The comptroller hired two months ago by the Fauquier County public schools said Monday that her review of county finance records turned up "many" bookkeeping inaccuracies and possible instances of ghost payrolling, in which checks were cut for people not employed by the county.
Susan E.C. Riley declined to provide a reporter with supporting information, including a financial report she prepared for School Board members. The report was entered into the public record at the board's Monday meeting, but board staff members said Riley told them not to release the document.
"I have validated data that in fact illustrates not one or two but numerous inconsistencies," Riley said. "There's an enormous amount of information that's going to be made public in the coming weeks."
County officials said Riley's charges were unsubstantiated and the result of her lack of experience in public finance.
"These are broad-based charges," said County Administrator G. Robert Lee. "I have yet to have anything in writing. . . . I will respond quickly to something that gives me specifics."
Riley said that at the direction of School Superintendent Dallas M. Johnson, she would not provide specifics about alleged mismanagement of the schools' $73 million annual budget until a news conference Monday. She said Johnson was traveling and would not be available for comment before then.
County officials disputed the findings she described at the meeting.
"From what I can tell, none of that is true," said Bryan Tippie, the Office of Management and Budget director, who for nine years was director of finance for the Fauquier schools. "I think this is just a lack of experience."
As to possible paychecks to ghost employees, Tippie said that after discussions with other county staff members, he believes that Riley arrived at her conclusions using an old payroll database that included individuals who have since retired or quit.
"I think she sent that list out to people at the schools division to check it. . . . I don't think she realized that this was not a purged database that she had," Tippie said.
Riley said she had discovered several budget items that were listed in incorrect categories or budget lines. Tippie said that Riley had decided that some personnel should be reclassified into different departments for accounting purposes but that she had not filled out the proper paperwork to move them into new classifications.
"If you don't fill out the correct form, the people will be paid as if they were in their former location," Tippie said.
Riley also complained at Monday's meeting that county Finance Director John Tuohy had canceled a meeting to hash out their differences. Lee said the meeting time was not confirmed because Riley did not return Tuohy's phone calls.
Riley's allegations come in the midst of a public budget feud between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors cited her hiring when they decided to terminate a four-year-old power-sharing agreement with the School Board.
Under that agreement, the finance and budget offices answer to the county administrator, while the personnel and support services departments answer to the school superintendent. Beginning in July, all county departments will answer to the county administrator.
School Board members met in closed session Monday night after the regular meeting. School Board member John E. Williams (Center) said the termination of the agreement was among the topics discussed.
Williams said the board members indicated they would not fight the termination and would not duplicate finance and budget services provided by the county.
School Board members have said they authorized Riley's position because they did not receive accurate or up-to-date financial information from county staff members overseen by the county administrator during this year's budget debate.
Williams and former School Board member Paul J. Asciolla, who retired recently, said Johnson did not consult the School Board about the selection of Riley, who was hired to her $65,000-a-year job through an internal posting. Riley is the wife of Mark Riley, president of F&M Bank-Peoples, who is chairman of a citizens advisory panel on teacher compensation.
According to Riley's resume, provided by the county personnel department, she was business manager at two private schools, Fredericksburg Academy from 1991 to 1994, and the Highland School from 1994 until her hiring. Before that, from 1977 to 1980, she was an assistant vice president at First Bank of Maryland.
She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in psychology and zoology, according to her resume.