November 14, 2013 in Washington Voices

Tempers flare during East Valley School Board meeting

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Coming up

Three new members of the East Valley School Board will be sworn in during its next meeting, 6 p.m. Nov. 26 in the district office, 12325 E. Grace Ave.

Tensions in the East Valley School Board came to a head Tuesday, resulting in one board member walking out of the meeting. Another board member felt the superintendent was being accused of financial wrongdoing.

Mike Harris left the meeting after board member Roger Trainor asked Superintendent John Glenewinkel about a financial audit conducted by NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101. Trainor said he contacted ESD 101 and was told that organization didn’t do a full audit.

Glenewinkel said if he gave the impression there was an audit that wasn’t his intention. He said he and ESD 101 had been working closely to look at the district’s cash reserves, which had been dwindling.

Trainor said he was worried about the low fund balance that occurred during summer 2012. He said he was once told the reason for the low fund balance was the district paid all of the bills at once instead of spreading them throughout the school year. He was also told the district had anticipated higher enrollment.

“My big thing is I have never got a direct answer to what happened,” Trainor said Wednesday. After another meeting in which he was told everything was fine, he had more questions, mainly about how the district will prevent this low balance from happening again.

Glenewinkel said during summer 2012, the district spent more of its reserves than it had planned. He said there was no shortfall, but it was a short-term budget crisis. He said the district has recovered since then, after he had asked ESD to come in and consult.

As the meeting became more heated, board member Mitch Jensen said the board received letters from the auditor’s office regarding Trainor’s and Harris’ stipends for visits to the schools. School board members receive a $50 stipend for meetings, not to exceed $4,800 per year.

Harris then alleged Jensen had claimed attending football games for a stipend. Jensen denied this and said Harris was lying. Harris picked up his things and left, saying he didn’t like being called a liar.

“You do not get to call me a liar in a public meeting,” Harris said on Wednesday.

Harris admits he may not have done a very good job of documenting those visits to schools. He may have said “lunch at CCS” when he met with the principal and conducted business.

“That’s my fault,” he said, but he maintains those visits were legitimate.

Harris countered that he saw an expense report from Jensen in which he claimed attendance at a football game on his report.

Jensen said Wednesday he has never claimed a football game on a stipend report. He did, however, ask when he first joined the board if football games were eligible for stipend payment.

“I never did (claim them),” Jensen said. “I asked the question.”

Jensen said he felt he needed to defend the superintendent Tuesday.

“I think they accused John of wrongdoing,” Jensen said Wednesday. “The state comes in and audits us every year.”

Jensen said there isn’t money missing from the district.

“It was an accounting error,” Jensen said. “Money didn’t walk out the back door.”

Superintendent Mike Dunn of ESD 101 said his office – at East Valley’s request – looked at the district’s cash reserve balance and expenses. ESD 101 made recommendations to the district, which made adjustments.

“The level of concern is not nearly as significant as it was,” Dunn said Wednesday.

Director of Operations Brian Aiken said the district is audited by the state every year.

Aiken said Wednesday the district started the 2012-13 school year with a fund balance of $780,301.36. By the end of August 2013, the balance was $942,214.09.

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