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State Auditor's follow-up report gives Indian River high marks ahead of referendum

Delaware Public Media

Delaware State auditor Thomas Wagner issued a glowing report Monday on efforts by the Indian River School District to fix policies that allowed financial and ethical abuses to thrive.

The report comes days before a $7.4 million tax referendum vote scheduled for Thursday.

Wagner called the district’s efforts to fix its problems "commendable."

"They haven’t fixed them all, but it’s been a short period of time. And I think they’ve done a tremendous amount of work in a short period of time. And we’re pleased with the response,” Wagner said.

Nepotism, lack of financial accountability and payroll discrepancies were among the 20 problems identified by an auditor’s report in November.

Wagner says the district has implemented policies and procedures to address those issues. And his office will check back with the district once those policies have had more time to take effect.

The district’s first attempt to pass a $7.4 million tax referendum in December failed by less than 30 votes.

It was held days after the auditor’s initial findings were released.  

Many of the issues found in the auditor's initial report in November stem from actions by former chief financial officer Patrick Miller.

Employees accused him of using their login information to access the state accounting system to process financial transactions.

He also gave a local Boys and Girls Club chapter, of which he was the president, about $33,000 of federal grant money that was earmarked for special education programs.

Miller oversaw the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, which sold a customized ATV to the district at a roughly $4,500 profit.

Teachers and other staff were also underpaid as they were misclassified in the system. The new financial administrator is reviewing those cases to see if they need to be reimbursed.

It’s not the first time Miller faced state scrutiny.

He resigned from the Brandywine School District in the late 1990s when he faced criminal charges for tampering with public records, theft and official misconduct, according to The Daily Times.

Miller ended up with community service by pleading no contest, admitting no guilt in the process.

When asked why Indian River continued to employ him after the charges, district board president Charles Bireley said “We were not aware of that when he was hired.”

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