The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Double dip by former super troubles school board

Auditors say Stroh got per diem and still used a district credit card


School district auditors said the former superintendent took both per diem pay and used a district credit card to pay for a $50 meal while on school business, a serious no-no for public employees.

While the amount of money involved may seem small, $59.61, the auditors from the firm of Altman Rogers and Co., took the matter quite seriously and issued what is known as a finding of significant deficiency during its last gleaning of the district's books and accounting practices last June.

The matter was brought to the attention of the firm by a district employee according to Steve Wadleigh, an accountant with the firm, who appeared telephonically to walk the board of education through the audit during its Nov. 10 meeting.

"Do I think its fraud or abuse?" Wadleigh said, "No."

However, he did state that the double dip was spotted by the accounts payable employee who brought it to the attention of then-superintendent Lisa Stroh. Wadleigh said Stroh, who was never actually mentioned by name during the discussion, reacted badly towards the employee when the discrepancy was pointed out.

"I'm sure your person questioned it and was not satisfied with the response," Wadleigh said when board member asked if the double-dip was a random finding during the audit. "She was concerned about this."

Wadleigh advised the school board that it should keep a close eye on the matter.

Board president Joe Prax asked if the finding triggered a deeper look into district credit card transactions.

Wadleigh said the auditors did pull an additional month's worth of transactions and found only the one questionable charge out of 40 transactions.

The auditor advised the board that these types of situations could be avoided by not allowing administration to have both a credit card and a per diem option.

Jim Nygaard, the district's current superintendent, said in an interview before the meeting that the finding regarding the double dip was a black eye for administration, despite the fact that the finding did not occur under his watch.

Valdez Star photo

Former superintendent Lisa Stroh in happier days.

School district audits do not examine each and every dollar going in and out of the books. Typically, audits examine specific aspects of bookkeeping and samples transactions. The district – and its finance department – got a clean bill of health. The auditor said there were no issues with how the Federal program dollars were spent and accounted for and the district is in full compliance with all regulations.

The district did receive a second ding from the auditors.

Wadleigh said the district cut over $320,000 worth of checks to pay for goods towards the end of the school year to keep the books tidy, but that the checks were then kept in an employee's desk until the district received invoices for the merchandise, a practice not condoned as standard.


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