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Financial practices called irregular

An Eden taxpayer group on Monday night called on the Eden Central School Board to terminate both the superintendent and the district's finance director, claiming irregularities in the district's financial practices.

Steven M. Cohen, of the Hogan Willig law firm, who spoke on behalf of the Eden Watchdogs group, said the state Comptroller's Office, in a series of audits, found several irregularities, including poor capital project management, failure to apply for financial aid and the absence of internal controls.

Cohen also cited an audit report, issued earlier this month by the Comptroller's Office, that found the school district over the past three years used "nontransparent practices to reduce fund balance levels to within statutory limits rather than using surplus monies to reduce the tax levy as required by statute."

Superintendent Ronald K. Buggs said the allegations from the earlier audit reports predated both the current School Board and administration. He said corrective measures were already being put in place to deal with the concerns raised in the most recent audit.

"The Eden Board of Education developed good budgets with the information they had at the time, then followed the advice of school district auditors and planned for the future, keeping the taxpayers and kids in mind at all times," Buggs said. "The board has taken action to be in full compliance with the recommendations of the Office of the State Comptroller."

Pamela J. Gibbins, a member of the Watchdogs, told board members they have a fiduciary obligation to district taxpayers to account for all monies referred to in the state audit, and called on the board to maintain the highest ethical and fiscal standards to avoid "even the impropriety and cover-up that the audit may imply."

Former School Board President Thomas Gannon, speaking as a taxpayer, said he felt the board did the right thing putting money into reserve.

Cohen responded after the meeting that the district can focus on students and obey the law at the same time.

School Board President Steven Cerne asked the taxpayer group to submit substantiation to the district's legal policy committee for consideration.


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