Education

State auditor says findings from Fayette schools audit to be released in about three weeks

Adam Edelen, the state  auditor, said  his office's special examination of Somerset isn't about the city's sale of gasoline to the public.
Adam Edelen, the state auditor, said his office's special examination of Somerset isn't about the city's sale of gasoline to the public. HERALD-LEADER

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen said Thursday that he expects to release findings from a "thorough investigation" of Fayette County Schools in about three weeks.

Edelen said he would not discuss details of the findings, which involved numerous allegations, until the audit was complete. The investigation is in its final stage, he said.

"After a thorough investigation, we are concluding our work and will have findings made available to the public by mid-September," Edelen told the Herald-Leader Thursday. "We hope to have a substantive result for the parents and taxpayers, people who care about the Fayette County Public Schools, here in a few weeks."

Fayette County School officials have not been given findings at this point, Edelen said.

Edelen's office initially investigated allegations from district budget director Julane Mullins that a budget shortfall was caused by irregular accounting — a late journal entry — and was worsened with "numerous acts of mismanagement."

Fayette Superintendent Tom Shelton and the district's finance director, Rodney Jackson, responded strongly to the allegations, saying they did nothing wrong or against district policy. Shelton and Jackson have denied doing anything that has prompted the district's budget cuts, as Mullins alleged.

Shelton also has recommended to the school board that his annual evaluation be delayed until the state auditor completes the investigation.

Mullins made the initial allegations in late May. Edelen said Thursday that the work quickly expanded.

"We had frankly hoped that this wouldn't take as long as it has," he said. "We went in to investigate a pretty specific set of allegations, but upon conducting our investigation, there were numerous allegations that came to the attention of our auditors.

"That has taken time," he said.

Because the allegations have been discussed publicly at school board meetings and elsewhere, "it's important that you address those allegations in a public way," Edelen said.

"What our audit served to do is to clear the air, to provide a road map for going forward. You do that by addressing any shortcomings you identify and holding people to account for their actions."

Edelen said it's important that people "be held to account if there are misdeeds found," and it's important that "they be cleared if there are not."

On Thursday, Shelton told the Herald Leader, "I do not believe there has been any malfeasance or wrong-doing and anticipate that the state auditor's report will bear that out."

Shelton said the release of the audit will be "the first step to healing divisions in our organization and refocusing everyone on our primary mission of ensuring that every student achieves at high levels."

"We appreciate the thoroughness of the work that the state auditor's office has done, and we look forward to receiving the results," Shelton said. "I fully expect the auditors will determine that there are procedures and processes we can improve here in our school district."

Shelton said the district will "embrace continuous improvement, and in that spirit, we will take any and all recommendations and move quickly to make changes where needed."

Edelen said that his investigation had been fair and that "public drama" precipitated his investigation.

He said the auditors were spending a lot of time getting beyond "personality conflicts" and "really getting into the heart of good governance and trying to help foster a culture within the Fayette County Public Schools that's solely focused on excellence in the classroom and good stewardship of the taxpayers' investment."

"We get to the heart of major issues. ... I think it's important to offer recommendations for how to clean up any difficulty we've found," he said. "We do that in every audit. We'll do that in this one."

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