Audit of Cape reveals payroll, pension problems

Fulton committed to resolving issues, report says
May 8, 2014
Robert Fulton SOURCE FILE

Cape Henlopen School District's football coach and a former superintendent improperly received state pension payments while they were working full time at Cape, according to a special investigation by the state auditor.

The report notes, however, that current Superintendent Robert Fulton has taken steps to rectify the problems.

“In general, we found Superintendent Fulton to be sincere and responsive to our inquiries,” the report states. “Changes made under his direction demonstrate a commitment to the district's responsibility to the students and the taxpayers.”

Fulton could not be reached for comment.

Kathleen A. Davies, chief administrative auditor, said the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts opened an investigation after receiving allegations that Cape was violating operations and hiring practices.

“If we see enough that looks probable, then we go ahead and do it,” she said, adding she did not know how many people contacted the Auditor's Office about the allegations.

The office substantiated a charge that two sisters work together in the district's payroll department, which the report notes is a conflict of interest. The report suggests a change in personnel.

“We cannot understand why the district would take on unnecessary risk or require the last level of review to be more stringent than necessary when the district has financial secretaries to correct the issue,” the report states.

When informed of the conflict by auditors, Fulton said he was unaware of the overlapping duties of the two sisters and he committed to working with the Director of Business Operations Oliver Gumbs to resolve the issue, the report states.

A partially substantiated allegation involves Dean of Students William Collick. Hired in 2010 as the Dean of Students and football coach, the report states, “it was no secret that the district knew this person was retiring from another school district and wanted him for the high school football program.”

Collick, however, was receiving a state pension while working fulltime at Cape, a violation of pension rules. The violation was resolved in 2012 after the pension office contacted Collick, who agreed to delay his pension in order to keep his job. During the course of Cape's audit, the report says, investigators discovered then-Interim Superintendent David Robinson continued to collect a pension during the 13 months he worked for Cape. Neither Collick or Robinson's pension violations warranted action by the pension office, the report states.

“The office wasn't terribly concerned,” Davies said. “As long as people are trying to do the right thing, I think they are satisfied.”

The report included Collick's current salary of $117,500 – just shy of the school principal's salary – and the football team's record as part of the community's right-to-know, Davies said.

“It's really up to the taxpayers to decide if they want to pay that much for a football coach,” she said. “We put that forward for transparency.”

Allegations investigated by the office that were unsubstantiated involved abuse of work time by employees and an allegation that the Dean of Students at the high school is considered a temporary seasonal job, but has been filled by the same person for three years and was never posted, was unsubstantiated.