Poor management and fiscal irresponsibility in the Liverpool Central School District led to the inappropriate spending of about $250,000 of taxpayer money, according to a report released by the state comptroller’s office last week.
The comptroller commenced the audit of the district last summer as part of an effort to evaluate the financial practices of all 834 districts, BOCES organizations and charter schools in the state. The audit revealed mishandling of funds, overpayment of benefits and weak controls.
“There was a complete breakdown of financial controls at the Liverpool Central School District,” said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in a statement. “That breakdown resulted in more than $250,000 in questionable spending. These are taxpayer dollars. Lax oversight is not acceptable.”
The current board and superintendent placed the blame for the poor financial practices on the former administration of John Cataldo and on two suspended employees.
“I have to say that I’m also in a sense relieved, because it now brings out into the open a lot of things that we have not been privileged to discuss and I hope that the community now will get a better picture of what we’ve been dealing with as a board and administration,” said board president J. Mark Lawson. “We have spent an inordinate amount of time in the last few years seeking to extricate ourselves from a mess that we inherited, and it is frustrating to have to spend so much time correcting mistakes that are rooted in the past, time that could better be spent focusing on the challenges that we face today and the direction that we’ve set for the future.”
Cataldo was dismayed by the allegations.
“I’m very upset by it,” he said. “I served that district for 10 years. To have this come up after I’m six years out it’s very upsetting.”
Cataldo also expressed disbelief at the continued allegations of the district that there has long been bad blood between himself and current Superintendent Jan Matousek.
“I was her mentor,” Cataldo said. “I created the position of deputy superintendent and appointed her to it. I recommended significant salary adjustments for her There was no animosity until recently.”
What the comptroller examined
The objective of the comptroller’s audit was to evaluate the internal controls over selected financial activities for the period beginning July 1, 2005 and ending Dec. 31, 2006. The scope was extended back as far as Oct. 1, 1997 to review issues the comptroller felt necessary and relevant to the audit. The audit was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
The comptroller’s report is divided into several categories. It also includes a response letter from the district, as well as the comptroller’s response to that letter. Here we break down for you each of the categories and the comptroller’s findings in each, as well as the responses of district administrators and former Superintendent Cataldo.
For the full story, see this week’s edition of The Liverpool Review.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.