Since the hiring of the current superintendent of TUSD, the concepts of the district being transparent to the public and the audit committee being independent of the TUSD management team have seemingly disappeared.
The idea of appointing the most qualified professionals to the Tucson Unified School District audit committee is no longer a priority. It seems more important to have the members reside in the school district.
After five years on the audit committee, my term is expiring two years prematurely because of my home address. I’d like to offer some insight into what has happened.
In 2010, I was encouraged to assist TUSD by joining the audit and finance committee. As a member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council with more than 35 years experience in the finance area, including chairing the finance and bond committee for the town of Oro Valley, I thought I could make a valuable contribution to TUSD.
Even though I did not reside within the TUSD boundaries at the time of my original appointment, I was the CEO of Bedmart, which had its corporate headquarters within the TUSD boundaries and had a vested interest in having a quality education for area residents. I was assured that the Governing Board’s only interest was to appoint the highest quality professionals to fill all open positions on the finance and audit committee.
In the years I have been on the committee, we have kept the Governing Board informed of the financial condition, as well as the financial operation, of TUSD. Since we report directly to the Governing Board, issue a report to it twice a year, and have no reporting relationship to the superintendent or his management team, we have been able to act independently of TUSD management.
Recently, the TUSD Governing Board changed the qualifications for appointment to the audit committee, requiring new and current members to reside within the district.
If residency within the district is so critical, shouldn’t the Governing Board also require that all TUSD management and others within the organization be required to reside within the district, or was this simply a veiled attempt to remove dissenting — yet experienced — voices from the committee?
This move will have a chilling effect on future solicitations for volunteers. A previous chair even resigned for being publicly disrespected by the current superintendent.
In addition to changing the residency requirement for audit committee members, the Governing Board also added the district CFO as a permanent voting member of the audit committee.
The committee was designed to assist the board by making sure it was independent of the TUSD management team. With the addition of the CFO to the audit committee (including the possibility of chairing it), the committee will lose some independence from the TUSD management team, since the CFO reports directly to the district superintendent. It will actually be checking up on itself.
In addition, since the CFO will be instrumental in recommending the new internal auditor, that position will now also be subject to suspicion.
Apparently, a majority of the Governing Board voted to substantially reduce the independence of the audit committee to give less oversight to the superintendent and the finances of the district. Additionally, other audit committee charter changes included removing protective language authorizing members to submit requests for information, setting the agenda and their direct role in selecting the external auditors.
Voters should remember these changes when the next TUSD Election Day comes around.