Delaware Public Media

Report: Questionable financial dealings at Sussex Tech

Jun 11, 2017

The state Auditor’s Office released a scathing report this week outlining a sweetheart land deal and construction contracts with Sussex Tech School District that seem to skirt state regulations.

The audit found Michael Horsey bought a piece of land for $110,000, then sold it two weeks later to Sussex Tech for nearly double that amount for a new high school bus entrance. That's after Horsey attended a planning meeting for the project a few months earlier.


District officials never got an appraisal for the land or negotiated the price, according to the report.


Sussex Tech then contracted with Horsey’s company, Common Sense Solutions, to renovate the school’s industrial shop and HVAC system without going to bid.


Instead, they “piggybacked” off the land contract, the audit says, even though public entities are only allowed to do so if it’s a “critical need” or if the company is already performing similar work.


The project was originally estimated to cost $1.8 million, but Sussex Tech ended up paying more than double that for extra work.


Sussex Tech says it has “no further plans” to work with Common Sense after the contract ends at the end of June.


Horsey didn’t immediately return a request for comment.


A statement from Sussex County lawmakers found the audit revealed "troubling questions" about the school.


"It calls into question how key operational and strategic decisions are being made at the school; how tax dollars are being spent; and if sufficient oversight is being exercised."


They say they want the state Attorney General's office to aggressively pursue legal action if they find any criminal wrongdoing.