The Cherokee Board of Education will decide at its meeting Thursday how to collect $3,600 in unpaid fines School Board member Kelly Marlow owes the district from her October ethics sanction.
While Marlow has yet to pay her fine for violating ethics policies, the long-embattled school board member asked the board to continue discussing financial audit reports — a topic she has continually raised at meetings.
The Cherokee School Board is set to vote at this evening’s meeting on requiring Marlow to arrange a payment plan for her fine by May 1.
Marlow has yet to pay the fine she incurred in October, and School Board Chair Janet Read requested the Thursday vote to require Marlow to set up a payment plan, based on agenda documents for the meeting.
“If a payment plan is not arranged by May 1, the board at its May 1 meeting will be asked to authorize the school board attorney to take further action to collect the fine,” the agenda information on Read’s request stated.
The fines stem from an ethics violation sanction placed on Marlow by her fellow board members during an October hearing. A fine of $3,600 was approved by the board, to help repay taxpayers for the cost of the hearing after Marlow was found guilty of violating two school board ethics policies.
Marlow appealed the sanction to the state, and on April 3, the state Board of Education upheld the Cherokee School Board’s sanction and fine.
Marlow said in a statement April 7 she plans to appeal the state decision to the Cherokee County Superior Court.
As Marlow’s fine looms, she requested the board continue discussion of the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year audits at the meeting Thursday and requested a presentation for the fiscal 2013 audit.
Marlow wrote an email to Read requesting the additional discussion, and said “a full understanding of the problem and a course of action to remedy” should be discussed at the meeting.
“For two consecutive years, the board has been directed by the state to resolve ongoing findings in the independent financial audit reports,” Marlow wrote. “This request is to open the discussion among the members of the Board of Education so that these items will show resolution.”
The “findings,” or issues, with the audits Marlow is referring to have been repeatedly discussed at meetings, work sessions and during independent auditor presentations.
Each audit finding represents an instance in the district’s financial statements needing to be corrected, but the findings do not indicate any fraud or missing money.
School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said the information Marlow wants to further discuss at the meeting Thursday “has been stated at previous school board meetings and strategic work sessions, including independent auditor presentation, as well as in correspondence to the school board and public.”
“Two findings from the school district’s FY 2011 annual independent audit could not be reported as fully resolved until FY 2013, due to the timing of the audit process,” Jacoby said as she reiterated the information discussed at multiple previous events. “Annual independent audits are conducted following the close of a fiscal year during the subsequent year. As a result, findings that are to be corrected at the start of a fiscal year cannot be reported as fully resolved until the following year.”
For example, findings made in an audit conducting during the 2011 fiscal year, which was conducted in the 2012 fiscal year, would not be reported as resolved until the 2013 fiscal year audit, Jacoby explained.
“The independent auditor currently completing the school district’s fiscal year 2013 audit states that the two findings from the fiscal year 2011 audit, which were carried over to the fiscal year 2012 audit as prior year audit findings, have been fully resolved,” Jacoby said. “That will be reflected in his final audit report for fiscal year 2013.”
Marlow also requested a public hearing for the 2013 fiscal year, ending June 30 last year, and for an update on the status of the audit.
Marlow asked the board to schedule a public hearing, including an official agenda item for a review of findings, a review of state correspondence and a question and answer session with the audit representative from the firm Williamson and Co.
Jacoby said Friday the final audit report for fiscal 2013 is expected as soon as this month, explaining the snow storms earlier this year delayed the auditor’s field work.
“After the final audit report is received by the school district, it will be presented by the independent auditor to the school board during a regular meeting as an agenda item,” Jacoby said. “As with all agenda items, school board members have the opportunity for discussion; and members of the public can speak to agenda items, as outlined in the public participation policy.”
The 2013 fiscal year ran from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013. The district is now operating in the FY 2014 budget, which will conclude June 30. The 2015 fiscal year begins the following day.
The school board meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, at the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium at 111 Academy St. in Canton.