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Misleading MNPS Statement Claims Audit Clears Spending Practices

Misleading MNPS Statement Claims Audit Clears Spending Practices
Posted at 4:13 PM, Aug 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 19:56:02-04

Metro school officials are giving themselves an "A" when it comes to spending your money, claiming that a recent audit vindicates their spending practices.

But, it turns out, the real grade may be an "incomplete," as city auditors continue to investigate the district's questionable spending.

On Wednesday, Metro Schools put out a misleading news release, declaring that the recently released audit showed that everything was on the up and up with how the district spends your money.

Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph was quoted as saying “the audit clearly reveals that the work taking place across the district is compliant with all financial procedures and spending practices set forth by our Board of Education."

"This rigorous third-party audit process shows Metro Schools demonstrates strong, legal stewardship of taxpayer dollars relative to the education of our more than 85,000 students," Joseph said.

The truth is, the jury is still out.

The news release was sent out the morning after auditor Mary Cole came before the Metro School Board, making it clear that the recently released audit was extremely limited in what it investigated.

"The objective was to describe and determine Central Office payroll costs, the number of employees hired in the Central Office and vehicles," Cole said.

In fact, our NewsChannel 5 investigation had revealed how, under Joseph's administration, unauthorized purchases -- where the district did not follow its own purchasing rules -- skyrocketed from about $300,000 the year before he was hired, to $2.3 million the next year.

By mid-year of the 2017-2018 year, it was already more than $1 million.

And our investigation raised questions about how companies, like Research for Better Teaching, got lucrative consulting deals without signing contracts that required board approval.

Related stories:
'Unauthorized' Spending Skyrockets Inside Metro Schools
MNPS Bypasses Board On Questionable Contracts
MNPS Board Members Request Investigation

Audit supervisor Bill Walker told the School Board that city auditors are still investigating the district's purchases, as well as other human resources issues that have come up in their investigation.

"There are three different audits or reviews that we are doing at this time," Walker said, including the just-released audit in his count.

School Board member Amy Frogge noted that the audit listed a number of expenditures that appeared to have been made without contracts.

"Some of them don't have contracts, that are listed only as purchase orders," Frogge said.

But even when there were questions about those issues in the initial audit, the schools director insisted that, instead of getting into it in a public meeting, he preferred to respond later.

"If we've captured the questions, we can just respond in writing to many of them because there are multiple questions," Joseph told the board.

Frogge was frustrated.

"I'm very disappointed that we are not willing to have a public discussion about the audit," she said.

"This has obviously been a huge issue. An entire city is talking about it. Now that we have an opportunity, we are saying, well, you know, hey, just send something in writing and we or may not put it out publicly."

In recent days, The Tennessean also published a story about the audit, saying the results were inconclusive.

This week, the administration told board members that they had contacted the newspaper and convinced editors to back off that headline.

But the fact is, the results are indeed inconclusive.


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NC5 Investigates: Metro Schools