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Pinellas board members discuss hiring an internal auditor



LARGO -- Pinellas County school board members are researching whether to hire an internal auditor to keep watch over how effectively and efficiently the district is operating -- and they plan to get stakeholder input in the process.

Robin Wikle, Carol Cook and Linda Lerner met together Tuesday to talk about the potential scope of the position, should they create one here.

They agreed to each talk to a couple of other school districts where internal auditors are already in use to find out how their auditors work, what they are paid, who they report to and, most importantly, whether the district has actually realized a cost savings by having someone in that role scouring for efficiency.

"Hopefully, " Cook said, "they have seen savings that far surpass the salary of the auditor. If that's not the trend that we're seeing, we may be on the wrong track."

 Wikle will talk to folks in Orange County. Cook will interview leaders in Brevard and Escambia counties. And Lerner will speak with those in Lee and Palm Beach counties.

A few areas a Pinellas school district internal auditor might look into, according to the board members' discussion:

* Is the district administration bloated or effective?

* Are there savings that could be realized in the areas of transportation, payroll and other departments?

* Is outsourcing of maintenance services actually providing a cost savings to the district?

But the board members said they plan to also ask representatives from PTA, SAC, employee unions and the Pinellas Education Foundation for their input on what they feel should be an auditor's priorities.

Before that happens though, the three-member subcommittee will meet again on Aug. 5 to discuss their findings from other counties. Then, they plan to meet with Superintendent Julie Janssen and Chief Financial Officer Fred Matz to update them on their discussion.

As the three board members talked Tuesday morning, it was clear they were aware of the potential strife an internal auditor could bring should, for example, the administration view the person as a threat. At one point, they referenced Hillsborough County, where deteriorating relationships between the county administrator, the county attorney and the county's internal auditor led to a months-long scandal that finally ended with administrator Pat Bean's high-profile firing.

"This is such a critical position that can be so positive and so negative," Lerner said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 2:03pm]


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