Liberty schools expecting another audit

By danny restivo


Liberty schools are awaiting another report from Ohio Auditor David Yost, after a 2011 financial audit was released earlier this week, schools Superintendent Stan Watson said.. Officials from Yost’s office in Columbus said they “were wrapping up field work” on an audit for two failed conversion schools the district: Liberty Early Academic Resource Nest and Liberty Exemplary Academic Design, or LEARN and LEAD, which operated in the district from 2009 to 2011.

The official could not confirm a release date.

On Wednesday, a 2011 state audit awarded $12,720 to the Liberty Local School District after investigators “found public monies illegally expended” by former treasurer Tracey Obermiyer and her bonding agent, Travelers Insurance Co. A 2010 audit said Obermiyer must pay $4,920 back to the school after she overpaid herself in 2010.

Wednesday’s findings showed Obermiyer received excessive retirement payments for eight years. According to the audit, they were not in her contract or approved by the school board.

Watson said the school has yet to receive restitution from Obermiyer.

An official with the Ohio auditor’s office in Youngstown said the Ohio attorney general is responsible to recover restitution. The Vindicator’s calls to the attorney general’s office were not returned Friday.

Watson also said the district yet has to receive $100,000 of $350,000 that was part of a contract settlement between the school district and LEARN and LEAD. He said the $100,000 was supposed to have been paid by September.

“It has been a long standing situation in trying to absolve ourselves of this,” Watson said. “I expect when someone makes an agreement they abide by it, and when they don’t, people in other positions hold them to it.”

Watson said the school has sought legal council on the LEARN and LEAD contract but hasn’t received information on the auditor’s findings.

Obermiyer served as school treasurer during LEARN and LEAD and resigned in 2011. Fifty-four days after her exit, the conversion school was suspended after it failed to increase revenue. A week after her exit, Obermiyer was hired as a business consultant for LEARN and LEAD.

In September 2011, The Portage County Educational Service started using the LEARN and LEAD sponsorship. According to Portage County ESC and the Ohio Department of Education Office of Community schools, the schools’ staff was filled mostly with former Liberty administration staffers. Portage County ESC suspended its services a month later.

Though the conversion school played a role in driving the Liberty school district into fiscal emergency, Watson said he believes the school has maintained a quality level of education.

“Although our board and administration feel let down, were not going to let these audits define us,” he said. “There are a lot of things that took place in the past, and we’re still an excellent school district. We’re righting the ship and squaring everything away.”

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