Last night, the Paso Robles school district trustees voted to hire Eide Bailly Accounting Firm to conduct a fraud investigation into the dealings of the previous school superintendent, his staff and his school board. The board voted 5-2, with trustees Stephanie Ulibarri and Joan Summers casting the dissenting votes. They argued that the district cannot afford to spend up to $50,000 on the investigation.
Eide Bailly specializes in fraud investigation. County accountant Diane Larsen said, “The more information we can show them, the less expensive the investigation will be.”
Trustee Chris Bausch telling KPRL the board’s move is an important one for the district. If the board finds one count of fraud, then the investigation can be turned over to state officials and they will take it over.
During superintendent Chris Williams four year tenure, the school board approved expenditures which exhausted most of the $7.5 million dollar reserve fund. When superintendent Kathy McNamara left office, the district reserve fund was 10% of the annual operating budget of $75 million dollars. By the end of Williams’ tenure, that had dropped to under 1%, about $750,000.
The state requires districts the size of PRJUSD to maintain a reserve that is at least 3%. Williams and his school board trustees, including Field Gibson and Matt Mclish, also exhausted the $5 million FEMA payment for the damage done to Flamson middle school by the San Simeon earthquake. During those four years, trustee Chris Bausch was Williams’ only harsh critic. That led to a censure by the school board in March of 2017. Last night, the new school board voted 4-3 against rescinding that censure. Trustees Joan Summers, Lance Gannon, Tim Gearhart and Stephanie Ulibarri cited other behavior that prevented them from rescinding the censure imposed two years ago.
Superintendent Curt Dubost reviewed his goals for the school board. He said the district remains “administratively top heavy.” He said, “We have to cut some administration.”