The Hunt County District Attorney’s office has asked the state Attorney General’s office for help in investigating a potential criminal case related to the finances at Greenville ISD, according to a report by the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The move is being made to avoid potential conflicts of interest in the district of 5,200 students, the local DA told the news outlet.
A review of filings and forms from the district shows the district has had fiscal management problems for some time, although the trouble has only recently come to light.
In January, an audit at Greenville ISD questioned the district’s shoddy accounting practices that included overspending of funds and a failure to properly maintain payroll.
The review released at the start of the year was the red flag, conducted annually as part of the district’s obligation to bond holders.
The district then called in a forensic fraud examiner who found that “former GISD officials engaged in cronyism, misappropriation of payroll assets, misconduct to include mismanagement and abuse of position, and theft by gift of taxpayer monies,” according to news reports.
The certified fraud examiner, Columbus A. Alexander III, announced that his investigation found no proof of payment for $54 million out of a $72 million bond approved by voters in May 2014. The district announced $6.4 million in budget deficits over the past two years.
The district has engaged in poor money management for some time, despite winning accolades from the state and other professional groups for its cash handling.
“During the year, the District’s expenses were $1,965,412 more than the $58,054,385 generated in local property taxes and other revenues for governmental activities,” the audit released in January said.
It noted that money was spent in manners other than allowed by the budget, a violation of state law. Fiscal improprieties were initially thought to be procedural rather than potentially criminal — issues stemming from ineptitude.
The district annually releases a report touting the upside of the system.
“We will and maintain fiscal responsibility in all district management decisions,” a recent report said. “We will implement our long range strategic plan to ensure that improvements in school support facilities are developed in a timely, functional, and cost-effective manner. We will maintain existing facilities to support the safety, comfort, and educational well-being of all those in our district.”
The district in 2016 was honored by the Association of School Business Officials for its finance department.
In 2015, Greenville ISD received plaudits from the state Comptroller’s office for financial transparency. Finding out who has run the finances of the district, though, is hardly transparent.
In October, current financial officer Deidra Reeves appeared in board minutes for the first time. There was no mention in minutes of the hiring of Reeves and the departure of Gary Sorrells, the former CFO who presented the financial report to the board for most of 2017.
The district didn’t announced the hire of Reeves until January. Notice of the change does not appear in a review of school board minutes. A call to the district’s spokeswoman, Kelli Tharp, was not returned.
The financial problems in Greenville were also flagged in a report from the state last year, although it was left up to the district to resolve the issues. Much of the trouble found in that assessment related to payroll, from teachers on down. The district was also faulted for providing poor data to the state, resulting in inaccurate funding to the district.
The report also cited “miscoding of proper funding sources, such as grant sources including federal title funds and private grant revenues.”
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].