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County comptroller critical of school district financial controls


In July, Indian River County School Superintendent Mark Rendell accused Assistant Superintendent of Finances Carter Morrison of wrong-doing, claiming Morrison transferred $2.3 million out of the general fund without his permission, causing cash reserves to fall below the level mandated by the School Board.

Since then, Morrison has been on paid leave while he is being investigated.

But a recent public records request reveals Rendell does not sign off on fund transfers, nor does anyone else – meaning there is no audit trail to prove or disprove that Morrison usurped Rendell’s authority.

That is a major problem, according to School Board advisory audit committee member Jeff Smith, who is clerk of the circuit court and county comptroller.

“Someone should always be approving transfers of any kind within the organization,” Smith told Vero Beach 32963. “This is a fundamental internal control procedure.

“In this situation, the transfer was actually a transfer in tentative budgets amounts,” Smith said. “Any change from the tentative budget to the ‘tentative budget book’ should have, in my opinion, had a documented trail as to why the change was made and approved by someone in a higher management capacity, in this case the superintendent. And yes, in my opinion, the approval should be documented. I initial and date manually anything that I review. Electronic signatures would be fine, but I prefer the manual method.”

In response to a document request, the School District said there were no “responsive documents” showing Rendell’s or any other reviewer’s approval of Morrison’s general fund transfers over $1 million since July 2017, although at least three have taken place.

“It is only good internal control practice and transparency for taxpayers to have such significant transfers and changes in proposed budgets signed off by someone in a higher authority,” Smith said.

The audit committee Smith served on has been disbanded so the three new School Board members coming on after the November election can each appoint their own committee member. Smith said the next audit committee should review board policy on internal controls. “If it were up to me, I would insist that the policy require the secondary approval.”