Audit critical of district in Bria case

State auditor finds fault with record-keeping regarding former superintendent

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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A management letter from the state auditor analyzing the departure of former Battle Ground Public Schools Superintendent Shonny Bria is critical of the district's record-keeping and recommends changes.

The Washington State Auditor presented findings of its accountability audit of the district on Thursday.

District officials requested the audit after the school board released Bria's $401,715 separation agreement, which they had kept a secret for two months.

The accountability audit is for the period from Sept. 1, 2012, through Aug. 31, 2013.

The report raps the district for having an incomplete contract with Bria and for not filing a copy of Bria's contract with the district's human resources office.

The audit covered teacher education and experience; reporting; tracking cash receipts for school lunch and community education; open public meeting minutes; payroll-superintendent compensation, general disbursements and special education enrollment.

The audit confirmed that all but one category complied with state laws and regulations and the district's policies and procedures.

The audit found issues with the category of "payroll-superintendent compensation." The audit management letter noted the following concerns:

• Bria's employment contract had sections that were unclear, but the letter added "when making payments in accordance with the contract, we found the district had support and documented rationale."

• "The district relies on administrators to accurately track their leave over extended periods of time and does not have a process in place to regularly monitor leave balances and ensure all leave is reported." The auditor's office noted that in its last two audits, it has communicated

concerns with the district's practice for tracking leave balances for administrative staff. Bria was paid $63,936 in accrued and unused leave, yet in 2013 she did not "consistently and timely report all leave usage."

• The district's payroll and human resources office did not have a complete copy of Bria's employment contract.

• Bria also had two active cellphones paid with district money.

The letter states: "We found it unusual that one person would have two cell phones at the same time."

District policy states that employees will identify and reimburse the district for personal calls made on district cell phones. Bria did not identify any calls made on either cellphone in 2013.

Tina Watkins from the state auditor's office said the entire accountability audit will be available online in the next two weeks. The auditor's office is still completing its financial audit of the district.

Bria was paid $154,699 annually. She worked for the district for 15 years.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com