School Board and FKAA

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The School Board

KeysNews.com (Key West Citizen) was the first out with a story about Tuesday’s school board meeting.  I have to say, I’m no more enlightened than I was before.

Let’s just take a minute to get the facts on the table and center the discussion.  Most of what I know about the time line came from various stories on KeysNet.com.  Links can be found here.  So if I’ve got it straight…

  • In November 2014, school district employees discovered cash had gone missing from the Horace O’Bryant daycare program.
  • This was reported to principal Mike Henriquez who reported it to school superintendent, Mark Porter, who reported it to nobody.
  • An outside auditing firm was brought in and completed a report in May 2015.  The auditors were told by the daycare manager, Tina Godfrey that the $20,000 discrepancy was the result of accepting cash payments for daycare services and writing receipts for more than the cash received.  Why would you do that?
  • Ms. Godfrey was relieved of her duties in May 2015 after a poor performance review.
  • The press got wind of this in November 2015 when the missing $20,000 was noted in a state audit report.  That is how all the school board members discovered what was happening.  Apparently, some were aware of the situation and some were not.
  • In November 2014, under pressure from school board members the superintendent finally turned the matter over to the state attorney’s office.
  • Neither in-house staff’s investigation nor the independent auditors could determine who, if anyone, walked off with $20,000.  We still don’t know.
  • At yesterday’s meeting (December 15, 2015), the school board voted to bring in a forensic accountant.  They also decided not to reprimand the superintendent.
  • Another thing came out at the meeting.  The discrepancy might actually be more like $27,000.

I just hope they get to the bottom of the missing $20,000 and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.  The auditor’s report indicates that employees have been trained in proper procedures they just don’t follow them.  Following proper procedure needs to be a job requirement.

Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA)

The governor’s appointment of Richard Toppino to the FKAA board certainly makes a conflict of interest hard to avoid.  Toppino is an officer in two family businesses that have done $12 million worth of work for the FKAA in the past nine years.  That figure includes direct contracts only, no subcontract work.

I think it’s important to know how much money we’re really talking about here.  So I submitted a public records request to get information on existing subcontracts.  Here is that email thread.  FKAA replied that their bid documents don’t require a list of subcontractors.  This answer is disturbing for two reasons:

One:  Requiring  a list of subcontractors is one way to prevent certain types of contract fraud.

Strangely enough, the school district has a link to USAID’s Fraud Awareness Handbook.  That document includes a discussion about collusive bidding.  Here is one example of that:

The successful bidder subcontracts work to companies that submitted higher bids on the same project.

Requiring a list of subcontractors can head off that particular scheme.  You don’t want bidders working together to drive up the price and divide up the work.

Two:  Mr. Toppino “vowed” to be open and transparent when it comes to conflicts of interest.  

If the FKAA doesn’t keep track of all the business it does with Toppino’s companies, including subcontract work, how does the public know he’s keeping his “vow”?  The “vow” is meaningless if there’s no way to check into it.

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