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Pinellas school board to discuss hiring an auditor



The Pinellas County school board agreed tonight to discuss hiring its own auditor.

Board member Mary Brown, who raised the issue at the tail-end of today's workshop, said she was prompted by recent events, including deep cuts to the district's budget and an unflattering state audit that lawmakers asked Superintendent Julie Janssen about in Tallahassee last week.

"We need to know how our departments are operating and if we're being efficient and good stewards of money coming into our districts," Brown told The Gradebook after the workshop.

The board only discussed the matter briefly, but agreed to an in-depth discussion at a retreat next month. Past boards have raised the possibility of an auditor, but board chair Janet Clark said the big difference this time is the superintendent's support.

"She's on board," Clark said.

Janssen did not say at the workshop where she stood on the issue.

It's far from clear whether the board wants its own staff auditor or may prefer to hire one from the outside. It's also not clear whether any future auditor would focus on strictly financial issues, or delve into the effectiveness of district programs, or both.

"That's a conversation we need to have," said board member Carol Cook.

Clark, who has criticized the district for being too "top heavy" with administrators, said she sees merit in the board having its own auditor, and one who can tackle a broad range of issues. She pointed to a recent investigation of a district maintenance worker who allegedly steered more than 40 playground mulching jobs - each worth more than $6,000 - to a single contractor.

"I'm not saying we're looking for a cop. It's not a gotcha thing," Clark said. But "I think we could keep somebody busy."

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:47am]


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