Ex-budget aide says dismissal was retaliation Allegations made on mismanagement in Balto. Co. schools

Official was fired last year

Charges made public after hearing in which she seeks job back

November 13, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

A former top Baltimore County school budget official yesterday charged that she lost her job last year because she told outside auditors about allegations of widespread mismanagement in the district's facilities department.

Jane G. Moncure said she made those charges at a closed-door school system hearing in which she sought reinstatement to the $78,000-per-year position or a financial settlement.

The hearing for the former executive director of budget and finance was closed at the request of the school system's attorney. But Moncure said she repeated much of her testimony in an interview with The Sun after the hearing.

Moncure, 41, was ousted amid the shake-up last year of the facilities department after a bungled renovation and air quality problems at Deer Park Elementary School.

Subsequent audits showed that department officials routinely awarded work without competitive bidding, misrepresented contracts to gain board approval, mismanaged projects and hired people who did business with the school system. As a result, the district swept out virtually all of its facilities managers.

Yesterday, Moncure went public for the first time with allegations that her job was eliminated because she tried to get officials to address problems with the facilities department and warned of document destruction.

"I felt that I had to go to our outside auditor and tell them what was going on and make whatever efforts I could to try to protect all of the records," Moncure said.

A school spokesman declined to comment on the hearing and Moncure's allegations, saying he would not discuss a personnel matter.

Moncure's attorney, Christopher Brown, said she was being penalized for being honest.

"As soon as she arrived, she started turning over rocks and finding bugs underneath," he said after yesterday's hearing. "And the rock with the most bugs under it was facilities."

Moncure was hired in September 1993, coming to the school system from a similar position at an insurance company in Maine.

She said she initiated the first joint review of facilities in October 1994, with Faith C. Hermann, the former executive director of facilities, who was transferred to the curriculum department.

Moncure said that more than a year later, several employees approached her with allegations of mismanagement, retaliation

against principals who complained about poor repairs and personal gain on the part of employees through contract awards.

She said that she immediately requested an audit of the department, and that the district's internal auditor agreed.

In the spring, the department's troubles became public with the closure of Deer Park Elementary and subsequent audits.

Moncure said she learned of a secret meeting of several facilities workers in April 1996 at Woodlawn High School's football field in which workers discussed the possibility of destroying potentially incriminating documents.

Two weeks after informing outside auditors about that meeting and other allegations of records destruction, Moncure was suddenly told that her position was to be eliminated in a reorganization. She was told she would continue on a month-to-month contract.

The jobs of three school facilities managers also were eliminated about that time. All were told to leave immediately. In December, the school system paid settlements totaling almost $57,000 under which the three dropped their appeals.

The County Council also ordered an audit of the facilities department that summer, and Moncure said she answered the auditors' questions and provided documents.

"Right after I did that, I was escorted from the building and told I would not be allowed back in unless someone accompanied me," Moncure said. "I was told that they [top school administrators] were making me leave immediately because I had helped outside auditors. But it was the law. I had to answer their questions."

Moncure said she is concerned about the message that was sent when her position was eliminated.

"For the system to say that if you speak up about the problems you're going to lose your job, that's terrible," Moncure said. "You can't have principals fearful that if they complain, then facilities workers won't fix their schools' toilets, and you can't have accountants fearful that they'll lose their jobs if they call attention to financial mismanagement."

A decision on her appeal is not expected before February.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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