Tipp school board divisions rage on, now over allegations to state auditor

Tippecanoe Middle School’s future use is being explored. CONTRIBUTED

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Tippecanoe Middle School’s future use is being explored. CONTRIBUTED

Board president highlighted fellow board members’ actions in ‘fraud risk’ document to state officials.

Answers included in a fraud risk questionnaire filled out by the Tipp City school board president sparked heated discussions in April with two board members saying the comments blindsided them and smeared their names.

The Fraud Risk Assessment Questionnaire, or FRAQ, was requested as part of information the district submitted to state auditors as part of the annual audit.

The FRAQ form obtained from the school district through a public records request states auditors seek information from “entity officials and employees regarding the risk of fraud, as well as known or suspected fraudulent activities.”

The process is not because fraud has been identified or suspected, but is required as part of Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, the FRAQ questionnaire states.

Earlier this year, the school board authorized President Simon Patry to complete the questionnaire after receiving a legal opinion from county prosecutors that the president could provide information requested.

But board members Anne Zakkour and Theresa Dunaway later questioned Patry about his comment on the questionnaire that: “It is my opinion that in the years 2020 and 2021 that three board members engaged the services of the school district’s service providers (its attorneys) on behalf of the school district without board of education authorization. It is my opinion that this caused the school district to incur and pay significant expenses that were not authorized by the board of education.”

Patry wrote on the questionnaire that it was important to note that the concern listed “is based solely on my opinion … and at least three of five board members from 2020-2021 vehemently disagree with my opinion.”

Two of the members — Dunaway and Zakkour — remain on the board and are the subject of a Concerned Citizens legal action filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court, seeking their removal from office. That complaint is pending.

Among the Concerned Citizens allegations is that the two board members allegedly engaged in willful and flagrant exercise of authority and power; refusal or willful neglect to enforce the law and uphold their duties; exceeding the scope of their responsibilities and authority; and gross neglect of duty, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance in office.

Dunaway and Zakkour have denied any wrongdoing.

“You acted unilaterally to pull a fire alarm before the state auditor’s office,” Zakkour said. “There was no discussion of the board there was any type of fraud going on … It is insulting. You don’t speak on behalf of the board.”

Patry said he was specific in his answers in the questionnaire that he was a “minority view,” adding, “I felt it was an issue and was bringing it out.”

His answers led the state auditor’s representative working with the audit to request a series of documents/information. The debate was sparked by that request for documents, including executive session information, attorney-client emails and information about board members “directing, requesting or authorizing that an attorney (from a firm retained by the district) attend an executive session” to discuss complaints by certain board members against Patry and a request for the legal firm’s opinion on school district appointments to the Tipp City Public Library trustees board.

The board April 11 eventually tabled discussion on the requested documents until its April 25 meeting.

Dunaway said, “I think you left very important information off this … How do we amend this?”

Patry said the state auditor representative who requested the additional information following his comments said other board members were welcome to also provide a completed FRAQ.

Following more back and forth April 25, the board voted to approve the filing of a completed fraud questionnaire by any other board members who are interested.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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