April 26, 2019
Statement from Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Board of Education President Kelly Toppin:
Since the release of the Ohio Auditor’s Office findings, we have become aware that there are questions from some community members about our School Board’s actions. I want to set the record straight. Here are the verifiable facts:
· In late October, 2018, the Board first became aware of possible spending issues and concerns. We immediately commenced an investigation, with the assistance of our approved attorneys.
· Superintendent Tom Bratten was placed on administrative leave on November 20, 2018, very soon after the Board became aware of questions regarding some purchases and expenses from the Superintendent’s office.
· The Board’s concerns were reported by the Board President to appropriate state agencies, including the Ohio Auditor of State, in November 2018.
· As a result of the Board’s investigation, Mr. Bratten was presented with a list of questionable expenses which the Board determined were his personal responsibility. Mr. Bratten promptly paid that money back to the District in December 2018.
· We also learned that a system designed to have checks and balances on the spending of public money failed, in part, because people in positions to monitor and approve the spending did not adequately provide that oversight. New administrative controls have been put in place.
· Superintendent Bratten has agreed to a formal improvement plan, overseen by the Board, that outlines very specific spending guidelines, operational controls, and mandates that he sit down periodically with Board members to show he is meeting those guidelines. Multiple meetings have occurred in accordance with the directives in the improvement plan.
·The Board cooperated fully with the Ohio Auditor of State during their inquiry. All internal findings were provided to the Auditor as part of the investigative process.
The lesson for all of us has been that stricter financial controls needed to be put in place with the appropriate checks and balances – on everyone. Those controls are in place. Our Treasurer is aware that she must monitor expenditures more closely. Our Superintendent is aware of our expectations and is adhering to the improvement plan. And as a Board, we are aware that we must redouble our efforts to serve as watchdogs for taxpayers’ money and how our schools spend it.APRIL 16, 2019
Stow-Munroe Falls Schools Supporter: You may have seen news coverage about the Ohio Auditor’s finding in a matter involving our school district. Here are statements from our Board President and Superintendent on this situation.
Statement of Kelly Toppin, President of the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District Board of Education:
We appreciate the Auditor’s work on the matter and the opportunity we were provided to address the actions that led to this finding. Only recently did the Board learn that former Superintendent Russ Jones instituted an overtime reporting practice for his Administrative Assistant in an improper attempt to raise her compensation while not increasing her base salary. We are disappointed that these irregularities were not brought to our Board’s attention in a more timely manner and are reviewing this situation with the administrative staff to make sure a similar situation does not happen again.
Our Board intends to work with the Auditor’s Office to make sure the District’s general fund is reimbursed for these and other payments. We intend to work with the Superintendent and the Treasurer to make sure all administrative staff understand the District’s policies regarding overtime pay, the correct procedures for tracking overtime worked by anyone employed by the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.
Statement of Tom Bratten, Superintendent of the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District
I am in the process of reimbursing the District’s general fund for all of the expenses the State Auditor’s Office found I had claimed on my expense account without proper supporting documentation. While the amounts involved spanned a period of three years, they were relatively small and claimed in good faith. I now understand that I should have taken further steps to provide accompanying verification for costs, even when those costs were approved by the Board. I appreciate the opportunity to resolve this issue and want to assure the taxpayers of Stow and Munroe Falls that I have redoubled my efforts to be a good steward of the funds they have entrusted to our schools.