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Rockwood State Audit: The Findings Revealed

Lack of ample competitiveness was a major theme of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich and a team of investigators' full audit report of Rockwood School District, St. Louis County's largest school district, presented Wednesday evening.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich said Wednesday evening that Rockwood School District overpaid Glenn Construction company more than $1.2 million for change orders for work not contemplated in original contracts.

Several findings need immediate attention, he told the audience of approximately 100 Wednesday night at Lafayette High School in Wildwood. "Many of the findings were not serious or fraud, however. That’s the important factor."

Scheich said his staff collectively spent 2,000 hours on the Rockwood audit. "If we would have charged the district to conduct it, which we did not, it would have cost $70,000. We put our top team on it," he said.

"I wanted to have our best and most experienced professionals on this one, due to Rockwood's size."

He said the audit's intent was not to embarrass anyone, not to settle disputes, or not to get into politics.

Schweich also said the state's auditing team believed Rockwood board of education director Steve Smith represented a conflict of interest pertaining to his votes during board meetings regarding work change orders that benefited his employer, Glenn Construction Company. Smith became the lightning rod of controversy in 2011 over his dual role as board president and project coordinator for the construction company, which had overseen all of the Rockwood district's bond-related construction projects for the previous 14 years. Rockwood board of education directors said they did not agree, given the legal advice they were provided.

Rockwood Board Vice President Matt Doell and President Janet Strate said Wednesday evening they received legal advice from two different external lawyers, who both said Smith's factor was not an issue. In addition, board member Steve Banton also is a lawyer.

Schweich said double construction charges, along with a district bidding process that favors incumbents, such as Glenn Construction, are problematic. He recommended district representatives try to collect overpaid fees.

Some local media sources reported in the past that Rockwood had contracted with Glenn Construction management company for more than $15.6 million in work at the time Smith's conflict of interest was emphasized.

Rockwood Chief Communications Officer Kim Cranston confirmed with Patch on Wednesday that Glenn Construction has received $10,900,839 in management fees from Rockwood projects since 2003.

Glenn Construction employed Smith from 2004 until he left the company last June.

Schweich repeatedly said:  "Competition reduces prices, and competition is required among public school districts."

Out of four audit "grading" options, Rockwood received a "fair" rating for its performance. The other state audit options are excellent, good and poor.

On behalf of fellow Rockwood board directors, Strate expressed appreciation to the state auditor's staff. "As you review Rockwood's responses to the auditor's recommendations, please note the auditor's report affirms some issues of which we were previously aware. In fact, for the past several months we have been working to take corrective steps to address those issues, and we are already in the process of implementing new processes and procedures. Those changes are noted in our response statements," she said.

"Additionally, we have new leadership in the finance and facilities' departments who have begun efforts to improve district operations."

Strate said they realized they have made some mistakes in the past. "We want to apologize to our community for those. We take responsibility for our actions and genuinely regret the problems caused by them. I assure you we are taking steps to improve our practices and procedures to ensure we do not make the same mistakes in the future."

Schweich said a follow-up team will return in 90 days to review the progress Rockwood has made.

RELATED

  • Patch coverage prior to the presentation
  • Rockwood State Audit: Various Reactions

A citizens' summary of the report was provided as following by the Missouri State Auditor's staff.

Program Management Services, Change Orders, and Conflict of Interest:

The district has used the same program management company since the late 1990s. Although proposals are solicited for these services, the district said bidder qualifications and experience are the deciding factors, and fees are not negotiated until after the vendor is selected. It appears the district overpaid this program management company by paying a percentage fee of estimated costs, rather than actual costs, and by paying $1,203,178 in additional fees for change orders for work not contemplated in the original contract. The district often used change orders for substantial project changes or for new projects without soliciting bids and without documenting the reasons for using change orders rather than bidding. While still employed by the program management company, a school board member voted in favor of projects which increased the fees paid to the program management company. Such conflicts of interest violate district policy and state law. In addition, the district does not retain all bid proposals and related documents as required.

Bond Financing:

The district used the same provider to serve as both financial adviser and bond underwriter for several general obligation refunding bond issues, which causes an inherent conflict of interest. The district sold these bonds using negotiated sales, which is allowed by state law, but competitive sales would likely result in lower interest costs for the district.

Procurement Cards:

The district had not adequately analyzed which staff need procurement cards or the number of cards needed, and the master credit card list is not accurate. The district requires users to obtain approval before exceeding transaction or monthly credit limits, but does not maintain documentation of such approvals.

Procurement Procedures:

The district frequently obtains professional services without benefit of a competitive selection process. The district has used the same law firm and auditing firm without soliciting proposals for either since 2005. The district hired two former colleagues of the superintendent as consultants without soliciting proposals, and the district has not solicited bids for vendor fuel card services since September 2007.

Receipting Procedures:

Most departments and/or programs do not issue receipt slips for monies received or issue receipt slips only for cash receipts, and receipt records do not always support the amounts deposited. Most departments make copies of checks and record cash amounts on receipt or deposit logs. Audit staff reviewed several deposits and found several missing copies of checks, making it difficult to account for all monies received. Various departments transmit monies to the finance department and the community education department for further processing and deposit, but employees do not document their acknowledgement of the transmitted monies. Audit staff found one deposit exceeded the transmitted amount by $650 with no explanation.

Capital Assets and Fuel Usage:

The district does not conduct an annual physical inventory of district property, and the district's capital assets procedures and records are not adequate. There were gaps in the numerical sequence of assigned identification numbers, a network server was mislabeled on the asset listing. The district does not document a reconciliation of diesel fuel pumped to fuel invoices, the district receives a monthly report of fuel card purchases but no review or approval is documented, and mileage/usage logs are not maintained for most vehicles.

Superintendent's Contract:

The superintendent's contract for the 2012-2013 school year provides for $150,000 of life insurance, but a $500,000 life insurance policy has been provided since July 1, 2010.

Attendance Reporting Controls:

The district's attendance system allows changes to be made to student attendance records anytime during the current school year, and there is no review by district officials to ensure changes made to current year attendance records are appropriate.

Computer Controls:

The district does not require that computer passwords be periodically changed, and no security controls are in place to shut down computers after a certain period of inactivity or detect or prevent incorrect login attempts.

Jim Nelson February 28, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Julie Brown Patton’s Patch article today about the Missouri state audit of the Rockwood School District is seriously deficient in a number of critical areas. Ms. Patton never reveals her close personal relationship [as she acknowledged to me] with Board President Janet Strate and her articles reflect an obvious bias in favor of whatever the Board chooses to do or say. The state audit cited Board member Steve Smith for conflict of interest and Wednesday evening Ms. Patton contacted Board V.P. Matt Doell and President Strate who said they “received legal advice from two different external lawyers who both said Smith’s factor was not an issue”. Next questions apparently not asked: Ms. Strate, who were the lawyers? Exactly what did you ask of these external lawyers? Did you get a written opinion? If so, where is it? Among many other points not covered in Ms. Patton’s article is the $500,000 life insurance policy purchased for Superintendent Borchers when his contract called for a $150,000 policy. Why did Ms. Patton not contact anyone from the Stakeholders group who have actively challenged the Board on a host of issues? The answer to all this is that Ms. Patton herself has a serious conflict of interest. This Board could not withstand challenging questioning under oath.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) February 28, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Jim Nelson, three Patch articles already have been written and published about this topic since last night. Last night's article, live from the presentation, provided a link to the full report, once it was available. All readers could have read about the insurance policy matter right away. I only received the lengthy report last night, along with every one else. There have only been a few hours since that time to try to verify and process it all. Have you read the other article published this morning about reactions to the audit? Due to online spacing/formats, those two articles were separate, but together do share a balanced portrayal of various viewpoints. We already are working on a fourth article regarding the state's recommendations wherein items, such as the specifics infractions, are outlined. Before making misleading comments, please read all relevant articles.
Jim Nelson February 28, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Ms. Patton the follow up article was better but the questions remain. When are you going to ask your good friend some tough questions and when are you going to acknowledge a conflict of interest that any basic journalism class would recognize?
Robert George February 28, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Steve Smith is an honorable person of high moral standing. He disclosed his employment with Glenn Construction when he ran for the Board and asked the Missouri School Boards Association for a legal ruling regarding his voting. Mr. Smith has not profited in any way from this matter and in fact has suffered financially as a result of severing his employment with Glenn Construction. It is fair to criticize the process by which Rockwood chose Glenn to manage construction policies and fair to critize the way contracts were written. It is not fair to criticize Mr. Smith for his willingness to serve on the Rockwood Board for no pay. It should also be noted that Mr. Smith voted last Sunday to not extend the Superintendent's contract. It is easy for some to express opinions in this medium without taking the time to have a face-to-face conversation with Mr. Smith.
Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions March 01, 2013 at 05:35 AM
Francis: First, the public and numerous district employees really didn't know who Glenn Construction was and their role in the district. When one drove by a construction site there were no Glenn Trailers. Second, Mr. Smith ONLY disclosed his employment with Glenn Construction on his candidate filing application. It was not disclosed in his candidate profile, media questionnaires or his Directorship Profile on the district website. If you have a doubt, just ask the editor of this publication and she will attest to these facts, as she interviewed and wrote an article about his candidacy when he ran for the Board in 2011 and did not know who he worked for until months later. When he was selected to fill a vacancy on the board; the board directors violated state law and their own policies when selecting him; and than when they did not pull his application for candidacy. Finally, RS for RS spokesperson Eileen Tyrrell has had numerous face to face and phone conversation with Mr. Smith. In July 2011 when we found the Glenn Construction Agreement and made it public to the Rockwood community, we FIRST called Mr Smith and expressed out shock and disappointment and let him know we were making our findings public.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) March 01, 2013 at 01:43 PM
The "two lawyers" that counseled Rockwood Board of Education directors were attorneys with the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA). It's in the audit report, page 11. The report indicates Rockwood Board of Secretary (Kathy Chitwood) asked for guidance regarding a new board member who was employed by the bond issue general contractor and whether he "should abstain from all agenda items pertaining to the Bond Issue monies." The report indicates two MSBA attorneys responded in writing that there was no legal conflict of interest in such votes and it was not necessary to abstain.
Jim Nelson March 01, 2013 at 02:46 PM
The appearance of conflict is so obvious in Smith's case that the failure of the Board to recognize it is nothing less than abdication of their fiduciary obligation. Here is what the auditor said in the report "1.3 While Board member Smith did abstain on votes approving payments to Glenn Construction Company, he had already voted to approve change orders/additional projects with various construction companies performing work on projects funded with bond issue monies. These approvals resulted in additional fees paid to Glenn Construction Company".
Pam Lieber March 01, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Julie, is it true that our school board is going to conduct their "own" investigation of the Missouri State Auditor?? Any information that you could provide on this would be great. Thanks!
Robert George March 01, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Let us not lose sight that there were several Boards over the past several years that approved business with Bond Issues and Glen Construction, not just the seven serving on the Board now and many without Steve Smith on the Board. There were also 2 other CFOs (David Glaser and Shirley Broze) who oversaw the financial pieces and advised the Boards; and there were other Superintendents (Oldani, Mathews, Larson and now Borchers). It is important the district address the causes of the concerns that developed over time. It is easy to demonize one or more individuals but difficult to identify the real problem. Yes, there is currently a leadership issue in Rockwood and that needs to change - the sooner the better, but let's not bring down the quality work being done with our kids and our property values at the same time.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) March 01, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Pam, "There is no validity to this rumor," says Kim Cranston, Rockwood Chief Communications Officer.
Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions March 02, 2013 at 04:08 AM
@ Francis Let us not forget about Dennis Griffith, Associate Superintendent over Facilities who is retiring in June. And David Blickenstaff former Director of Facilities who retired in early January.
Robert George March 02, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Jim Glenn did not write the contracts, did not approve the contracts or change orders nor detail the work to be done in each Bond Issue - all these were done by Rockwood administrators and voted upon by the Board of Education. Jim Glenn Construction was brought into Rockwood back when John Oldani was Superintendent and David Glaser was CFO - because the previous work was poorly done and resulted in an audit of the State Auditor Margaret Kelly - whose criticism of Rockwood was far, far worse than the most recent. Jim Glenn has done quality work and nothing illegal. If there are errors in judgment they lie with the administrators, Superintendent and Board(s), not Jim Glenn.
jrose August 07, 2013 at 04:56 PM
The Board must think constituents are stupid. This is quite simple really. Steve Smith is on Board and Glenn Construction gets all the work. Conflict of interest. Inappropriate. Glenn gets all the work. Inappropriate. Just because there are different administrations tolerating these practices make it any less inappropriate. Doesn't matter what the "legal advice" excuse is. Board members know fiduciary responsibilities and what is appropriate or not. Anyone knowledgable about the construction business will tell you that no one gets away with change orders like they did. Not blaming Glenn. They played according to the rules of the game that the Board laid out for them. I like how the Board said they've put new financial and operational people in place. The problem is with the Board. Period. Need total cleaning of house at the Board level.

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