Fear it will compromise Eide Bailly investigation

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees settled in closed session Tuesday, Nov. 12, on three items to have an outside audit firm to investigate, but chose not to make them public.

After meeting behind closed doors for nearly two hours, Superintendent Curt Dubost said it was a tough decision for the board. 

“I can state unequivocally that it was the preference of the board to reveal these but we thought it was dumb not to follow the advice of the firm that we hired,” Dubost said. 

He explained the District’s counsel and representatives of Eide Bailly LLP, a highly respected regional certified public accounting firm, advised Trustees to hold the information back for now, fearing it could compromise their efforts.

“It is the advice of both the audit firm and the attorneys that we not through open session identify exactly what we are going to direct them to do,” Dubost tactfully said. “That only makes sense if you stop and think about it. … I hope you can understand at this point to say it is going to be this, this and this, would be a mistake.”

Advertisements

When voting 5-2 in September to use Eide Bailly, Trustees had said that the process would be done in the open.

“In full transparency, we went back and forth on this,” said Board President Joel Peterson. “This was fairly late developing news from the attorneys — this morning actually. We followed their lead.”

Although the final three were not made public, the District did make available a list of 18 possible Eide Bailly investigation items:

  • War Memorial Stadium scoreboard
  • Culinary Arts Academy
  • FEMA
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Measure M language
  • Aquatics Complex pool purchase
  • Hiring practices — cronyism/nepotism
  • Football broadcast process
  • Facilities Master Plan priorities
  • Measure M tranches
  • Missing synthetic turf at War Memorial
  • E-rate bids
  • Severance pay — Chris Williams (former superintendent)
  • Kickbacks from vendors
  • Donations — cash/in-kind
  • Spending for student success — unauthorized shift in allocations
  • ADA miscalculations
  • SLO County Office of Education oversight
  • Reimbursements for expenditures

The possible list came from recommendations received from District staff, community members and Trustees, Dubost said.

The Paso Robles school board agreed to spend up to $50,000 to have an outside non-audit investigation into the District’s finances and alleged fraud during Williams’ nearly five years as superintendent.

Since the District’s reserved dropped to .96 percent in September of 2018, people have been asking for answers to what happened during Williams’ tenure.

Williams abruptly resigned in early December of 2018.

School districts the size of Paso Robles are required to have a 3% reserve. The reserves have since been raised to 2.68%.

Over the past nine months the District, with Trustees’ approval, cut $2.1 million from the 2019-20 budget and still need to cut $800,000 from the 2020-21 budget.

District staff will now pass along the three items to Eide Bailly. It is not known how long the examination will take.

Trustee Chris Bausch said the public will know at some point specifically what the firm was investigating but doing so now could compromise the investigation.

“They will become available at some point,” Bausch said. “The items that were selected were agreed upon by the board. It was some give and take on those but that is what the board does, go back and forth. We build consensus and I am satisfied that we reached consensus earlier this evening.”

In other matters, Trustees approved a one-year contract with Paso Robles Public Educators and partial funding, $75,802, for a second school resource officer.