Leaders with Metro Nashville Public Schools learned last night that district finances are still under scrutiny from city auditors. While the results of one investigation were published last week, two other inquiries are still underway, including about district procurement practices.
While the ongoing work came as news during the meeting, some board members were already unhappy with what they’ve been finding in the first document from auditors.
Board member Jill Speering, who asked some of the questions that put auditors in motion in the spring, has now been going line-by-line through the resulting data tables. She pointed out that while travel spending across the district has been under budget, Schools Director Shawn Joseph's personal travel expenses went over.
“In 2018, when there was a freeze on teachers and administrators, the director went over his own travel budget by 283 percent. This reflects poorly about us living within our budget,” Speering said.
She also drilled into some departments that have been consistently over or under budget in recent years.
“I’m wondering,” she said, “why we are not adjusting?”
Another board member, Amy Frogge, zeroed in on a handful of vendor contracts over $100,000 that she said should have come to the board for review.
Administrators said they’d provide written responses to all outstanding questions — a promise that itself bothered Frogge, who said she was “very disappointed” at the possibility the audit wouldn’t be further discussed in an open meeting. (Earlier, there’d been an attempt to funnel all audit-related questions into written form, although Speering and Frogge pressed on with comments.)
Auditors were guarded about their ongoing work, but said they’re responding to hotline complaints about procurement, human resources and other subjects.
“We’re working as diligently as we can to get those out,” said Bill Walker with the auditor’s office.
Joseph said he hadn’t been made aware of those probes. Separately, he was already requesting a review of how the district handled recent sexual harassment cases, a move that he distanced from the work of auditors.
“I was not aware of any human resources audits or anything from Metro government,” he said, urging the board not to delay the sexual harassment review that he sought. “I think this has been a concern from the community and from our employees, and we made a commitment to work with expedience to get it done.”
The board discussed the possibility that such a review could overlap with the work of auditors. But members approved a $100,000 contract for a local law firm to move forward.