This story sounds extremely familiar to me. I have personal experience with Mark Bresee's failure to produce documents.
We’d Never Stand in Auditors’ Way, Says Attorney
December 6, 2010
by Emily Alpert
Last week Andrea Niehaus, who heads up internal audits at San Diego Unified, told financial watchdogs that school district attorneys have hampered her independence, saying that in one instance, she had to wait for a school attorney's approval before examining payments to a school health trust.
Schools attorney Andra Donovan, who was at the same meeting where Niehaus aired her concerns, said she didn't believe lawyers had ever interfered with the auditors. Over the weekend, I also heard from Mark Bresee, the attorney who just left the school district for a new job.
Bresee wrote in an email:
I neither asked nor expected other departments to seek Legal office approval to give documents to auditors/investigators; and 2) in the circumstance Andrea mentioned, when I was asked (unsolicited) whether the documents should be given to the auditors, I told them to give the auditors what they ask for.
The Legal office has not ever, nor will it ever, stand in the way of getting auditors and the investigator information relevant to their work.
Yet that is exactly the complaint that Niehaus raised, saying she had trouble getting documents for the first time in her lengthy career at San Diego Unified. What's even more odd and interesting about this clash between San Diego Unified attorneys and auditors is that the audit department has long been managed by the legal department. So why are conflicts erupting now?...
John De Beck posted at 10:09 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010:
I disagree about the statement that the INDEPENDENT internal auditors have been managed by anyone in the district until recently when they were placed under the SUPERVISION of the school's legal department. Supervision implies evaluation and control of the operations. INDEPENDENCE is a requirement for an internal audit department, just like it should be for the school police. Imagine if the school police had to get permission to invenstigate a campus crime, or to follow up on a citizens complaint, or if they had to worry if they made an arrest because it involved a person with board of education influence. That restriction is clearly out of the realm of ANY other district employee, including LAWYERS and that freedom to operate should also be true for INTERNAL AUDITORS. They follow the leads they get from ANONYMOUS employee hot lines. ANY INFLUENCE or threat on their work could be characterised as based on political considerations. When compalints about the police or the internal auditors PROCESSES come up, the facts of the case should not be suppressed. I maintain that Bresee is wrong again. He was judged wrong at least twice before by reputable local attorneys. Being afraid of your supervisors is not INDEPENDENCE, and restrains honest investigation. The board should deal with this immediately. The fraudulent behavior discovered by the auditors is irrefutable, (and even arrogently admitted by the staff) but the behavior of the school system is deplorable.
'They Can't Tell Me What to Look At'
December 3, 2010
by Emily Alpert
Schools' internal auditor Andrea Niehaus said today that her independence has been hampered by San Diego Unified attorneys, airing the charge to a school committee that oversees audits.
"They don't seem to understand that they can't tell me what to look at," Niehaus said this morning. She added she had never had such problems getting documents before in her 31-year career at the district.
Niehaus told members of the school district audit committee, which serves as an outside financial watchdog for San Diego Unified, that in one instance, she had had to wait for a school attorney's approval before she could examine payments to a school health trust.
Chief schools attorney Andra Donovan, who recently stepped in to replace Mark Bresee on an interim basis after he took another job, said she didn't believe legal staffers had ever interfered with the auditors. Donovan stopped short of saying more, telling the committee, "It's not appropriately addressed here."
The allegation comes at the same time that Niehaus and her department are being investigated by outside attorneys. San Diego Unified started the investigation after school employees complained about an audit on grade changing at their alternative school, arguing that interviews with faculty and staff were "inconsistent and/or nonexistent."
The investigation has held up the grade-changing audit. It has also highlighted tensions between the school district auditors and its legal department, which manages the auditors.