The gate receipts from five Dayton Public Schools home football games over the past two years are missing, according to an audit the school district completed this year.
DPS internal auditor Randall Harper says $9,209 in cash ticket sales from four games last fall “has been misplaced,” with no documentation that the deposits were ever picked up. That led Harper to review the 2014 season as well, where he found a fifth missing deposit, bringing the total to $14,312.
Asked if there could be even more money missing, because some documentation was improper or missing, Harper said the audit didn’t test all athletic department receipts, so “that may be a possibility.”
The district is investigating to determine how the money went missing and who was involved, but there were mixed signals from district officials Friday.
Harper said he has “no clue” where the cash went, saying that’s part of the probe led by Jamie Bullens, DPS director of safety and security. Bullens was not in the office Friday, and Harper said police are not involved at this stage.
But school board President Adil Baguirov said two employees have been identified as being “primarily responsible” for the missing money. He did not identify them by name.
“No one has been fired so far. It takes a certain time to complete the full investigation and have all the details,” Baguirov said. “I think the primary responsibility is with the (athletic) department. That would be the first line of defense. Secondary would be the treasurer’s department. And after that, all the way to the school board, because that’s where the buck stops.”
The findings were part of an audit submitted Feb. 29 by Harper, an accountant with Clark Schaefer Hackett who was hired to the newly created position of internal auditor last fall.
Harper’s audit reported six “high-risk” situations in the athletic department, including the missing money, a half-dozen missing ticket reconciliation documents, and a practice of paying game-day student workers without proper documentation, which “could lead to a violation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act.”
Harper also pointed out the need for an operations manual to guide day-to-day athletic department activities. He said Friday that a draft of that document is currently under review.
Dayton Public Schools Director of Athletics Jonas Smith on March 4 announced his resignation, effective this summer, citing a desire “to serve as a district athletic director at the building level,” rather than running the operations of a six-high school district.
Both Smith and Baguirov said the resignation was not tied to Harper’s audit. Baguirov said Smith was not pressured to leave, and Harper said the athletic department was “very cooperative” during the audit.
“This is really unfortunate and I wish it wouldn’t have happened. We’re putting procedures and systems in place so it won’t happen again,” said Smith, who last year served as president of the OHSAA’s board of directors. “As district AD, I don’t handle athletic funds, but I have many employees who do. The procedures and systems that I inherited 11 years ago seemed fine. Nothing ever looked suspicious to me.”
Asked Friday whether the missing money was the fault of the athletics department, treasurer, school board or others, Harper said, “There’s a wide variety of people who could have noticed the missing deposits.”
David Lawrence, DPS chief of school innovation and Smith’s direct supervisor, said no one has been fired, demoted or reprimanded in the case. Lawrence called Harper’s report professional and unbiased, and said it presents an opportunity for DPS to get better, as it considers dozens of applications received for Smith’s AD post.
“There is significant interest in this job,” Lawrence said. “We are looking forward to taking the next chapter in Dayton Public Schools athletics and moving on in a positive direction.”
‘New sheriff in town’
Baguirov said the audit is a validation of the school board’s decision to hire an independent auditor, at a salary of $98,000 per year, reporting directly to the school board.
“We anticipated that we’ll be able to find cases like this, and by intervening early we’ll be able to recover the money, and also send a very strong message that business as usual is not going to happen anymore,” Baguirov said. “Anybody who is a potential fraudster is put on notice that you can’t do this.
“You have a new sheriff in town in the form of the internal auditor.”
Baguirov acknowledged that DPS’ reputation will take a hit among some with this news, but he hoped that more would see internal audits as a positive step.
“Now we’ll be able to prevent it almost completely. We’ll be able to give a 99.9 percent assurance that (fraud) is not happening,” Baguirov said. “We do want to be the best district we can possibly be. That’s not BS. It’s not just something we’re saying.”
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