No Invoices/Payments for $ 100,000 School District of Indian River County, FL 2018 Legal Investigations.

Missing-Invoices-01

A July 31, 2018 letter hand delivered to Carter Morrison, then School District of Indian River County (SDIRC), FL Assistant Superintendent of Finance/CFO, from SDIRC Superintendent Mark J. Rendell, Ed.D. advised him that he was “relieved of your [his] duties.”

The letter from Dr. Rendell said SDIRC would be conducting “an investigation involving allegations of wrongdoing.”

The investigation arose at the July 31 public hearing on the budget where Dr. Rendell accused Carter Morrison of transferring $2.3 million out of the general fund and into 12 separate schools’ salary accounts without his permission; making the general fund short of cash; in violation of board policy, which requires 5 percent of the general fund remain liquid. The proposed Tentative Budget presented a shortfall.

In an engagement letter dated August 1, 2018, SDIRC’s outside Orlando FL attorney Suzanne D’Agresta, Esq. of the firm Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta, hired Wayne L. Helsby, Esq., of Allen Norton & Blue, PA, located in Coral Gables.  Her letter engagement letter states “. . . by which the School Board of Indian River County, Florida, retains you to provide legal services to and on behalf of Dr. Mark J. Rendell . . . to provide legal advice and counsel to the Superintendent and investigate an incident involving Mr. Carter Morrison, the CFO of the District.” Attorney Susan Norton, “of your firm will be primarily responsible for the investigation,” D’Agresta states, “The School Board will be billed at the rate of $250 per hour . . . A not-to-exceed-budget of $50,000 has been established for this scope of service.”

Allen Norton & Blue is also another of the SDIRC’s outside attorneys.

Although Dr. Rendell has spending authority up to $ 50,000, this investigation wasn’t authorized by the school board and the investigator-attorney was hired to represent the accuser, as well as to investigate the accused.

Was it a conflict of interest for Allen Norton & Blue to be the investigator AND legal defender of the accusing party?

After a four-month investigation, Allen Norton & Blue cleared Dr. Rendell of any wrongdoing and only cited Mr. Morrison for “very poor judgement but a breach of trust.”

Their conclusion:

“Although I find that Mr. Morrison in no way intended to undermine Dr. Rendell, I do find his failure to immediately advise his supervisor, the Superintendent that based on the Last Minute Submission (Emphasis added; see below) by Mr. Smeltzer, the School Board was potentially facing 4.1 million dollar increase in salary, and to discuss with him his proposal to reduce it to 2.3 million dollars, to be not only an exercise of very poor judgement but a breach of trust.”

Their investigation report was completed on November 9, 2018 and released as public record on November 26, 2018.

But where is Allen Norton & Blue’s Invoice? Have they been paid? 

 

Allen

From: Davis, Brenda <Brenda.Davis@indianriverschools.org>
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2019 4:38 PM
Subject: RE: PRR – Allen Norton Blue Invoices

There have been no Allen Norton & Blue billing statements submitted, since August 1, 2018.

This completes your request.

Thank you!

Brenda Davis

Administrative Assistant

Superintendent’s Office

School District of Indian River County

Phone: 772-564-3149  Fax: 772-564-3128

brenda.davis@indianriverschools.org

Then on November 29, 2019 the School Board retained Sniffen& Spellman, P.A. to represent themselves with a budget not to exceed $50,000 for the scope of their services.

This firm was engaged by the School Board with respect to a whistleblower complaint filed by Carter Morrison on November 20, 2018. The Complaint was filed against Dr. Rendell alleging that Rendell violated the Florida Whistleblower Act (Sections 112.3187-112.31895, Florida Statutes), “concerning events pertaining to the tentative fiscal 2018-2019 budget.”

The Sniffen & Spellman investigation report was released on January 24, 2019 with a conclusion of no wrongdoing and was discussed at the School Board meeting on February 12, 2019.

Whistleblowers Morrison and then Finance Director Julianne Pelletier were never interviewed for the final report that Sniffen & Spellman produced for SDIRC. Without interviewing Morrison and Pelletier can there be a final conclusion of no wrongdoing?

But where is Sniffen& Spellman’s Invoice?  Have they been paid?

Spellman

From: Davis, Brenda <Brenda.Davis@indianriverschools.org>
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2019 8:25 AM
Subject: RE: Sniffen & Spellman Invoices

There are no invoices/billing statements paid or pending at this time.

Thank you!

Brenda Davis

Administrative Assistant

Superintendent’s Office

School District of Indian River County

Phone: 772-564-3149  Fax: 772-564-3128

brenda.davis@indianriverschools.org

 

Invoice

Related story:

https://verocommunique.com/2018/12/04/he-has-been-cfo-for-how-many-years-school-district-of-indian-river-county-fl-it-at-least-deserves-discussion/

 

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One thought on “No Invoices/Payments for $ 100,000 School District of Indian River County, FL 2018 Legal Investigations.

  1. I know from experience with lawyers and the legal industry, there are no freebies! So why no invoices for either “investigation”?
    I could understand why Spellman did not bill for their so-called half-regurgitated piss poor job and even understand why the school board would take issue with not paying invoices for their “work” (if you can even call it that since they basically received nothing from them except the same thing as they received from Allen Norton Blue) however they’d at least have the invoices to show for it.
    The fact that the “investigation” that was spearheaded by one involved party (Rendell) on another party (Morrison), the fact that Rendell and D’Agresta did not go through the board to hire said investigation as required (unless contrary to Sunshine Laws the board met outside of public eye and did not keep records of such meeting, which in and of itself should have been cause for investigation and possibly reprimand of both Superintendent and counsel), and still no invoices from THAT so-called Investigation which leads one to surmise that possibly the letter of hire to Allen Norton Blue was not actually a letter of engagement of all, but one of “cover the Superintendent’s butt” in case. If still no invoices from this legal firm have been received, one must wonder if it was a legitimate investigation at all or just a bogus cover up? Was it an elaborate hoax to pull the wool over the board and public’s eyes? Was it just to appear there had been an investigation, all the while, taking the Superintendent at face value and allowing him to run the so-called investigation on his own, with the “cover” and appearance of third party non-bias?
    Not working. It appeared biased from the beginning. It appeared to the public to be a scam and a set-up from the first time the words were uttered from Rendell’s mouth that a veteran of the school district of 14 years and above board employee had “hidden” money without his knowledge to make the fund balance to appear low. Does that sound feasible for a man who spent over a decade at this career? That would be career suicide. No. And anyone who knows this district, knows that the Superintendent has his hands in that pie all the time. He knows everything. Nothing was hidden. Yet the board allowed him to come out and say that before the public and not ever make a public apology to Mr. Morrison. Yes, he reinstated him to his position. But the man deserved a public apology from Rendell. He never got it. Nor will he ever. Just as we the taxpayers, will never see a real investigation of these events.

    Like

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