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Audit clears school district of misappropriation allegations

Consultant finds that Burbank Unified didn't misspend voter-approved bond funds.

November 08, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
(File photo )

An outside consultant has determined that the Burbank Unified School District — despite confusing record keeping that had raised accountability questions — accurately reported how it spent roughly $274 million during the past 15 years.

The findings in a report to a joint meeting of the City Council and school board on Tuesday was seen as a key part of building public trust as Burbank Unified officials set the stage for another school bond in 2013.

About $112.5 million in bonds for school improvements were approved by voters in 1997, and roughly $23 million of that was provided by the city, according to the report by Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman. Other money came from the state.

“I certainly, being new to the district, was anxious to see the outcome of the report,” Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa said Monday. “I know there have been a number of changes, not just locally with [the administration] but in the actual accounting. Those of us working in the district know there have been a series of rule changes.”

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The district paid $300,000 to produce the report, but City Council members defended it as a necessary exercise that the school district needed to perform.

Allegations that the district had misspent money were serious, Councilman Dave Golonski said, adding that the information and analysis of reporting methods would help prevent a hamstrung response should similar allegations be made in the future.

The review was commissioned last year after the City Council discussed the school district’s inability to provide specific documents to account for millions of dollars slated for facility upgrades that included city funds.

At the time, Councilman David Gordon said he was approached by someone in the community about alleged misappropriation of funds by the district, and began an inquiry into how money was being spent.

“I am pleased to see that the current superintendent and school board members have taken necessary steps to restore the public's trust and confidence,” Gordon said in an email before the joint meeting Tuesday. ”However, important questions of responsibility for missing records and/or public funds remain unanswered.”

Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman found no fraudulent activity, but noted accounting practices improved in the last few years compared with the late 1990s, said Linda Saddlemire, a partner with the firm.

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