community in the weeks and months ahead.”

A message to the board regarding what disciplinary action was taken against Dody during Tuesday’s special meeting was not immediately returned.

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