Nevada County Board of Education member aims to revisit superintendent expense report |

Nevada County Board of Education member aims to revisit superintendent expense report

Nevada County Board of Education member Bob Altieri says he will be adding an action item to the board’s Aug. 13 meeting regarding the request for credit and travel expense reports for county Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen.

“There were a couple members of the public that thought it’s appropriate for board members to look at her expense reports,” Altieri said. “So what I plan to do is put that back on the agenda this coming meeting. There’s no reason not to.”

During a July 9 board meeting, trustee Jack Meeks presented a motion to the board requesting Hermansen to provide a monthly written report that detailed all meetings she attends, including places, dates, names, times and topics of discussion. The motion was voted down on a 3-2 vote.

Board members Marianne Slade-Troutman and Meeks voted for the motion, while trustees Altieri, Tracy Lapierre and board president Trevor Michael voted against it.

“If there’s an impropriety that needs to be uncovered, I want to know about it. I haven’t found that though,” Altieri said.

“We eliminated it because it was ludicrous to look at that continuously when there’s so many bigger fish to fry. But if it appears as though we’re doing that because there’s something wrong, well then fine, I’m going to put it back on.”

According to board president Michael, from at least June 2012 through December 2013 the board agreed to do an extensive monthly review of Hermansen’s expense reports.

“By the end of last year, after a year and a half of looking at these things, the subject came up of why we’re looking at them when we don’t have a particularly defined reason for examining this portion of the budget in particular, and what was the justification for the time spent,” he said.

Michael said the board revisited the issue and concluded that Hermansen’s expenses did not appear to have any significant issues, so a vote was held and approved to eliminate the presentation of Hermansen’s expense report at every board meeting.

“We are reviewing the budget on an ongoing basis, just the same as anything else,” he said. “And after a period of review lasting a considerable amount of time, the expense report for the superintendent appeared to have no irregularities that we could detect, and we moved on to looking at other areas of the budget with similar focus.”

Altieri adds that Hermansen’s annual credit and travel expenses come out to be less than 1 percent of the Superintendent of Schools entire budget.

“It isn’t that we are not looking at the overall expenses of the superintendent, travel and everything else, which is $120,000 for the whole office,” Altieri said. “We look at all things, we always look at all things.”

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Associate Superintendent of Business Donna Somers says that she currently reviews Hermansen’s expenses before they are submitted to accounts payable.

The expenses are then approved and processed, so long as they are for business purposes and within budget allocations.

“Over the last three years of expenses, (Hermansen’s) travel budget has been $9,075,” Somers said.

“(Hermansen’s) actual expenses have been as low as $2,598 and high as $5,811.”

Hermansen has gone on record as saying she has no problem submitting her expenses to the board, but is following the board’s lead. Slade-Troutman, though, says the tax-paying public deserves to know what their money is being spent on.

“This is not a votable issue, it is the law. It’s an education code,” she said. “It’s very important that we follow a law, we can’t put something that’s written in law and put it on as an action item and vote it in or out.”

According to California Education Code, the allowance of the actual and necessary travel expenses for a county Superintendent of Schools pertaining to the Superintendent of Schools expenses are all transferred from the county board of supervisors to the county board of education.

Further education code states that the county Superintendent of Schools may, with the approval of the county board of education, pay actual and necessary travel expenses incurred by their office, or staff members in accordance with regulations established by the county board of education.

The code goes on to state that the board may authorize an advance of funds to cover such necessary traveling expenses that can be repaid or adjusted upon the filing of a regular claim for the actual and necessary traveling expenses incurred.

Education code does not necessarily state Hermansen is required to give a line item expense report to the board every month.

“But if we don’t know what they are, we can’t authorize it,” Slade-Troutman said.

“We can’t do our job if we don’t know what the job is. We don’t know if she’s going somewhere and how much it’s going to cost if she doesn’t tell us that. But with a credit card you can just go around and use a credit card all over the place, and then that’s already paid for. But we don’t have a clue because she doesn’t give us her statement.”

Hermansen says that the majority of the high priced items in her county credit and travel expenses are used for business related to the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association regional group of 10 counties, which she chairs.

Expenses include meals she hosts worth up to $400, which Hermansen says are reimbursed by the members of the group.

Other large item expenses include things such as an August 2013 $1,300 expense for a summer meeting resort for all county superintendents.

“My motion was to require the superintendent to obey the county code barring board approval, and a description what, if anything, educational goes on during these trips, which are notorious,” Meeks said. “They are always held at the best hotels in San Diego or New York or Boston or Washington or wherever they may be.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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