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Published: November 21, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nov. 21, 2022

OLYMPIA – Today the Office of the Washington State Auditor released a regular accountability audit of the Toppenish School District, identifying multiple areas of concern related to the Superintendent and wrestling activities.

Among the findings, auditors determined the District:

  • Lacked adequate oversight of financial disbursements and credit card payments
  • Paid the former Vice Principal $7,100 without a valid contract for wrestling coach duties he did not perform because he was on administrative leave
  • Conducted business with a nonprofit organization that the Superintendent governed, which may have resulted in an unconstitutional lending of credit and a possible conflict of interest

Additionally, auditors determined that the Board of Directors did not ensure the Superintendent’s pay and benefits were handled according to a written contract. Despite no written contract, in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the Superintendent received two pay increases each year totaling $11,600 and almost $15,500, respectively. Auditors also found the District overpaid him for retroactive payments, a vehicle allowance, phone and internet stipend, and vacation leave balance cash-outs.

“The Toppenish School District Board failed to hold the Superintendent accountable for his spending and activities, which is one of the most important duties of every school board,” said State Auditor Pat McCarthy. “These elected community members need to review the District’s checks and balances, starting with their own oversight of school leadership.”

Auditors noted that the Superintendent and District Business Manager serve as governors of a nonprofit organization whose goal is to engage youth. The District paid for activities for the nonprofit, which later reimbursed the District almost $10,000. In addition to not having a contract with the nonprofit, the District may have violated state laws regarding the gifting of public funds and the lending of public credit.

Finally, auditors were unable to determine whether the District spent public funds appropriately related to expenses for trips taken by coaches, student athletes and the Superintendent, as the District lacked documentation related to the cost of flights, lodging and meals. Auditors also noted that the Superintendent approved his own food and beverage expenses.

“As auditors, our role is to review the District’s finances and compliance with relevant laws, and to report our findings to the public,” McCarthy said. “We expect the Board and District officials to follow their responsibilities and work diligently to meet the expectations of their community.”

The audit published today includes detailed recommendations for correcting each finding.

Copies of today’s report and the District’s previous audits can be found on SAO’s website: www.sao.wa.gov. The accountability audit report is here.

Media inquiries: Kathleen Cooper, Director of Communications – Kathleen.Cooper@sao.wa.gov | 360-890-0751

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Categorized in: Announcements

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