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ASB advisor removed after audit finding

One staff member at Oak Harbor High School is fighting back after losing her position when the state Auditor’s Office found she violated district policies regarding the Associated Student Body at Oak Harbor High School.

The Oak Harbor School District removed Denise Snow as ASB advisor after an audit found she did not comply with purchasing requirements and violated the school district’s conflict-of-interest policy.

Snow disagrees with the findings, and has obtained a lawyer to argue her side of the matter.

Snow started as ASB advisor at the beginning of the 2002 school year and will finish up her duties at the end of this year. She will continue working at the high school where she is also an English teacher.

Rick Schulte, superintendent of the Oak Harbor School District, said school officials discovered the violations in September 2002 and reported it to the auditor’s office.

“We took action immediately,” Schulte said.

The school district conducted an investigation and the auditor confirmed the district’s discovery during the annual audit this spring .

The Auditor’s Office goes through the district’s records annually to determine whether the school district complies with state law and with its own policies. Auditors focus on areas that have a potential for misuse of public resources. The current audit covered the 2002-2003 school year.

The auditor’s office found that the ASB student leader’s signature was forged on seven purchase orders totalling $5,908. The ASB requires student signature for all activities. The audit further pointed out that the purchase orders in question went for allowable expenses. It is not alleged that any funds were misused.

However, Snow doesn’t agree with the finding in the report.

She said the student body president at the time gave her permission to sign her name on the purchase orders.

“She followed procedures in place as she understood them,” said Peter Szalai, president of the Oak Harbor Education Association.

Snow added that she didn’t gain anything personally from the purchase orders.

“Students have to initiate all of the purchase orders,” Snow said.

Snow is challenging the finding and has a lawyer provided by her union, the Washington Education Association.

Szalai said that lawyers are still talking with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction about the situation.

The auditor’s office also found that, during the 2003 fiscal year, the ASB paid $3,600 for disc jockey services to the high school. It turned out the DJ was Snow’s son and auditors found that it violated the school’s conflict of interest policy. One $500 purchase order was approved by Snow and made to her home address.

Snow said that the students selected the disc jockey and parents appreciated his work because he plays clean music.

The violations circumvented the goal of the ASB that encourages self government, and the district wouldn’t be able to ensure ASB money went to allowable purposes, according to the audit report released late last week.

In addition to removing Snow as advisor, the school district is conducting additional training for everyone involved with the ASB. Additionally, the position will receive more attention from an assistant principal in the future.

Schulte said the ASB sees a lot of turnover with student and faculty involvement and the district needs to make sure everyone involved knows ASB policies.

Szalai added that the ASB’s across the state are a critical area for the auditors. He said guidelines for the ASB are often unclear which can lead to frequent changes in personnel.

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