Bibb BOE to consider investigating policy violations

jmink@macon.comFebruary 27, 2014 

BibbBOE

Romain Dallemand

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com

The Bibb County school board will consider investigating repeated policy violations cited in a 2013 audit.

After a lengthy debate, the board voted 6-2 Thursday night for board officers to explore options for investigating the violations and how they happened. Some board members mentioned the possibility of bringing in state or federal investigators.

During a committee meeting, board members received an audit report showing that former Superintendent Romain Dallemand obligated the district to pay more than $26 million for technology equipment and services, largely without board approval.

In most cases cited in the audit, board approval was not sought and competitive bids were not issued, even on some multimillion-dollar commitments. In many cases, the board approved the purchase contracts months after they were made.

“As an individual board member, I have a real problem with what happened to require the audit team to write these findings,” board President Susan Sipe said. “I am looking for us to stand up and do what is right. Public perception is that there may have been some wrongdoing. Obviously, we want to follow board protocol and policies.”

While several board members agreed with Sipe, others disagreed.

Board member Ella Carter said the board’s top priority now should be hiring a new superintendent.

“Our most important concern is now getting ourselves a superintendent,” Carter said. “We’re getting things out of perspective.”

Interim Superintendent Steve Smith agreed. He argued that the board already has been investigated through the audit, that it has made sound changes to prevent repeated occurrences, and it needs to move toward the future instead of investigating “old news.”

Smith said the system has top-notch employees, as well as some excellent superintendent candidates.

“But I’m not sure they will be interested in this job if you guys are having a witch hunt,” he said. “We need to continue with the momentum we’ve got. We need to look with our focus on the future. There is no question in my mind we’re moving in the right direction.”

Auditor Miller Edwards agreed with Smith, telling board members the problems are in the past and they have taken steps to prevent them from happening again.

Some board members, however, said the policy violations are alarming and are still a problem for many Macon-Bibb residents.

“The problem for this community is that it’s not in the past,” board member Lynn Farmer said. “For this district, it’s not in the past. We’re locked up for 10 years because of the events that took place.

“I’m not looking for a witch hunt. I want to know how this happened.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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