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School Board Rejects Outside Funding for Audit Presentation

Cherokee legislators Michael Caldwell and Scot Turner and resident Rick Davies proposed to pay $1,400 to cover the cost of the audit presentation.

Credit: Patch file photo
Credit: Patch file photo
A last-minute proposal to accept a donation from two state legislators and one citizen to cover the cost of the district's fiscal year 2011 audit presentation was rejected by the Cherokee County School Board.

The board on Thursday voted 2-5, with board members Kelly Marlow and Michael Geist in favor, to deny a request from Marlow to use the funding to extend the time auditors Mauldin & Jenkins would appear before the board on Jan. 16, 2014.

State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), State Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) and Cherokee GOP Chairman Rick Davies collectively raised $1,400, which would have been applied towards the cost for the presentation. 

Marlow noted the extra time could be used for the board to engage in a "robust" discussion on the audit.

"They are not seeking to use their positions for political influence over this process," she said of those who volunteered to put forth the money.

Davies set up a Rally.org webpage, Let's Rally for CCBoE Auditor Appearance to Put This Issue to Rest, in an effort to get more citizens to donate. Broken down, the site notes Turner donated $500, Caldwell contributed $250 and Davies put up $650. 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo warned against the board adopting such a measure.

"I believe this would be a very bad precedent to set," he said, adding there could be some residents who decide to donate money towards the system and later use their actions for "political rhetoric."

Geist noted he didn't see the harm in allowing the group to contribute towards the cost, adding the money could be used to offset costs to the taxpayers.

On Friday, Caldwell, Turner and Davies said the purpose was just to cover the cost of the presentation itself, not to extend the time the auditors would appear before the board.

"There must have been some miscommunication," Davies said of the statements made by Marlow. 

Davies added he understood Petruzielo and the board's concerns about accepting the money, but noted there were no intentions of using the gesture for political purposes.

Turner added the board was "well within their right" to not accept the money, and insisted the proposal was not political in nature.

"It was meant to be a kind-hearted gesture and simply to keep taxpayers from having to pay for it," he added. 

Caldwell said he didn't fault the board for rejecting the proposal. He also said the original intent was just to "offset the cost to the school system" and to the taxpayers. 

The fundraising page noted that any excess money donated towards the audit presentation cost would be donated to the Cherokee County Educational Foundation.

After the board decided to invite the auditors back, the three men got together as citizens — not as elected officials — and decided to raise the money so they could see the questions surrounding the audit resolved once and for all, Davies said. 

"Speaking for myself, we were getting very weary of the back and forth on this and wanted to see this put to rest," he added.

Now that the money has been rejected, Davies said he will refund the money Caldwell and Turner donated, and make a personal contribution to the Foundation. Caldwell also said he plans to contribute to the nonprofit. 

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