It's not clear how much Fayette County Public Schools will pay two consultants hired to help the district address issues found in a state audit released Wednesday.
Superintendent Tom Shelton announced Wednesday at a news conference — and in an email to parents — that Kyna Koch, a former associate commissioner at the state department of education and a former commissioner of finance for the city, would assist him in developing a comprehensive action plan. That plan would go to the school board for approval and then be sent to the auditor of public accounts within 60 days.
The special examination released Wednesday requires the district to respond in 60 days. The report found no criminal wrongdoing or missing money, but it showed chronic mismanagement in Kentucky's second-largest school district.
The audit included 10 key findings, including weakness in budget and financial management, administrative and salary increases that outpaced those of other employees, and excessive and unnecessary travel, among other findings. The examination also said that the relationship between financial services director Rodney Jackson and budget director Julane Mullins was "toxic," and that auditors viewed that relationship as the cause of errors.
Shelton also announced that Mike Thompson, an organizational behavior expert, would help mediate problems between the budget and finance departments, a key issue cited in the 64-page report.
But Shelton and district officials could not say Thursday how much it would cost the district to hire the consultants. Contracts have not been signed, even though the consultants' employment was announced Wednesday.
No request for proposals, or RFP — a type of bid process for services — was sent out. An RFP would allow multiple consultants to bid on the project.
Shelton said Thursday that he did not have to solicit other bidders because the district's procurement policy does not require an RFP for professional services.
The procurement policy, which was provided to the Herald-Leader, says the district does not have to go through the bidding process when the district contracts for a licensed professional, such as an attorney or certified public accountant. That does not apply to architects or engineers who provide construction management services.
The district's policy also says the school board has to approve "any proposed contracts for more than $20,000." State law says the board "may require bids for consulting services to be sought." But the superintendent is authorized to approve contracts that don't exceed $20,000, the policy says.
Shelton said he did not know how much Thompson and Koch would be paid but said he did not think the two contracts would exceed $20,000.
Shelton said he was willing to take the contracts for Koch and Thompson to the Fayette County School Board for approval. But he said putting out an RFP or getting board approval would slow the district's response to the audit.
"We'll still be sitting here in 30 to 60 days and will not have taken any action. I'm ready to take action now to fix these things," Shelton said.
He said he did not talk to other consultants before announcing that Koch and Thompson would be hired.
When asked whether those consultants were independent if Shelton was the person who hired them, Shelton said Koch has extensive experience that would help determine whether the district's plan to overhaul the budget and finance system was valid. Shelton said during the Wednesday news conference that Thompson and Koch were highly recommended.
"I couldn't think of anybody better to give me an independent view," he said.
Lisa Deffendall, spokeswoman for Fayette County Public Schools, said Thursday that the money to pay for the consultants would come out of Shelton's budget for special projects. Shelton currently has $750,000 in his budget, which Deffendall said he could use for such things as training, materials, student transportation, special projects at schools or additional staffing. Shelton already has earmarked more than $500,000 of his budget, mostly for staffing at schools.