With the unanimous passage of new Anti-Fraud policy 7.23 last week, Bob Clemons, Director of Finance for the School Board of Levy County, has been given the additional duty of Fraud Investigator, authorized to confiscate both district and personal employee property.
“Any irregularity, that is detected or suspected . . . shall be reported immediately to the Director of Finance” who will decide “whether pursuit of an investigation is warranted,” the policy states.
“It’s not enough to be against fraud,” Clemons said. “We needed a policy so that people have a direct path if they suspect fraud.”
The policy applies to “any irregularity, suspected or observed.” Fraud irregularities are defined as having to do with records, funds, property, accepting gifts valued over $100, or giving out information that would place a vendor at advantage in the bidding process.
Whereas law enforcement needs a search warrant to examine personal items and confiscate personal property, the policy gives the Director of Finance authority to copy or to confiscate, without consent of the individual, the “contents” of computers, desks, filing cabinets, cameras, tape recorders, and camcorders, as well as information storage devices, such as USB drives, found on school premises. Given that cell phones are storage devices of text, audio and visual material, they too would be subject to seizure. The Director of Finance has authority to do this “without prior knowledge or consent of any individual who may use or have custody of such items,” according to the policy.
“The intent would be to safeguard District assets,” Clemons said. “If it’s of a personal nature I don’t think we would mess with it… but it would be subject to examination.”
In addition to fraud, the policy adopted obligates management to respond to non-fraud irregularities that include “personal improprieties whether moral, ethical or behavioral.” The policy does not define moral, ethical, or behavioral improprieties, nor does it outline how to proceed or to investigate allegations. Unlike the anti-fraud policy, the non-fraud irregularities policy does not set forth guidelines for protecting individual confidentiality in the face of accusations. It only states that once management responds, the Human Resources Department must be notified.
It is unclear whether provisions granting the finance director to seize property apply to moral, ethical or behavioral improprieties. “I wouldn’t necessarily be involved…(if) it’s distinguished that those are separate issues to be dealt with by Human Resources,” Clemons said.
Director of Personnel Candy Dean said she is not aware of any policy authorizing Human Resources to confiscate personal property. “If we thought there was something illegal going on, then we would turn it over to law enforcement,” she said.
The policy did not come about due to any specific instance of recent fraud, but resulted from a June 30 audit by the state Auditors General criticizing the District’s lack of a fraud policy, according to Clemons. “There’s no statutory requirement that we have to have this,” he said. “It was a statewide issue that the Auditors General felt like we should have.”
The policy was borrowed from Marion County School District, which authorizes its Internal Auditor to investigate possible fraud. Because Levy County is a smaller district and does not employ an internal auditor, Clemons said, the duty falls to him.
“A lot of time people see things and they don’t know what to do about it,” Clemons said. “It’s a good business practice to have a venue for people to report problems.”