A 2nd petition is being circulated requesting the Missouri State Auditor’s office conduct a district-wide audit of the Camdenton R-3 school district. This request follows an incident involving a school food service employee who apparently stole $127,000 over a period of six years from the school’s individual lunch program. According to KRMS news reporter Janet Dabbs, who first broke the story earlier this year, Nancy Steward, a parent of several alumni of Camdenton, issued the request for the first petition in November which only requested an audit of the food program. Just recently she was informed by the State Auditor’s office that she was using the wrong petition and has since submitted a new one with the expanded audit for a district wide decision. There is no deadline to have the petition submitted but Steward wants to have them finished within 30 days.
The official petition states:
Petition requesting audit to the honorable Thomas A. Schweich, State Auditor of Missouri:
- We the undersigned, hereby request an audit of the Camdenton R-III School District as provided by Section 29.230, RSMo. Based on information provided by the States Auditor’s Office, the cost of an audit for political subdivisions of a similar size and function has ranged from $65,000 to $100,000. We understand that the political subdivision named above shall pay the actual cost of the audit even if the cost exceeds the estimate as stated. We also understand that this form, when filed with the State Auditor, becomes PUBLIC RECORD which will be open for public inspection.
- Note: The State Auditor will conduct a performance audit and will determine the scope of the audit. The audit will cover the current period and most recently completed fiscal year at the time the petition signatures are verified and the audit is scheduled.
- Each signer says: I have personally signed this petition and I am a registered voter of the State of Missouri and the political subdivision named above.
Under Missouri law, the State Auditor`s office may be called on to audit any political subdivision of the state (such as cities, school districts, water districts) if enough qualified voters of that political subdivision request the auditor to conduct an audit. Section 29.230.2 RSMo, outlines the petition process.
State law specifies the political subdivision audited through the petition process bears the actual cost of the audit. The number of signatures that must be obtained to start a petition audit are determined by a “sliding scale” based on the number of votes cast during the most recent gubernatorial election. The State Auditor’s Office will require 1547 signatures for the Camdenton R-III school district audit petition to become ‘active’. Currently Steward has approximately 200 signatures.
When the State Auditor`s office receives a signed petition, it is forwarded to the local election authority to determine if sufficient signatures are valid. After the local election authority validates the minimum number of signatures required, and returns the petition to the State Auditor`s office, the petition is considered `active` and is scheduled. It may be a length of time, however, before audit staff begin the fieldwork portion of the audit.
At the conclusion of some petition audits, a public meeting is held in the political subdivision. When a public meeting is not held, a press release will be issued. News releases and audit reports are available on the Missouri State Auditor website at www.auditor.mo.gov.
If information is uncovered that indicates ongoing criminal activity or fraud, the State Auditor`s office informs the proper authorities as soon as possible. In less serious cases, the audit report will note the problem and recommend the proper authorities correct the situation.
The audit follow-up program, Auditor`s Follow-Up Team to Effect Recommendations, AFTER, monitors the implementation of audit recommendations. As part of the audit process, auditors identify serious audit findings and make recommendations for improvement. Auditors work with audited entities to establish a reasonable timeline for implementation of the recommendations, and AFTER follows-up with the audited entities to ensure they are adhering to the agreed-upon timeline. The State Auditor`s office will publish an annual status report to track implementation of recommendations. However, the State Auditor`s office cannot force an entity to implement the recommendations.
Steward said because the investigation conducted by the Camdenton Police Department only went back six years, and according to Camdenton Police Chief Laura Wright, Franklin has been employed by the district for fourteen years, there was most likely a lot more money stolen than what they are charging her with. Federal regulations require school districts keep food serve records for three years, plus the current school year. The Camdenton school district had kept an additional two years of records. All six years of records were turned over to the police department as part of the investigation.
“The state auditor’s office can only audit what they are given, but they will go through with a different mentality than the district’s normal auditing firm,” Steward added. “They will find out if there are any more unsafe practices district-wide, and they will ensure that all monies are accounted for. In a regular audit such as the one reported in October by Graves and Associates they didn’t dig deep because there were no red flags. It had been going on for so long, and no one noticed, because she was her own checks and balances, so there were no changes in her reporting. It was only after a new employee started working in her department that someone caught the inconsistencies. We need checks and balances. These are our kids and we have an obligation to protect them.”
“The school district needs to get past covering up and they need to understand an audit is beneficial to them. It will tell them where places are at risk, and if they had any other employee that has broken their trust. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen to our kids again.”
The police department’s investigation revealed that Franklin, as part of her duties as a cashier for the Food Service Department at the Camdenton High School, was manipulating the data and records’ she submitted to the accounting office to conceal her thefts from the daily cash deposits.
According to the official police press release, officers believe that the student’s individual accounts were not affected by the thefts, contrary to what multiple parents and students have reported. The official press release states that all students received the meals they paid for, and the thefts occurred using the cash money that was to be deposited into the Food Service Department’s budget.
According to Steward, there is no deadline on when the signatures have to be submitted, but she has a goal of having them collected within 30 days. To sign the petition call or text Steward at 573 280 2579, or you can contact her via email at [email protected].
Janet Dabbs, KRMS News