Thursday, October 7, 2021

Romulus school superintendent is suspended

Romulus Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Benjamin Edmonson has been placed on paid administrative leave by members of the board of education.

School board members voted 4-3 to place Edmonson on leave during a contentious public meeting last week while financial improprieties reported by an independent consultant are being investigated. Much of the meeting, including many comments from board members and the public, remained confusing and unintelligible due to some technical issues and the outspoken disapproval of many audience members.

Following a lengthy and detailed report, off camera, by Mike Dixon, a management consultant hired by the board members, the motion to suspend Edmonson, with pay, pending an investigation was approved. Some board members appeared surprised by the motion which was added to the agenda by the district finance committee. 

Dixon, who has been working with the district for about 6-8 weeks, repeatedly stressed the financial problems the district is facing, including a late audit and the disarray which exists, he said, in the business office. Dixon told the board that there were numerous material weaknesses in the audit and that financial processes were not followed. He said that the business office was staffed with employees who had little or no training.  

“They are dedicated people, they just need guidance,” Dixon said. 

In addition to the purchasing and record keeping deficits, Dixon referred to “numerous credit card purchases” that were “without receipts” and said that those discrepancies had been reported to the board members previously in a communication from the district finance committee. 

He said that the credit card statements with no backup documentation from the administrative office were “a serious problem.” He also noted the issuance of several smaller invoices to one business entity for the possible purpose of avoiding competitive bidding.

“The current administrative structure doesn't appear to be conducive to preparing any type of efficient audit,” Dixon said. “There are way too many issues.”

Dixon suggested the board hire an outside investigator to review the credit card situation and that the board members adopt a new procedure for purchasing. He also suggested the board members appoint a committee to review expenditures prior to board approval and that purchases in excess of $5,000 be approved by the board members.

Edmonson responded to Dixon's report noting that when he came to the district, he “informed everybody we had problems. Week after week I said this needs to be addressed and what support did I get? A Title IX grievance filed against me.” Title IX is a federal anti-discriminatory regulation.

One board member agreed and commented that “his hands were tied.”

Following the vote, Edmonson immediately gathered his papers and left the meeting as the loud comments of the audience and board members became unintelligible with shouts of “recall” and various other overlapping statements prompting Board President Debbi Pyles to attempt to immediately adjourn the meeting, despite the continued shouting.

The independent financial audit will be performed by the law firm of Clark Hill PLC. An investigation of this type should be complete in about two weeks, according to an independent source.

The board named Sean McNatt to act as interim superintendent during Edmonson's absence.