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School Criticized In State’s Audit

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The New York State Comptroller’s Office released their audit of the Sag Harbor School District, from July 2006 to November 2007, this week and found three areas in need of corrective action.
The audit states “the district did not have adequate controls in place to disclose possible interests in contracts with district employees, the district’s business official had administrative access rights to the computerized financial system, and the board of education did not solicit a request for proposals for independent auditing services.”
Superintended Dr. John Gratto called the audit “very innocuous.”
“There certainly was no malfeasance of any kind, and the problems that existed at the time of the audit have been corrected long ago,” he said on Wednesday.
The first area of concern the audit addressed was the hiring of Bob Schneider as an interim assistant principal at Pierson in 2007. The audit found that Schneider and his wife, Marian Cassata who was also appointed the district’s interim Director of Pupil Personnel Service at one point, owned and operated a company the district once contracted with. According to the audit, neither Cassata nor Schneider properly disclosed their interest in contracts with the districts.
Secondly the audit identified that district business manager Len Bernard had access to the computerized financial system. It states, “With [Bernard’s] broad financial responsibilities he should not have the ability to control access to the system.” Further the audit found that nine users had unlimited ability to override cash disbursements and purchase orders.
Bernard said at a board meeting last month the auditors checked his computer and found he had never even logged into the system.
Thirdly, the audit found that the district failed to issue a request for proposals to hire an independent auditing firm for the 2006-07 school year.
In a statement from board of education president Walter Wilcoxen included in the audit, he addressed the problems.
As for the issue with Schneider, Wilcoxen said “the board should have better disclosed the fact that [Schneider] had had for a number of years provided consulting services to the district in the from of service learning.”
Further Wilcoxen said, “Since the comptroller’s staff made our district aware of this situation, no individual has been hired under similar circumstances.”
Pertaining to the district’s computerized financial system and the access by Bernard, the board president stated, “This was a situation that was already being addressed by the district at the time [of the audit] as the district was in the process of transferring the responsibility for system coordinator from the business official to the technology director and adjusting access rights accordingly.”
Wilcoxen also states that the adjustments were made prior to the comptroller’s office’s audit being completed.
And in response to the independent audit, Wilcoxen pointed out that the auditors being used by the district in the year prior to the audit, “were involved in the Roslyn debacle and the district faced the need to sever ties with the accounting firm.” He said the decision to go forward with issuing a request for proposals was made “in effort to secure auditing services on very short notice.”
Wilcoxen also pointed out that a request for proposal was issued for the past two years for the district’s independent auditing.

Top photo: Superintendent Dr. John Gratto and board president Walter Wilcoxen insist all the problems identified in the state’s audit have already been corrected.