A state report issued Thursday outlines several problems with Bettendorf Community School District policies and procedures and notes a potential conflict of interest by high school Principal Jimmy Casas.
The state auditor's office released the report, a re-audit focused on potential conflicts, business relationships and travel policies dating from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, with some topics from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015.
School Board president Pepper Trahan said she agrees with the re-audit's findings and recommendations. Trahan said the board has a responsibility to the Bettendorf taxpayers "to discover what went wrong and how we will prevent this from ever happening again."
State Auditor Mary Mosiman recommended the School Board review policies to ensure they are appropriate, complete, adequately defined and properly followed.
Casas said the re-audit caught him off guard. He said he followed district rules, such as when he purchased T-shirts for his staff, an action that was pre-approved by the business office.
"I've done that for years," he said.
The T-shirts had "R U CONNECTED?" and "#bettpride" on the front, the report stated, and it had "#iaedchat" on the sleeve. The #iaedchat refers to a personal business that Casas is involved in.
Casas also denied taking payments while he did speaking engagements on professional leaves of absence.
Mosiman said Bettendorf's travel policies should be strengthened by including more limits to gratuities and lodging policies.
The district also should ensure the actions and disbursements are a public benefit and in the best interest of the district.
The re-audit affirmed previous legal and audit findings, according to Bettendorf Superintendent Theron Schutte. Additional recommendations made by the state will be addressed promptly, he said.
"Though at the end of the day, we will spend a lot of time to see how to further strengthen protocols and procedures, what is permissible and what isn't permissible," Schutte said.
Schutte recently accepted a position as superintendent of schools in Marshalltown, Iowa. His last day in Bettendorf is June 30.
A member of the state Auditor's Office, Tami Kusian, said there was no reason found to relay Bettendorf's re-audit to a special legal investigation. Kusian also warned against taking the findings against any one individual.
"This is not to say this hasn't happened to others," she said. "People need to know what the ethical boundaries are and then make sure they are followed."
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What the re-audit found:
• Casas worked as a professional speaker outside the district. He frequently traveled for speaking engagements, hired acquaintances for in-service training at the district and received hotel points while traveling on Bettendorf business, using the district's credit card.
• The potential conflict of interest in the re-audit cites Casas, who manages his own website, stating that he co-founded EdCampIowa, co-founded and co-moderates #Iaedchat and co-authored a book, "What Connected Educators Do Differently."
• Casas took professional leave for speaking engagements in 2014, and the district paid travel costs. Casas reported that he was representing Bettendorf at the conferences and did not accept an honorarium.
• The Bettendorf district now has agreed to review this policy, especially to clarify when the district should pay expenses at a training event or the procedure if an employee receives an honorarium or has other costs reimbursed by a third party.
In the re-audit, the district responded with strengthened policies in nine areas: potential conflicts of interest; professional leaves of absence; business relationships between employees and a third party; the EdCamp Conference; food purchases; travel and other food expenses; hotel rewards; taxable items; and oversight.
In each of those categories, an audit brought up the problems. The re-audit addressed the issues, and the Bettendorf district responded with tighter or different controls, according to the report from the state office. The state accepted the district actions.
The re-audit was sought by a district employee and a school board member last year. Maxine McEnany, Bettendorf's director of finance and business services, issued a statement on Thursday: "I brought my concerns to the district auditing firm, the superintendent, to the board finance committee and to the Board of Education as I discovered things happening.
"We had a difference of opinion on the validity of these issues. I did not feel there was any resolution on these matters and they continued to happen so I felt I needed to have the State Auditor address my concerns," she said in the statement.
Trahan said the results do not define the district, overall.
"There are many outstanding, conscientious and hard-working administrators and teachers throughout the district," she said.
Paul Castro, board member for 14 years and a proponent of the re-audit, said he wishes the board could have dealt with the issues identified in the inquiry more quickly.
"But it is what it is," he said.
Trahan said a public meeting on the topic tentatively is set for Tuesday. No details are yet available.