Caught on tape: School officials laughing as they talked about hiding millions of dollars

March 28, 2013

KDVR Fox31 News

James Sorensen is a professor of Accounting in the Daniels School of Accountancy. 

Hours of secretly recorded conversations obtained exclusively by FOX31 Denver News indicate school officials in the Adams 12 Five Star School District may have been intentionally hiding tens of millions of dollars in retirement benefit payments from the public.

“We did not want the public at large to know that we have these big stipends that people get when they exit the system,” said Superintendent Chris Gdowski. “We did try to bury it,” replied Chief Human Resources Officer Mark Hinson. “The way it has been shown is…off the budget,” said financial consultant Vody Herrmann.

That exchange was caught on tape by the school district’s internal auditor Gina Holub back in September.

Holub was meeting with the Superintendent and executive level staff to discuss concerns she had with the school district’s 2012-2013 budget.

At a recent meeting, School Board Vice President Norm Jennings claimed Vody Herrmann “looked at our stuff and said everything is spot on, we are clean.”

School Board President Mark Clark took it one step further. He claims the district has hired a team of consultants, outside experts and external auditors who investigated the entire budget and “state we have done everything by the book.”

Professor Jim Sorensen, a CPA, Ph.D. and an expert in forensic accounting, certainly disagrees. “The president needs to re-read the report because the report says quite the opposite,” said Sorensen.

That report, the actual correspondence between the consultants and the Superintendent, raises even more concerns.

According to that report, the consultants found “numerous inconsistencies.”

They were unable to reconcile the budget. They highlight the fact that the district has underspent its benefits budget by “as much as $4,000,000 dollars in a single fiscal year.”