District may hire outside counsel to investigate the possible waste of $3.9M

Millions of dollars possibly wasted. A second school board member now wants an outside organization to investigate how the School District of Lee County is spending your money.

Last week, we told you Melisa Giovannelli called for the investigation. But then backed down. Now, fellow School District of Lee County Board Member Betsy Vaughn is backing her.

The School District of Lee County continues to face immense pressure from some board members. The million dollar question is whether the district needed to spend $3.9 million on a mold remediation project in 2017.

“If there is no problem, let’s lay this to rest once and for all,” Vaughn said, “because it doesn’t do the school district any good.”

Vaughn fears a lot of the work being outsourced could have been done in house by their employees.

Concerned parent and taxpayer, Carl Ratliff, said if one school board member has concerns that are good enough for him to hire outside counsel.

“It’s hard to police yourself,” Ratliff said. “You’re going to have to have somebody come from the outside that’s not going to have an opinion one way or the other.”

School District of Lee County Board Member Chris Patricca is against an investigation and said none of us are experts at mold remediation. The district will not go on camera, but it said they are outsourcing the work cuts down on liability.

“I’m not even saying it’s hiding,” Vaughn said. “It could be or it could just be shotty bookkeeping…”

The district is already in trouble with the state over a maintenance contract. An audit found the district has not provided enough documentation proving it needs to spend this much money, as well as using the wrong funds.

“If there is a mistake, then let’s get better people,” Vaughn said. “Let’s get people that won’t make these mistakes.”

That is why Ratliff, a businessperson himself, said it is always smarter to do more work yourself.

“They should have their own maintenance crew do as much of the work as possible to avoid outside issue,” Ratliff said. “Keep better tabs on it.”

Auditors from the state will be here next week to do another audit. Chairperson Gwyn Gittens told WINK News she wants to wait until that is done to decide on whether an outside counsel is needed.

The school district has until May 31 to prove to the state the audit is wrong.

Writer:Michael Mora
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