Education

Schools superintendent accepts some blame in how missing-money issue is handled

Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter issued a two-page statement Friday denying he covered up what appears to be the disappearance of more than $20,000 from a day-care program run out of Horace O'Bryant School.

The unaccounted-for money was first reported by the Keynoter earlier this month, a year after HOB Principal Mike Henriquez told the district it was gone.

Porter has since come under fire by School Board members, particularly Ed Davidson. Davidson said Porter's lack of action or disclosure on the matter could be justification for firing with cause.

But while acknowledging he should have told School Board members about the missing money, Porter said he was not trying to hide it.

"This was an act of omission, not an act of commission to effectuate a cover-up," he said in the Nov. 27 statement.

That said, Porter stated Friday that he has "personally apologized to each School Board member for the omission on my part."

"School Board members are 100 percent correct, they should not receive news about the Monroe County Schools through the media," Porter wrote Friday.

Since the initial article in the Keynoter, Porter has asked the State Attorney's Office to open an investigation, something he chose not to do for the past 12 months. He called the latter choice a "decision that has legitimately come into question by others and myself today."

Porter said that six months after Henriquez realized the money was missing form the Key West school, he recommended the district not renew the contract of day-care manager Tina Godfrey. Godfrey could not be reached for comment. It's not clear if she still works for the district.

Henriquez's recommendation came a few weeks after the district's contracted accounting firm, King & Walker, issued a report in May finding that from July 2014 to March 2015, the School District had receipts for the HOB day-care program totaling $62,298. But actual deposits added up to only $41,559.

"Thusly, the total bank deposits were shown to be $20,739 less than total documented receipts for the period tested," King & Walker auditors wrote in their report.

But the recommendation not to renew Godfrey seems to contradict a previous statement made by Jim Drake, the district's executive director of Finance and Performance, who said it would be "unreasonable to assess blame."

King & Walker auditors interviewed Godfrey and stated in their report that she told them "for a vast majority of receipts written, the cash receipts were written for more than the actual cash collected."

The auditors found that Godfrey did not turn in cash to the district's bookkeeper at the end of each business day. Instead, according to the King & Walker report, Godfrey handed typically waited until the end of the week.

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