A probe into the governance and financial practices of Robbinsdale Area Schools found areas to improve but no evidence of wrongdoing by district officials, State Auditor Julie Blaha said Monday.
The auditor’s report presented to school board members Monday night recommended that the district boost its rainy-day fund and strengthen policies or controls in nine of 17 areas examined.
According to the 33-page report, more than half of 389 credit card transactions reviewed “did not include enough information to determine if the purchase met a public purpose.”
The 201 transactions totaled $94,982, and included meals, groceries, airline and event tickets and hotel costs.
The school board violated the state’s open-meeting law on two occasions by improperly holding closed meetings for what turned out to be “professional development days,” the audit found. In addition, the minutes for eight of nine closed meetings reviewed by the auditor’s office were discovered to have been posted after the 30-day publishing requirement.
The seven-month probe came as result of a petition drive about a year ago in which local organizers gathered more than 2,700 signatures seeking a deep look into the district’s finances and management.
The unrest was rooted in objections raised months earlier about the planned reassignment of Armstrong High Principal David Dahl, who was being tapped to help the district reduce disparities in student discipline.
In a written statement Monday night, Blaha offered an upbeat take on the audit.
“The findings of this report should give comfort to the petitioners, as no deep systemic problems were found,” she said.
Petition organizer Kelly Guncheon wasn’t buying it. In addition to the credit card and open-meeting concerns, he said the report was rife with “consistent and ongoing deficiencies in internal controls and reporting by finance staff and auditors.”
Board Chairman David Boone said the district was confident that the audit would find that it acted in the best interest of students, families and taxpayers, and “our confidence was borne out today.” He described the auditor’s recommendations as technical in nature and said that the board would address them.
By law, the cost of the audit — estimated at $69,000 — is to be paid by the district, and that issue plus the circumstances leading to the filing of the petition are to be discussed at a June 22 work session, Boone said.