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State audit gives high marks to WDE under Hill's tenure; Mead sees 'serious concerns'

Mar 27, 2014 - From staff reports

A highly anticipated audit of federal spending by Wyoming government agencies was released Wednesday, with the Wyoming Department of Education receiving high marks for fiscal compliance and adherence to procedures.

In a prepared statement, Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said she is pleased with the results of the federal audit of state agencies.

Opponents of Hill who supported the unconstitutional Senate File 104 that stripped Hill of her authority as elected state superintendent claimed the audit would uncover major infractions that supported their swift, drastic removal of Hill from office in January of 2012.

No evidence of any serious infraction was uncovered.

The audit can be found at the Wyoming State Auditors website at: http://sao.state.wy.us/Auditor/Publications/Audit/Stwyaudt2013.pdf

The Cheyenne-based auditing firm of McGee, Hearne and Paix stated in the 63-page audit summary that "the state complied, in all material respects, with the types of compliance requirements referred to above that could have a direct and material effect on each of its major federal programs for the year ended June 30, 2013."

The audit covered fiscal 2012-13, with Hill managing the WDE for the first seven months and, following the passage for Senate File 104 removing Hill from power, interim appointed director Jim Rose managing for the final five months until July 1, 2013.

The WDE budget related to federal expenditures during this period totaled $118 million. The auditors found two questioned costs in their review. The first was a federal allocation of $26,335 that was not spent by division director for career and technical education Teri Wigert and was subsequently returned. This appeared to have occurred during Rose's tenure as director.

The second notation was a salary of $46,800 that was properly spent but drawn from the wrong account.

Other agencies

A discrepancy of $46,000 out of a budget of $118,000,000 represents an accuracy in accounting rate of 99.96 percent over the 12-month period of the audit.

While the concentration of the governor's office and Wyoming Legislature has been focused on Hill's tenure at the WDE, other state agencies were discovered to have serious discrepancies in the audit process.

Appendix I of the audit report listed Department of Family Services, Workforce Services and Department of Environmental Quality in its role of overseeing the usage of Abandoned Mine Land revenue as areas of concern.

In an unusual move, the audit contained third-party, anecdotal comments by WDE employee Diane Bailey and appointed director Richard Crandall citing concerns to the auditors that took place outside the scope of the audit. No anecdotal comments were included in any other agency's audit summary.

Bailey resigned from the WDE shortly after Hill's arrival, worked for the Wyoming School Facilities Department, then returned to the WDE after Hill was removed from office by SF104, which since has been struck down by the Wyoming Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Bailey and Crandall provided information to the auditors that, in their opinion, was problematic.

Earlier, Bailey had testified before a select legislative committee that federal dollars had been misspent in operating the now-defunct Laramie office of the WDE. After testifying under oath before the committee, Bailey recanted her testimony 24 hours later, acknowledging that, in fact, there was no misuse of funds.

The claims made by Bailey and Crandall were included in yet another study of Hill's office in the "McPherson report" given to the legislature last year. While the reports continue to cited anecdotally, as of yet no WDE employee has reported these concerns officially or attempted to mitigate the claims.

The audit process was unique in that Hill and her deputies were not allowed to provide information to the auditors, reportedly by order of Gov. Matt Mead. In most audits, the parties being audited provide data directly to the auditors when it is requested.

Gov. Mead made a public statement that he has "serious concerns" with the results of the WDE but made no comments on the reports concerning DFA, DEQ, or Health and Workforce Development, that his office also supervises under the executive branch of government.

Hill said the audit report confirmed her effective management of the WDE.

"I cannot say enough about the WDE staff and their hard work in ensuring that funds were carefully and properly spent," Hill said. "While there is always room for improvement, they are the reason that in recent years the WDE has maintained a strong record of clean audits."

Related content:
 
Senate File 104