Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gloucester, VA School Board, Animal Control and Buying It Used Connections?

In the above picture we see a vehicle that is being used by a school board employee and it's parked at McDonald's in the Courthouse area.

License plate number so that there are no questions as to who has it.  This was early Tuesday morning, April 28th, 2014.   The employee, a female, parked at McDonald's and went inside.

About 25 minutes after seeing this same vehicle and employee at McDonald's, we see her car as we are driving down to the other end of the county.  We made a U-turn to see if in fact this was the same car.  It was.  This woman was in Buying It Used.  We do not know if she was just stopping to do some personal shopping or if she may have been conducting county business.

  Why this question is important.  Buying It Used, when they opened up, looked a lot like a Gloucester County school board outlet store.  We have found and reported with photo evidence that Buying It Used has sold Gloucester County School Board property in the past.  Why is this an issue?  Buying It Used is owned by a county employee who works for Animal Control here in Gloucester.  Some facts and issues that come to mind.  County excess and old goods must be either dis-guarded properly or sold via auction.  When goods are sold via auction, Gloucester County employees and their families are prohibited from purchasing any goods through auctions.  Most of the items found at Buying It Used come from local auctions but are not to say that they are from local government auctions.

  With the fact that Buying It Used has sold Gloucester County school board property in the past, it makes us wonder if the woman pictured above may have been doing a pickup for school board items that may have been sold through that store?  It's a question that we do not have an answer for and can only ask about.  Either way, what was she doing there that could possibly be considered school board business for either being at McDonald's or Buying It Used?

  And all of this on top of our last report showing all of the other county vehicles in places that are not being used for county purposes.
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gloucester, VA Local Government Employees Shot

We shot these pictures in early morning within several hours over two days.  Monday and Tuesday.  And these are the ones we were able to photograph.  There were others we did not get our cameras out in time to catch.  (No one was shot with a gun and no one was hurt during our own shooting with cameras).  What these pictures show and other concerns we saw and will be showing with the video clip below is that Gloucester County employees use government vehicles for all kinds of personal use all the time for every conceivable issue.

  Why should anyone care?  For one, it's against the Gloucester County employee rules handbook.  It's also against state law.  It's also at a cost to all taxpayers in Gloucester.  Since it's a violation of the employee code of conduct and the employees are blatantly ignoring such, how can the county expect to enforce any other policies if they can not even enforce something this simple?  If the county has no issues with any of these actions, then the county should change the policy and the state law to boot.

  Now we will say that Brenda Garton; Gloucester County administrator,  has done a pretty decent job of getting the word out to the one side of the county employees although there are still a few rouges we catch here and there.  But overall, this side of the county government has rained in a number of abuses.   What we are finding most of these days are School Board employees abusing this system and rather extensively.  We are finding these employees shopping, eating inside of the fast food restaurants, pulling off to the side after getting food inside and eating in parking lots, banking and more, on your tax dollars.  According to a past email from The Kiser, he sees nothing wrong with your money being wasted.

The above video clip is a little tour of some of the photos in our collection over the past year that gives an idea of how pervasive the issue is.  This was not even half of our collection and we did not use any photos more than once.  A comment made recently from one Board of Supervisor member said he didn't care if someone stopped for coffee.  The expression given back was to then change the county code.  We think that employees who do not have access to a county vehicle should get special considerations because they do not have access to these same privileges and it would seem a violation to not give them such consideration since the same has to be done when it comes to breaks and health care insurance and pay grades.  That is only fair now isn't it?
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Gloucester, VA Potential Issues With School Activity Funds

Certain allegations of misappropriation and theft of school activities funds prompted me to take a look at how activities funds are managed and accounted for within Gloucester County Public Schools.  Accounting information and annual audit reports for school years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 were reviewed; Reconciliation Reports for school years 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, and 2012-2013 were reviewed and a question and answer meeting between Ms. Wright, Howard Mowery and I was conducted.  Study findings are as follows:
The “Report of Audit Findings and Recommendations” section of all four yearly activities funds audit reports contained the following recommendation statement:
“Due to the nature of school activity funds, there is an inherent risk of misappropriation of assets associated with the lack of segregation of duties over the accounts, records, and financial reporting. Although this risk exists, the costs of segregating these duties would likely outweigh the benefits. We recommend those charged with governance and management implement review procedures and other monitoring activities to mitigate the risks associated with the lack of segregation of duties.”
This statement seems to suggest there has been a continuing history of non-existent review procedures and monitoring activities.  The audit reports reflect that GCPS handles over 1.5 million dollars annually; making the above yearly statement unacceptable by any stretch of imagination.  The following is from the Virginia Administrative Code:
8VAC20-240-40. Audits; monthly and annual reports.
School activity funds (internal accounts) shall be audited at least once a year by a duly qualified accountant or accounting firm approved by the local school board and a copy of the audit report shall be filed in the office of the division superintendent. Monthly reports of such funds shall be prepared and filed in the principal's office, and annual reports shall be filed in the office of the principal or division superintendent. The cost of such an audit is a proper charge against the school operating fund or school activity funds.
Statutory Authority
§§ 22.1-16 and 22.1-17 of the Code of Virginia.  
Over the four year period studied, the auditor identified various discrepancies in the areas of admission ticket sales, cash money and check turn in requirements, identifying Certificates of Deposit as “public deposits”, signature requirements for checks, activity account sponsor procedures and transfer voucher requirements.  Considering the sample rate used by the auditor; these compiled discrepancies should have prompted a closer look at the management and accountability of activities funds much sooner.
GCPS’ current policies and guidelines pertaining to managing and accounting for activities funds are inadequate and leave numerous doors open for theft and misappropriation.  Policies should be reviewed and updated post-haste to reinforce the accountability and security of the large amount of money involved.
The current accounting system used by GCPS is antiquated, cumbersome, unreliable and should be replaced post-haste.  An attempt to FOIA complete accounting records for a period of five years resulted in a reply that estimated it would take eight hours at $20.00 an hour to compile each year’s information. The cost of obtaining this information prevented obtaining it, therefore it should be understood that a complete study could not be accomplished.  Software upgrades should be performed post-haste to reinforce accountability and security of funds.  There are several software companies that focus on K-12 activity funds management and accounting. The KEVgroup and Active Network/Blue Bear are two such companies.
The current method of managing and accounting for ticket sales is antiquated and unreliable.  Abandoning the roll of tickets that can be purchased by anyone at Wal-Mart method and implementing an online/bar code system will enhance accountability significantly.  Many of these systems can be integrated into management and accounting software. There are several online ticket sales software companies that address K-12 needs.  Blackbaud and ThunderTix are two such companies.
All four year’s activities funds audits were conducted by the same accounting firm.  Using different firms to conduct annual audits may enhance security and accounting.  Procurement of such services should be limited to periods of no greater than two years at a time.
There appears to be no system in place to verify whether or not funds are spent on their intended purpose, especially at GHS.  An example of such are; funds generated from the sale of parking decals.  Below are the numbers for the parking decals at GHS for the four years studied and the school systems response to what the money is used for.
 Left                                                                                         Remaining
From                              Receipts         Disbursement           at End of Year
2008 = 24,292.57……..22,145.00………903.80…………2009 = 45,533.77
2009 = 45,533.77……..21,450.00…….45,992.02……......2010 = 20,991.75
2010 = 20,991.75……..17,112.00………703.20…………2011 = 37,400.55
2011 = 37,400.55……..18,674.00……..7,785.00…..…….2012 = 48,289.55
From Ms. Wright:
The parking fees collected from students are used for parking lot improvements at the high school when accumulated funds are sufficient and to purchase the decals.  The fees are approved by the school board annually.
As you can see; GHS takes in an average of around $20,000 per year from parking decal sales.  The average cost for the decals is around $800.00 per year.  In five years GHS can potentially accumulate as much as $96,000.00 in parking decal revenue.  If the money is only spent on decals and parking lot improvements it should be one jewel of a parking lot.  Why is this money being spent on what should be a capital needs item?
GCPS’ systems for managing and accounting for activities funds appears to be flawed to the point that it would likely take a forensic audit to achieve clarity of what has and is occurring with respect to accountability and management of the funds.  Such an audit should be performed for all years allowed by the Code of Virginia and the Records Retention Act.  Conducting such an audit will determine the validity of activities funds theft and misappropriation claims and will provide a means to recoup some, if not all of what was lost should said claims turn out to be valid.  The potential for theft or misappropriation of funds not only exists, it is probable.
Companies provided as examples in this report are not recommendations or endorsements by me and are only provided for demonstrative purposes.
Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point

Randy (George) Burak, Gloucester School Board Responds;

Mr. Hogge,
Can you provide me when and where the “allegations of misappropriation and theft of school activities funds” occurred? I have been on the board for many years and have never heard of a question or issue associated with these funds  regarding the issues noted. I am not saying things could not be improved, since that is our constant goal to always improve the ways we do things, but to state that there are outstanding allegations associated with inappropriate behavior and misappropriation of funds is a larger step. I am willing to meet with anyone that suspects such activity to discuss and review any evidence that supports such allegations.
Thank You
Randy Burak  

Our Notes:  What Mr Burak clearly fails to realize here is that Mr Hogge never made any allegations.  He was simply following up on allegations that he had heard through the grapevine.  This should seem very clear to anyone having read the Mr Hogge's letter above.  It is very interesting that Mr Burak should take such offense or is it that Mr Burak is trying to cover or hide something?  Only a question.  

Further Response from Mr Burak.

Mr. Hogge,

I asked since these are serious allegations and want to clarify them  and  understand if these allegations have any backing why they were not shared earlier. I am confident that there has not been or is any misappropriation of funds regarding this issue or anywhere else within the school system  which is monitored and validated annually and in the open. Because of the seriousness of these allegations I am surprised that they would be shared with members of the community in lieu of the board so appropriate investigations can be performed in a timely manner.

It is unfortunate that these allegations are made without the opportunity to clarify them or their origin, putting good hard working people who work and support our community and our children each and every day in a negative light for no good reason(s) .

Have a good evening
Randy Burak

Our Notes:  We have to ask, exactly where is it even relevant about the allegations?  If there are issues in the way that a substantial amount of money may be open to theft, then it would seem warranted to try and do something about it right away.  And again, Mr Hogge has made no allegations of any kind.  He clearly stated that based on allegations heard, not something Mr Hogge made, so he was prompted to research school activity funds and how they are presently handled.  Yet Mr Burak is stuck on allegations made and not something that was heard that prompted Mr Hogge to investigate.

  It is issues like this that should make one very concerned with those in charge of our school system.  It is this kind of dangerous thinking or lack thereof that flows downhill and into the classrooms and corrupts the minds of the children and we wonder why little Johnny and Linda can not think for themselves?

  Everyone may find it very interesting to note that Mr Hogge's work is based on information that came from within the county itself through FOIA.
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Governor Mcauliffe Statement on In-State Tuition for Virginia DREAMers

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official ...
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official Seal Websafe Colors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement today following Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement that Virginia law makes students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status, otherwise known as DREAMers, eligible for in-state tuition at Virginia public community colleges and universities:

“As I said throughout my campaign, I believe that Virginia children who were brought here at a young age, grew up here, and have stayed out of trouble, should absolutely have access to the same educational opportunities as everyone else. To grow a 21st Century economy, Virginia needs to be open and welcoming to all who call our Commonwealth home, and I am encouraged to see progress being made in this area during my administration.

“I fully support the Attorney General’s opinion that those students who have been approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals qualify for in-state tuition, and I am committed to ensuring that this becomes a reality during my administration. I will work diligently with SCHEV, VCCS, and college and university presidents to further review this policy and make sure that all Virginia students have access to our quality education system.”
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Governor McAuliffe Announces 110 New Jobs for Charlotte County

Seal of Charlotte County, Virginia
Seal of Charlotte County, Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
~The Corsi Group to invest approximately $5 million in first Virginia manufacturing operation~ 

RICHMOND - Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that The Corsi Group, a leading manufacturer of custom and semi-custom cabinetry, will invest approximately $5 million to establish its first Virginia manufacturing operation in Charlotte County. Virginia successfully competed against Kentucky for the project, which will create 110 new jobs.
Speaking about today’s announcement, Governor McAuliffe said, “Speaking about today’s announcement in Keysville, Governor McAuliffe said, “The addition of more than 100 new jobs is significant news for Charlotte County as it continues to rebound economically.  As The Corsi Group expands its footprint and establishes its first East Coast manufacturing operation in Virginia, we celebrate a new corporate partner in a region that offers a robust, skilled workforce and improved cost competitiveness to the company’s expanding customer base. This new manufacturing operation will complement the existing industry base in Southern Virginia well, and we look forward to the mutual benefit and success for Charlotte County and Corsi.”
“We welcome The Corsi Group to Virginia and Charlotte County,” said Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “Advanced manufacturing is a thriving industry in the Commonwealth, and Corsi joins an impressive roster of manufacturers that have invested more than$13.7 billion in Virginia over the last 10 years. We are confident that the company will benefit from the business friendly environment in Charlotte County and the Southern Virginia region.”

Headquartered in Indianapolis, The Corsi Group was founded in 1973 as a designer and manufacturer of custom cabinetry, and today has completed more than 50,000 projects.

“We are confident in our choice of Charlotte County as our best for quality labor, a business-friendly governmental environment, and area supporting companies with whom we will work,” said Pat Corsi, Founder and Chairman and CEO of The Corsi Group. “We plan to continue our past practices of community involvement to add local value beyond the jobs we will be creating.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with Charlotte County and Virginia’s Growth Alliance to help secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist Charlotte County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $375,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project. The company may be eligible to receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity will provide funding and services to support the company’s training activities.

"The Corsi Group's reputation precedes itself, and Charlotte County and its Industrial Development Authority are extremely appreciative of their decision to locate the company's third U.S. manufacturing facility to our County,” said Dr. Nancy Carwile, Chairman, Charlotte County Board of Supervisors. "We are excited and pleased with the faith they have shown in Charlotte County's workforce and the employment opportunities that Corsi will provide for our citizens. We look forward to working with the company."

"The Virginia Tobacco Commission is extremely proud to welcome the Corsi Group to Charlotte County, and we look forward to the many benefits that Corsi will provide the citizens through good jobs and their community involvement,” said Gary D. Walker, Commissioner, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. “This announcement could not come at a better time for our people and the future of our county."

Charlotte County is one of nine jurisdictions that make-up Virginia’s Growth Alliance, a regional economic development agency.
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