|OCCHS Quarterback Club thrown for a loss |
|Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 7:00 pm |
|By MIKE HUTCHENS |
The Obion County Central High School Quarterback Club has some serious issues.
The process of addressing and correcting them has begun.
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss contacted the state comptroller’s office Monday to self-report the questionable accounting practices of the organization that listed raising more than $271,000 over a four-year period and spending more than $242,000 of that.
An admitted-violation of Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association bylaws by the Quarterback Club in which a rule prohibiting a school support organization from giving coaches bonuses without approval of the school board or top administration was also acknowledged during a phone conversation between Huss and TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress Monday.
Both past and present Rebel football coaches said they received such stipends of various amounts from the organization over the past four seasons.
That money was reportedly given via check during one period and later in cash.
Huss said the QB Club’s acknowledged illegal payment of coaches, the lack of tangible purchases apparent to the eye for the high sum raised by the club over said period and discrepancies in figures on School Support Organization (SSO) paperwork filed in his office provided cause to “raise a red flag.”
New organization president Judy Rainey, who took office in January and is a local certified public accountant, initially attempted to self-report the club’s issues Monday but was told the school system’s director had that responsibility — despite information on the state office’s website that said it was the organization’s responsibility.
“We do know without a doubt there’s been a violation with the payment of the coaches,” said Mrs. Rainey, who is one of three new officers on the board of four for the Quarterback Club. “There are some legitimate questions about the record-keeping and the extravagant spending that wouldn’t seem to have a direct benefit to the kids and the program.
“We are taking responsibility as a new group of officers for the past, but we are also moving forward. We’ve changed banks — because it’s the safe thing to do when you want to start over and you don’t know who has access to the checkbook or debit cards or other critical information. We are going to be compliant in every way.”
In addition to the confirmed unallowed coach’s payments, the SSO paperwork on file at the Obion County Board of Education was not correctly figured as far as forwarded balances, money raised and expenditures of the club.
Receipts for 2010-11 and 2011-12 were submitted in two one-gallon storage bags and appeared to be incomplete in regard to the sum total of expenses.
The lack of a cash ledger for receipts for the QB Club’s numerous fundraisers during the period in question is also an issue, as are inquiries about approval given for other expenditures of moneys that were spent on such things as coaches’ retreats/clinics, hotel rooms, meals and other perceived non-essential items.
Among the most noteworthy receipts was a $91.11 tab for beer at the Tiptonville Quick Mart in July 2011.
The club reported raising $43,049.65 in 2008-09; $74,241.98 the following school year; $79,742.78 in 2010-11; and $74,597.92 in 2011-12.
Expenditures were listed at $31,064.43 in 2008-09; $56,134.24 the next year; $87,923.48 in 2010-11; and $67,004.47 in 2011-12.
A club officer — either the treasurer or president — signed off on each of those SSO year-end reports during that time.
That money spent by the QB Club does not include what was also in the school budget for the football program — a total of more than $80,000 during the four-year span.
Even though the Quarterback Club is among the 12 school support organizations listed under Obion County Schools umbrella, Huss insisted neither his office nor other school administration had authority over the organization or its actions.
“We are not accountable as a school board for any school support group because they are a stand-alone, non-profit organization,” he said. “We can’t tell them what to do and what not to do as far as how they spend their money.
“We do have a fiduciary duty to report evidence or suspicion of misuse of funds.”
Huss’ signature was on each of the club’s fundraising requests. That gave the group permission for each of its money-makers that included the sale of Boston butts and other smoked meats, proceeds from cookie dough sales and Rebel cards — which give discounts to area businesses — and donated seed corn.
Other events that brought in cash were admission charged for scrimmages and jamborees and the team’s lift-a-thon.
Huss said he signed off on each of the fundraisers in order to assure other such groups would not duplicate such sales at the same time.
After speaking with the TSSAA head (Childress) Monday, the director of schools said he will put together paperwork taking rules from both organizations and insist that coaches and assistant coaches sign documents that if they take money from any SSO in the future, they’ll face immediate termination.
Childress said he welcomed the action and would file that in his office. He said no punishment would be forthcoming from the state’s governing body of athletics.
“Upon reporting it, we ask schools how they’re going to deal with this,” Childress stated. “All personnel issues surrounding that are left up to the school board. The rest is up to the state comptroller’s office.”
Huss’ take was that he didn’t feel as if the school system had committed a violation, but that the Quarterback Club and coaches who received bonuses did.
“Things like this, though, there has to be an ending point,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to put in place the document where coaches and clubs know what the rules are and the consequences of violations.
“I do believe us taking action is a sign we know the seriousness of the situation and expect the coaches to know, too. Once we became aware of the wrongdoing, we are taking steps to keep it from happening again.”
This will mark the third time that an SSO in the Obion County School System has attracted the attention of the state comptroller’s office during Huss’ tenure, following an incident at Lake Road and another at South Fulton.
He said he’s unsure how long the procedure will take with the QB Club and says he had no other course of action to take.
“We reported the one at South Fulton in January and still haven’t heard from the state office as far as any resolution,” he said. “As far as this situation, if the records are as bad as what I believe they are, I don’t know what else I could’ve done. There’s certainly enough here for an inquiry and I don’t expect them to leave a stone unturned because of the amount of money that’s involved.”
In addition to the future procedure to be put in place for coaches, Huss said he anticipated adding some for all SSOs.
“If they are not accountable themselves, it’s up to us to have better procedures in place to make sure they do that,” he said. “We have to come up with something more thorough and organized. We have to have proper documentation for these groups that are the basics for all organizations.”
Mrs. Rainey, who took over as QB Club president from Tammy Patton for the second half of the current school year after Ms. Patton had served three total years in the position, said it was her mission to “get things in order” and have better records.
“When I took over, I was given a box of stuff that was unorganized,” she said. “When Coach (Kevin) Goltra was hired and came in asking about records so that he could put together a budget and see about things the Quarterback Club paid for, I told him I had some bank statements and invoices. That was it.
“As for now, the club has new administration, a new current coaching staff and we will have more than adequate record-keeping. Our meetings are regular, we keep minutes for every one and we encourage anyone interested to attend.”
Mrs. Rainey said she was a member of the club in the past, though she became disenchanted at the way some business was done because there seemed to be no protocol. She said she never remembers a vote taken publicly to endorse any expense request.
An examination of the club’s charter said the organization was to have both a board of directors and officers, though no documentation could be found on who filled the board members’ roles. Mrs. Rainey said the meetings she attended were “very informal” with no coaches present that she remembers and that any minutes from past meetings were “sporadic” in their availability.
The new president went on to say that it was critical the club survive its current state.
“It’s a great organization and the football program needs it,” she stated. “I think the general public understands that and we want them to know this particular Quarterback Club administration is all for the benefit of the kids.
“We’ve had great relations with the coaches, too, and I hope and believe we’re going to come out of this just fine.”
An attempt to reach Ms. Patton this morning for comment was unsuccessful.
AD, new coach speak
OCCHS athletic director and assistant principal Craig Rogers said he understands the questions of those who are looking for visible evidence around the program when such large volumes of funds are raised.
“I’d like to see more tangible things when I look around, too — things that I know for sure benefit the kids,” he said. “People who participate in those fundraisers do so with the idea and intentions of helping our kids and our programs and they need to see that it is. We need to have better standards on those SSO organizations and make certain they are complying.
“I can’t be at all the school support organization meetings, but I will try to be at more. We need to monitor them better. I hope that this audit or whatever it is comes back with nothing and no wrongdoings other than what we already know to be true with the paying of the coaches. I fully support Mr. Huss’ idea to have the coaches be accountable for not allowing that to happen again. From this point forward, I’ll tell you we’ll try to do a better job of ensuring that won’t happen again — and if it does, there will be consequences.”
Goltra, hired in December to replace Shawn Jackson — who spent five seasons as the Rebel coach before resigning — has addressed the problems without mincing words.
“It’s my job as head coach at OCCHS to clean up any issues with the past Quarterback Club administration and take steps to make sure everything we do is legal, ethical and has the kids’ best interest in mind,” he said. “I feel we have take a number of steps to correct issues with previous Quarterback Clubs and also ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
“We are very fortunate to have a new Quarterback Club administration with a CPA as president to identify issues handled incorrectly in the past and provide guidance to make sure it never happens again. I am very pleased with how our new Quarterback Club is addressing issues and making decisions, putting the kids first.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at mhutch @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.14.13