LITTLE ROCK – A legislative committee ended abruptly Thursday after some lawmakers questioned an audit of the Harmony Grove School District in Ouachita County that showed former administrators owed the district more than $60,000.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said she could not support the audit findings and Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, questioned whether enough committee members were present to have a vote.
After a count showed just 16 of the 36 members were present, Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, declared the panel lacked a quorum and ended the meeting. A majority of members must be present to conduct business. The panel is scheduled to meet again Friday.
The audit found that the district’s former superintendent, along with the district’s former federal programs coordinator, had each received scholastic audit training from the state Department of Education and performed scholastic audits at various school districts in the state without using their personal leave time.
The audit said Harold Davidson, who retired as superintendent in June, was absent from the district 88 days without using leave, and owed the district $35,657 for those days. The audit said he was paid $34,000 in stipends for his work on the scholastic audits.
Angela Scroggins, who recently retired as the school district’s federal programs director, worked 82 days without using leave and owed $24,621 for those days, according to the audit. She also received a $32,250 stipend for her work on the scholastic audits.
A scholastic audit is a comprehensive review of a school district, including learning environment, organization and overall academic performance, Megan Witonski with the state Department of Education told lawmakers. She said there are about 50 school administrators across the state who participate in the program, the majority of them retired.
Witonski said it’s up to individual school districts on how they handle stipend payments and the time the employees spend away from the district.
The audit found that Davidson had used his school vehicle for non-work related trips and the district paid $129 for gasoline he used and $193 for a tire he purcased. He also used the vehicle to travel out of state for personal reasons, according to the audit findings.
Auditors said the findings were turned over to the Ouachita County prosecutor.
Davidson and Scorggins were made aware of the audit findings and were invited to the meeting but did not attend.
Chesterfield and Walker questioned the findings and were told that there was nothing in Davidson’s constract as superintendent that prohibited him from receiving the stipend.
Paul McEachern, a deputy state auditor, also said there was nothing in his contract saying he could not use the school vehicle for private use.
“It’s this much ado about nothing?” Walker asked. “I’m trying to understand what this man did … what he did to merit prosecution?”
After more than 90 minutes of discussion, a motion was made for the committee to accept the audit, but Chesterfield and Walker said they didn’t like its findings.
“It doesn’t make sense that we’re going to single this person out … after all this time and then we’re going to establish a set of rules for him that we have never applied,” Chesterfield said after the meeting.