Ledyard High School activities fund will undergo forensic audit

Ledyard - The Board of Education has begun the process of conducting a forensic audit of Ledyard High School's Central Activities Fund, voting to pay up to $12,000 to public accounting firm BlumShapiro.

Though the education budget undergoes an annual audit along with the town government budget and the Water Pollution Control Authority - and Superintendent Cathy Patterson said individual schools' central activity accounts are audited "periodically" - this audit would address funds outside of the voter-approved budget.

"I have some concerns about practices and procedures we use to manage the account," Patterson said, later adding, "I'm just asking for a little more detail."

Patterson offered no further comment on the nature of the audit.

A forensic audit would yield a more in-depth review than the state-mandated annual audit, said Gordon Strickland, chairman of the Board of Education's Finance Committee.

"This is beyond the usual," he said.

The Central Activities Fund is where high school clubs, athletic teams, classes and student fundraisers pool their money, said Bill Merrill, the district's business manager. Each school in the district has an account for this purpose, and donations can also be made to them.

The use of a forensic audit implies the investigation of a "narrowly focused problem," said Mike France, chairman of the Town Council's Finance Committee. Of the approximately $60,000 the town spends annually to audit its budgets, about $22,000 is allocated to monitor education spending.

Merrill said the district has not made use of a forensic audit in recent memory.

The Board of Education agenda cited possible legal action "to protect school district's rights" as its reason for closing the discussion to the public in an executive session Feb. 19. Patterson, Ledyard High School Principal Amanda Fagan and Human Resources Administrator Donald Steinhoff were all invited to attend along with the seven members of the board.

But Board of Education Chairman Julia Cronin declined to comment on whether legal action was involved in the discussion.

After coming out of executive session, the board voted unanimously to authorize Patterson to hire BlumShapiro.

"We are constantly looking at practices and procedures for everything that we do," Cronin said. "It's just a matter of taking a closer look at how we do things."

"We felt that (a forensic audit) was the best route to take," she later added.

Fagan declined to comment.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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