The Ottumwa Courier

April 29, 2014

Checks and balances

By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — When the school district pays contractors, the business office makes sure everything is on the level. But there's a reason, said the district's two newest school board members, why they are worried.

First, board member Mike Burton asked at the school board meeting why reviewing financial information is done by a contractor, not an employee.

Board President Carol Mitchell said not only does an accounting contractor like Anderson Larkin save the district money, but Anderson Larkin had a desirable expert on their payroll: Former AEA and Ottumwa business manager John Donner, who had retired in 2011.

An accounting employee oversees accounts payable in the business office. So they are essentially signing checks for businesses and other contractors who work for the district. But for at least one situation, that doesn't seem right, said board member David Weilbrenner: How can the contractor be allowed to approve and pay checks to themselves?

Weilbrenner was told the school board gets to see the financial report every month, and could see what the accounting contractor is paying itself. He asked who creates the report they see: the accounting contractor.

Weilbrenner acknowledged he might not grasp every single detail of the financial situation, but it concerns him. You don't get to approve your own requests for payment.

For better or worse, he said, "That's how I feel."

Weilbrenner said the board should question how it will be perceived when a contractor is put in a situation where they have to approve payment requests they themselves submitted.

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