Charter schools criticize audit that claims state is owed $860,000

The Ohio auditor’s office on Thursday again issued findings for recovery involving Dayton’s Richard Allen Academy charter schools, saying their management company, Institute of Management and Resources Inc., owes taxpayers nearly $860,000.

“It doesn’t appear that much has changed at the Richard Allen schools,” Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “Once again, mismanagement of public dollars was found. Ohio’s taxpayers and our children deserve better.”

The new findings include $730,000 that auditors said was overpaid to IMR during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. Additionally, there was nearly $130,000 in school funds that either found their way into IMR accounts or were IMR expenses improperly paid by the schools, said Bob Hinkle, chief deputy auditor.

Michelle Thomas, the schools’ superintendent, said in a statement that the claims are false and Yost’s language was “outrageous, insulting and beneath what we should expect from a state government official.”

Auditors issued findings totaling $408,000 in 2012 involving overpayments to IMR in a special audit covering July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2010. Following an exit interview with auditors, IMR and school officials amended their contract to address auditors’ concerns. But in the new audit, auditors said IMR was still overpaid for the 2010-2011 school year and the state attorney general’s office found that the parties’ efforts to make the amendments retroactive was not permissible.

Hinkle said the relationship between the schools and IMR has been improperly blurred. “There should be better controls that don’t allow money to go into the wrong bank account or the schools to pay the managment company’s expenses.”

In an interview, Thomas said auditors were retaliating because IMR, 368 S. Patterson Blvd., filed a lawsuit in October against Yost, Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Richard Allen schools. The lawsuit, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, asks for an injunction against collection of the $408,000 in findings and a court determination that auditors misinterpreted the intent of the management contract.

“Of course, they’re angry that we filed the lawsuit,” Thomas said. “It’s not mismanagement of funds. We haven’t mismanaged anything.”

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