Dagley to defend Seven Locks audit

So far, no one has answered his call for more accountability

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Inspector General Thomas J. Dagley will defend his critical report on how the school system, the school board and the County Council decided to replace a Potomac elementary school.

Dagley will brief the council Thursday when the Council’s Education and Management and Fiscal Policy committees meet to discuss the Seven Locks Elementary School project and the school system’s response to his report.

A statement that Dagley intends to read appeared on the inspector general’s Web site on Tuesday:

‘‘As stated in the audit report, we believe action needs to be taken to ensure county taxpayers that adequate accountability is in place over the capital funds approved each year for school projects. ... In addition, little information has been provided in the responses concerning our recommendations to increase accountability at the [school system], board and council levels.”

Last week, school officials responded to Dagley’s Feb. 15 audit report, saying it ignored how the decision to rebuild the school on Kendale Road was made and disregarded information from school planners.

Auditors and school officials agree on two findings of the audit, Dagley’s statement said;

*The first is ‘‘that three factors caused the cost difference favoring the Kendale Road replacement school and that this detail was not provided to the council.”

*The second is that the school system should look at its procedures for awarding contracts.

School officials have said that they did not violate state statutes in awarding a $817,500 architectural contract for the replacement school, but that they would look into the school system’s award procedures.

Dagley went further, saying on his Web site, ‘‘We believe it is clear [the school system] did not comply with board requirements and did not identify any state statutes it was required to follow governing the award of architectural contracts.”

Last week, County Councilman Michael L. Subin, who chairs the Education Committee, continued to question the inspector general’s authority to conduct an audit of the school system, which is a state agency that receives the majority of its budget from the county.

‘‘It’s clear to me that the IG is being used as a weapon here,” said Subin (D-At large) of Gaithersburg. ‘‘Whoever complained to him is using it. The IG allowed himself to be used. There was not a breach of responsibility. There were no policies broken. There were no laws broken.”

Dagley defended his authority to conduct the audit.

‘‘We did not jump into the audit hastily,” he said in an interview on Monday ‘‘We listened to what county residents said to us. We examined the county’s construction [plan] for several months before deciding that auditing the Seven Locks project was necessary.”

On Tuesday, County Councilman Howard A. Denis introduced a budget amendment to rebuild the school on Seven Locks Road. A public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 21 in Rockville.

‘‘I think it’s a positive response to a significant report from an outstanding inspector general,” said Denis (R-Dist. 1) of Chevy Chase.