Audits at Inola, White Oak schools find problems

Wednesday, May 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INOLA, Okla. (AP) _ Separate state audits at two Rogers County school districts indicate a superintendent was overpaid by one school district and federal money may have been misspent in the other.

A state audit showed Inola Superintendent Tom Strickland was overpaid more than $9,000 in salary and received more than $17,000 in questionable travel expenditures.

Strickland told the Inola school board in March that he would resign when the audit was completed. It was released Tuesday.

Officials in Perry said Strickland has been hired as superintendent and is scheduled to start work July 1. They had not seen the audit, but said Strickland would remain superintendent once they reviewed the report.

According to the audit, Strickland received a $1,000-a-month mileage allowance not in his contract. Despite the allowance, Strickland still claimed reimbursement for mileage and gasoline purchases, the audit states.

Auditors also criticized Strickland for hiring a former manage of a Chickasha car dealership to inspect buildings in the school district and to seed the school's football, baseball and softball fields.

The man wasn't a certified building inspector and apparently never performed work on the fields, auditors said.

School funds also were improperly used to pay for a cell phone for Strickland's wife and to reimburse her for a Miss Oklahoma reception, according to the audit.

Meanwhile, a state audit prompted by a citizens' petition found the possible misuse of federal money at White Oak schools.

The audit shows more than $8,200 in federal grant money was used to pay the college expenses for former school board member Shanny Housman. State law prohibits any state, county, city or town officer from receiving money from public funds.

All school board members were offered the opportunity to have federal funds pay for college classes, auditors said.

Housman attended school on grant money from September 1997 to February 2001.

In March 2001, the school board considered making her pay back the money. But a motion to do so failed during a school board meeting.

Superintendent Joe Gunter _ who was not at White Oak schools then _ said Housman has not repaid the money.

Four board members also received small amounts of grant money to defray travel costs, baby-sitting and similar expenses to attend school-sponsored training sessions, the audit showed.

The Rogers County district attorney's office said it will review each audit to determine if any charges are warranted.