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East Aurora business director on paid leave more than month

Ernest Clark is East Aurora's new director business.  |  Submitted

Ernest Clark is East Aurora's new director of business. | Submitted

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:54PM

AURORA — East Aurora School District’s director of business was put on paid administrative leave in mid-December, according to a source familiar with the situation.

It’s the latest issue in the district’s business department, which has seen several staff turnovers and record-keeping discrepancies in the last year and a half.

Ernest Clark, who was hired in June to serve as the district’s director of business, was put on paid administrative leave on Dec. 19, the source said. Clark indicated his intent to file a complaint with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, before he was put on leave, the source said. That body is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against employees.

Clark’s eventual EEOC complaint contained several charges that stemmed from “interference with the ethical running of the business office,” and interferences from School Board President Annette Johnson with Clark’s ability to do his job, the source said.

Emails sent to Clark on Friday with request for comment were not returned as of press time.

East Aurora spokesman Matt Hanley said Clark is still the district’s business director. He declined to comment on whether Clark was put on leave or filed a complaint, citing the district’s policy not to comment on personnel matters.

Johnson also declined to comment on whether Clark was put on leave, citing the district’s policy. But she said she had “not interfered with anybody’s ability to do their job.”

Prior to becoming East Aurora’s business director, Clark worked for 17 years in East St. Louis School District as the executive director of finance.

When Clark was hired this summer, the district said he would be instrumental in helping to clean up the business department’s record-keeping as it transitioned to new software.

The business office has seen repeated turnover since the former assistant superintendent of finance, Jay Augustine, retired unexpectedly from his position in September 2012 after a series of financial discrepancies surfaced.

The next month, Augustine’s secretary was fired for insurance record-keeping issues.

In November 2012, the assistant director of business, Diana McCluskey, resigned from her position after a little over two months on the job.

Seeking help
from consultant

At Monday’s School Board meeting, board members are slated to vote on whether to appoint the Steger-based Crystal Financial Consultants as the district’s treasurer, a responsibility formerly held by Clark.

Board members also are scheduled to vote on whether to approve an agreement with the same consultant to do a “complete audit” of the business office, according to Hanley.

“The superintendent has asked the board if they would approve an independent financial consultant to come in … to assist with recent issues in the business department,” Hanley said.

The audit could include what technology is needed and what practices or procedures might need to change, Hanley said.

Superintendent Jerome Roberts had ordered a preliminary audit earlier this school year, Hanley said, that “identified some issues,” which prompted his request for the consultant.

Hanley could not elaborate on who conducted the preliminary audit or which month it was conducted in.

If approved by the board, Hanley said, the consultant would produce a written report and help keep the business department running. The consultant would “assist with ongoing work” and help “identify what issues need to be taken care of going forward.”

Johnson said the consultant had already begun to do some auditing work at the request of the superintendent and that the agreement on the table would expand the scope of the consultant’s work.

The contract won’t exceed $100,000, she said, but the consultant’s work could go on for some time — up to six months or a year, Johnson said.

Johnson said the move to bring in a consultant was prompted by issues with the business department’s new software. The district had been using an Arizona-based company to help with software issues, she said, but wanted a more hands-on approach.

Johnson said the business office’s software, which controls cash flow, grant-making, budgeting, purchasing, billing and payroll, “is not functioning well for us.”

“We have struggled on our installation of it,” she said. “Staff said the system wasn’t working to their ability.”

The consultant’s main role would be to identify issues with the implementation of the software, she said, and fix them.

She said it’s no different than when two consultants evaluated the district’s curriculum last year and made suggestions for improvement.

“When we didn’t feel curriculum was working, people were consulted,” she said. “It’s the same for the business office. It’s not focused on one person.”

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