News Release: Transparency Project Director Asks Macomb County School Districts to Publish their Checkbook Registers

Nearby Rochester Community Schools held up as example to follow

For Immediate Release
Tuesday Jan. 6, 2009

Contact: Kenneth M. Braun
Policy Analyst

MIDLAND - The director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's "Show Michigan the Money Project" is asking every public school district in Macomb County to regularly post their checkbook registers on the Internet for public inspection. Using the examples already provided by numerous districts statewide, including Rochester Community Schools just across the border in Oakland County, the aim is to get each of the county's 22 districts to commit to checkbook transparency by the beginning of March.

"Many districts, such as Rochester, took it upon themselves to post this information," noted Kenneth M. Braun, director of the Show Michigan the Money Project. "Others have jumped in and enthusiastically done so at our request, such as Farmington Public Schools and even the tiny Chassell Township district in the Upper Peninsula."

The Montrose Community Schools in Genesee County is believed to be the first Michigan school district to have posted its check register on the Internet, having done so at the suggestion of Peyton Wolcott, a national advocate for public education spending transparency. In 2007, a former Montrose payroll clerk was convicted of embezzling more than $1 million from the district over a 10-year period, primarily by forging checks. Public posting of the checkbook register was suggested as one means of demonstrating that measures were being taken to prevent future victimization of the district and its taxpayers.

Braun noted that the Chippewa Valley School District in Macomb County may benefit from following this example. Twice in the last five years, district employees have been convicted for thievery related to their jobs. An elementary school principal in 2005 pleaded guilty to a $400,000 embezzlement charge and a purchasing agent in 2008 was sentenced to federal prison for a bid-rigging fraud charge involving more than $2 million.

In early December, the Show Michigan the Money Project sent a certified letter to each superintendent within the borders of the Macomb ISD, asking that their schools consider the public posting of check registers. This request was preceded by a similar e-mail to each superintendent and many of the school board officials in these districts.

The Show Michigan the Money Project provides a page of hyperlinks to the check registers of districts that are known to post them regularly. Additional links will be added as districts comply with the project's requests.