What caused that silent pause at the school board meeting? New members making noise.

Fayette County School Board member Will Nash.
Fayette County School Board member Will Nash. Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

The two new Fayette school board members in the house are putting “a fresh set of eyes” on what might seen like routine matters.

That’s why there was a silent pause at Monday’s monthly board meeting instead of a procedural vote on renewing the contract for a longtime external auditor of financial accounts.

Here’s what happened:

A Fayette school board policy essentially says the district’s outside financial auditor is to be rebid at a minimum every five years. The district has had the same firm since 2006.

That is prompting the board’s two newest members, Will Nash and Tyler Murphy, to raise questions about a proposal to renew the contract of Strothman and Associates for another year at a cost of $94,000 without seeking additional bids.

They are asking if the board is appropriately rotating auditing firms, but they did not raise questions about the company’s performance.

Superintendent Manny Caulk said at a January 14 planning meeting that he was pleased with the quality of work. District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall and board member Daryl Love were among those who assured Murphy that the district had ample external checks and balances and transparency.

Still, the board tabled the issue on Monday for more discussion.

“I wanted to make sure we were in compliance with that policy,” Nash told the Herald-Leader. “A fresh set of eyes never hurts anything. A fresh set of eyes is sometimes desirable when it comes to a half billion dollar public agency.”

“It came to my attention that we were not in compliance with board policy,” Nash said Thursday. “ I chose to move the item from the consent agenda for that reason.”

Tyler Murphy
Fayette County School Board member Tyler Murphy. Photo provided

Murphy asked at a recent planning meeting whether the district was appropriately rotating auditing firms to review the district’s finances.

The State Committee for School District Audits requires school districts to provide an annual independent audit of financial records and accounts under the board’s control. The current agreement runs through June 30, 2019 with the option of renewal. The board was being asked to renew the contract through the 2018-2019 fiscal year audit.

“It requires a little more due diligence,” Murphy said Monday in an interview. “It requires a transparent and open discussion to make sure we are being good stewards of the district’s finances and that we are keeping with the spirit of the board policies.”

Nash said he expected that the district would request more proposals for auditing firms. Murphy requested that the board discuss the proposals for bids in February, he said.