Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
School audits, pay on agenda

The Monroe County School Board will vote on whether or not to provide a raise to its non-bargaining unit employees when it meets today in Key West.

The 50 cents per hour raise is being proposed to provide relief to non-unionized employees who typically reside in the lower end of the pay scale, and has the support of District 3 member Ed Davidson, who had been an advocate of providing a living wage to district employees.

"There's been a lot of talk by the board about market wages and living wages lately, so we've decided that rather than a straight percentage, we would use an increment that provides more relief to our lower-compensated employees," Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter said Monday. "Basically, it works out to an average of 2 percent."

Davidson said he approved of the proposal.

"The reason we're proposing an hourly wage rate increase for our employees on our lowest pay scale is that 50 cents an hour is literally twice the percentage rate for a $15 per hour employee than it is for a $30 per hour employee, and three times the percentage raise compared to a $45 per hour employee," Davidson said.

The board will also vote on whether or not to approve a contract addendum with its auditor, McGladrey LLP of Chicago. It would increase by $28,000 the costs the investigation into the costs associated with the construction of the $37 million Horace O'Bryant School.

The auditor has requested the additional money due to the numerous conditions placed upon its employees by Coastal Construction Group of Miami, the contractor for HOB. The original contract with the auditor agreed upon back in October 2013 was for $45,000.

Documents attached to the agenda item on the district's website reveal that McGladrey had informed the district on or around July 8 of the numerous limitations placed upon the auditors, and apparently agreed to by the district, which signed a nonjudicial mediation agreement brokered on June 5 by former county Judge Sandy Taylor. That agreement placed on hold the delinquent status forced upon Coastal by the district.

At the time, it was heralded by Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter as a solution to the legal stalemate that began in January with a lawsuit launched against Coastal for breach of contract, and refusing to release public documents related to the HOB construction.

Coastal immediately countersued, claiming that a conflict of interests existed between the district's lawyers and itself.

The letter requesting the additional funds states that the auditor's scope of services "was predicated on the expectation of reasonable cooperation from the auditee construction contractor. As such, the proposed fees for our services was based upon the assumption that this post construction audit would be performed in a comparable manner to the numerous others we have performed throughout the state and the country."

That letter is drawing fire from Davidson, who believes the entire mediation agreement is a sham that should never have been signed.

Davidson points out that though the mediation agreement provided for a 60-day audit, the auditors were not informed until June 30. The records in question are apparently being stored in a metal trailer on a construction site in Marathon.

Among the many restrictions of access faced by McGladrey employees are provisions that no source documents are to leave the trailer, no source documents are to be provided electronically, and no photocopies of documents can be made.

A Coastal representative is also onsite, performing a parallel audit, which was agreed to in the mediation agreement.

"I think the entire school board should be outraged that the Porter administration did not forward this July 8 letter to the board in time for our July 22 meeting, 14 days after it was sent," Davidson said.

Porter on Monday said that the July 8 letter had been sent to the district's lawyers, and thus couldn't be provided to board members in time for the meeting.

"I think it went to our legal counsel, so it wasn't in my hands in time to place it on the last meeting's agenda," Porter said. "However, I did follow it up with a phone call to McGladrey, and they told me that in terms of access and time, they were O.K. on both counts. They're good to go."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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