Dr. Charles Weis, the county’s superintendent of schools, is shortening the leash on the East Side Union High School District following a damning report that was released last month.
Weis attended the board’s meeting last night and grilled the members, demanding that they hire an internal auditor immediately—before he pulls their power over their own $200-million-plus budget.
“The district now has two studies and one extraordinary audit, over a nearly 10 year period, and all three have reveled a weakness in your internal control structure,” he said. “I just want to pause on that. Same problem, for over a decade.”
Both those studies called for a reform of board policies and stronger internal controls. The most recent audit, which took six months to complete and focused on the practices of now-former superintendent Bob Nuñez, was made public on Jan. 29. It cleared Nuñez, but uncovered significant lapses in policy by the school board itself. It made 21 recommendations for improvement.
Weis told the board their vague responses to those recommendations at a recent emergency board meeting were inadequate. He said he expected a complete plan of action by March 5.
“I read your initial response, and it just said ‘well, we’ll look at it.’ I need to tell you here today that just looking at it is not going to be sufficient.”
In response, trustee (and city council candidate) J. Manuel Herrera said he believed restoring the internal audit position was unnecessary because the board already had its own Audit Committee. He said that committee, chaired by trustee Frank Biehl and vice-chaired by trustee Lan Nguyen, had met just last Saturday.
“What you’re doing now is obviously not working,” Weis replied, adding that auditing is a full-time job. “I don’t think a committee, especially an advisory committee, will meet that standard.”
Biehl pointed out that the recent report did not specifically call for an internal auditor position and that he believed the committee could handle the job.
His voice raised, Weis reminded Biehl that the recent report found otherwise. “whatever you recommend,” he said, “it’s got to be a change in procedure if you’re going to meet the standards that have been established.”
Board Clerk Patricia Martinez-Roach then said that she agreed with Weis, that they needed to install an internal auditor.
“I hear you loud and clear, ” she said. “I’m actually losing sleep over this.”
Martinez-Roach made a motion to direct the Interim Superintendent Dan Moser to draw up a job description for the immediate restoration of the internal auditor position. Beihl then changed his tune and agreed that the position is necessary. However, he said “budget considerations” needed to be taken into account.
Board president Eddie Garcia seconded Martinez-Roach’s motion. “I think Dr. Weis made it very clear what he thought,” Garcia said. “We need to get this past us. Let’s settle all this right now.”
Herrera then said he was surprised how quickly the board was pushing and that the audit committee idea deserved more deliberation. “I was hoping we would be a little more thoughtful,” he said.
The trustees then unanimously passed Martinez-Roach’s motion, with Herrera abstaining.
Ousted superintendent Bob Nuñez spoke briefly at the meeting, which was attended by about 60 people.
Interestingly, an agenda item calling for discussion of the expiring contract for Alan Garofalo, associate superintendent of facilities, was pulled from the meeting. Garofalo was the main target of Nuñez’s speech at a Feb. 8 emergency board meeting, where Nunez accused him of favoritism in giving out school building contracts.