Huntsville School Leaders to Request Audit of Madison County Commissioner’s Funds

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s the latest punch in a growing battle between the Huntsville City School Board and a Madison County Commissioner. Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski wants accountability. He and School Board President David Blair plan to request an audit of thousands of dollars awarded to two non-profit organizations.

School leaders want to know if giving two non-profits $40,000 in 2008 was the right thing for them to do. WHNT News 19 has obtained a three-page document that raises questions about money funneled to two groups and Commissioner Bob Harrison’s involvement with those groups.

The document details how Huntsville City Schools awarded at-risk dollars to two organizations. A school district auditor wrote the district gave $30,000 to the Circle Project and $10,000 to the Northwest Huntsville Community Services Organization.

“Commissioner Harrison’s signature appears on the contracts for these grants on the very front page. When you look at them, it says non-profit non-governmental and there lies the problem,” said Dr. Wardynski.

Alabama law states the funds are not to be used to partner with government or quasi-governmental agencies and entities with functions that already include programs designated for at-risk funding.

“It appears there was a significant co-mingling of employment, co-mingling of physical location, co-mingling of office space, co-mingling of directorship and a common employer between the District 6 office and Northwest Huntsville Community Services Organization,” said District Chief Financial Officer Jason Taylor.

Related: Huntsville School Board Claims Commissioner Harrison Demanded Johnson Closure 8 Years Ago

School leaders plan to request an audit of Commissioner Harrison’s funds.

“We’re happy if the State Ethics Commission want to look at it, but we’re probably also looking at state, federal and local fines here. That tells you the sort of law enforcement agencies that would likely be interested in this matter,” added Superintendent Wardynski.

The 2008 letter states the person who recommended one of the grants worked for the Madison County Commission and was paid from Commissioner Harrison’s budget.

“This is a very serious matter. Huntsville City Schools is not a piggy bank for adults to reach into and extract resources for their benefit,” added Dr. Wardynski.

Superintendent Wardynski told WHNT News 19 the audit request will be made later this week. He wants the $40,000 if it is proven the organizations should have not received the money.

Superintendent Wardynski and CFO Taylor are concerned about a three-page document dated March 2009.

“The documents on their face look very problematic. The entities involved look very problematic. The findings of our internal audit from 2006, brought to our attention by the media, look very problematic,” added Superintendent Wardynski.

The document reveals concerns about $40,000 designated for at-risk programs.

“If this was an inappropriate grant, those agencies which were appropriately seeking grant funds, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Second Mile or others, did not receive full funding because in this case, on the face of it, it looks inappropriate,” added Superintendent Wardynski.

CFO Taylor says the amount in question equals the approximate salary of a teacher.

“In and of itself, that is one important number, that’s one important aspect and that is one important fact,” added CFO Taylor.

Both men are questioning actions made years before either worked for the city school system. The superintendent doesn’t care about the timeline.

“A lapse of time and stories told don’t really matter to me. What matters to me is where did the money go? Was it an appropriate disbursement? Was it for the intended purpose?” said Superintendent Wardynski.

WHNT News 19 reached out to Commissioner Harrison through email, his work and cell phones.  Commissioner Harrison has not responded.  WHNT News 19 will continue to seek a response from the commissioner.


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