Leader Blues

Monday, March 23, 2009

TOP STORY >> Finance director quits PCSSD post

Leader senior staff writer

An internal investigation into an oversized buyout check issued to former Superintendent James Sharpe lead to the resignation on Friday of Larry O達riant, chief financial officer of the Pulaski County Special School District.

Interim Superintendent Robert McGill said O達riant was helpful and forthcoming during the investigation. McGill said he appreciated O達riant痴 years of service to the district.

O達riant was out of his office and unavailable to speak to The Leader since at least Tuesday.

McGill said Anita Farver, who has overseen some federal funds at the district, would be the interim chief financial officer.

Meanwhile, the state Bureau of Legislative Audit has seized about 10 key computers from the central office of the Pulaski County Special School District, but they should be returned in time for the district to meet payroll, board president Tim Clark said Friday.

The computers are being 電ata mined and copied, but the auditors have not yet committed to doing the audit that the school board asked for unanimously after Sharpe received a check for about $79,000 more than the flat sum of $185,000 the board had approved in his buyout on March 11.

While negotiating Sharpe痴 resignation, the board insisted he could not get more than $185,000.

Sharpe痴 check was for $264,884.20, McGill said. That included the $185,000 severance payment, $33,072 worth of vacation time, $44,831.90 worth of accrued leave time, an additional severance of $6,614.50, and a deduction of $4,635.80. The total after taxes amounted to $185,746.

Since being confronted by the district, Sharpe has written a personal check reimbursing $50,000 and the district has put a hold on $20,000 in Sharpe痴 retirement fund.

If the Bureau of Legislative Audit is too busy or otherwise chooses not to conduct the rigorous audit that the board has requested, Clark and McGill are authorized to request proposals from accounting firms and to hire one to conduct a comprehensive audit of the district痴 books.

The board also agreed to ask the Pulaski County Sheriff痴 Office and Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley to investigate.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson said he referred the district to the sheriff痴 office.

John Rehrauer, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff痴 Office said, 展e told them that at this point it is a civil matter.

McGill said computers were seized from the superintendent, all assistant superintendents, the chief financial officer, the executive director of maintenance, the director of federal programs, and the director of special education.

McGill said they also made a backup file of all Internet activity over the past year.

Sharpe also was to have signed a separation agreement before picking up his lump-sum check, which he did not do, Clark said.