Zach Chalifour, a partner in the accounting firm that performed an audit for Flagler Schools on the Flagler Youth Orchestra’s bank account, summed up the result in four words: “No major red flags.”
At a Sept. 5 School Board workshop, Chalifour presented a draft of James Moore & Company’s audit on all FYO transactions during the fiscal years of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The company has performed audits on the district’s internal accounts for the past six years.
This 100% transactional audit was ordered when the district discovered that the FYO account was in fact an internal account that was using the district’s Employee Identification Number but had not been subject to audits or operating under school district procedures.
Cheryl Tristam, the FYO’s director since the program was created by the school district in 2005, managed the account. Tristam resigned on July 3, saying in an article she wrote on her husband, Pierre Tristam’s, news site, FlaglerLive, that conduct toward her and the program by some School Board members “has been reprehensible and inexcusable.”
Chalifour noted some core concerns that the audit uncovered. Some cash receipt revenues were not properly supported. Some procedures were not followed.
A substitute instructor in 2022 did not have a background check. That turned out to be the daughter of FYO Artistic Director Joe Corporon. She was a Stetson University music student who served as a fill-in.
Tristam’s son received a senior scholarship payment, but nine other seniors also received the standard scholarship, which was made in prior years as well, Chalifour said.
FlaglerLive received a $3.83 payment as a nonprofit beneficiary through FYO’s AmazonSmile purchases. Amazon donated a half percent of AmazonSmile purchases to a designated nonprofit before discontinuing the donation program in February.
Board member Will Furry asked Flagler Schools Chief Financial Officer Patty Wormeck if that is an acceptable practice for district internal accounts.
“Under our internal procedures, that practice would not be allowed,” Wormeck said.
Board member Colleen Conklin asked Wormeck if the reason some procedures were not followed was that Cheryl Tristam was not offered training.
Wormeck said that was indeed the case. She said that after the account was discovered, she gave Tristam a copy of the account procedures handbook, also known as the Red Book manual.
She was very honest. She said, ‘This is the first time I’ve seen this, and I can tell you that I was not doing this, this and this. Had I known I would have put these procedures in place.’”
—PATTY WORMECK on Cheryl Tristam not having a copy of the district's accounts procedures manual.
“She was very honest,” Wormeck said. “She said, ‘This is the first time I’ve seen this, and I can tell you that I was not doing this, this and this. Had I known I would have put these procedures in place.’”
Furry noted that bookkeeping was not one of Tristam’s contracted duties, and she was doing that on her own. Conklin said that as the program’s director, Tristam took on a lot of responsibilities that were not in her job description.
Chalifour said the most questionable activity was using the AmazonSmile donation for FlaglerLive.
“That was a small dollar amount, but it just was that appearance,” he said, adding that there was “nothing (the audit found) that raises the hair on your neck that this doesn’t feel right.”
Board member Sally Hunt said the fact that the Amazon donation was a small dollar amount is irrelevant.
“I think we need to be very tight with our policies,” Hunt said.
Hunt also asked about the district’s policy on background checks.
“All individuals, especially those unaccompanied by a Flagler Schools employee, must have a background check,” Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore said.
NEW ADMINISTRATOR, STAFF
The program now falls under the purview of the district’s Department of Teaching and Learning. The School Board approved the new staff for the program at a Sept. 5 special business meeting.
Brandon Loos is the new FYO administrator and will receive a salary of $30,000 per fiscal year. The new artistic director is Victor Rivera, who had been an instructor with the program. Rivera will receive a salary of $26,000 per year.
Five other instructors/conductors will be part-time, with none of their annual salaries exceeding about $11,000. Auditions are underway. An open house for students and parents was scheduled for Sept. 13 at the Flagler Auditorium.