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Rigsby rules schools may have violated law

(Published February 11, 2002)

Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby says D.C. Public Schools officials "may have violated the Home Rule Act and the Anti-Deficiency Act" by overspending their budget during fiscal 2001.

Rigsby expressed his opinion in a five-page written response, dated Jan. 24, to Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi’s request for a legal ruling on the matter.

Gandhi provided the city’s attorney with financial documents indicating that school officials spent $10.9 million more from Oct. 1, 2000, through Sept. 30, 2001, than was appropriated in the fiscal 2001 budget and subsequent reprogramming of funds.

A violation of the federal Anti-Deficiency Act may subject the responsible government officials to disciplinary action or criminal penalties, Rigsby noted.

DCPS officials have been disputing Gandhi’s financial figures for several months and continue to complain that they are not receiving adequate information about the schools’ spending from the CFO’s office.

D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols currently is conducting a detailed audit of the school’s financial accounts at the request of the D.C. Board of education and the D.C. City Council.

"The [school] board is committed to fiscally sound management and will never knowingly engage in deficit spending," school board president Peggy Cafritz said in a written statement responding to the CFO’s allegations of overspending.

School board members maintain that any deficit on the school system’s books for fiscal 2001 resulted from action or inaction from previous years, rather than being attributable to any actions taken by the current board. Present board members all began their terms of service in January 2001.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator