Sireno: Darton money issues reduced by over 90% -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Sireno: Darton money issues reduced by over 90%


A Board of Regents audit released Thursday shows major financial and record keeping issues at Darton State College. University System and Darton officials weren't available to answer our questions, but most students told us they believe the institution is not corrupt. 

The former college president says he and his staff believed they were handling the books the right way.

But auditors said hundreds of thousands of dollars were not properly allocated. The Board of Regents audit reported six problems dealing with operations and record keeping at Darton State College.

The first was that Darton's office of student financial aid did not monitor student progress properly, and may have paid out nearly $900,000 in federal aid to students who were not eligible.  

Second, nearly $600,000 donated by two hospitals for nursing students was not spent, but kept instead for undetermined future projects.

Third,  the college and the Darton Foundation paid vendors without properly signing them to contracts.

Foundation officials today said when informed of the issue, they immediately enacted Board of Regent recommendations and issued a statement saying "The Foundation supports the efforts of the Board of Regents to promote transparency within Darton State College."

The fourth issue, Grant Funded employees did not report their work schedule and achievements properly.  

Fifth, the Director of Grants was paid $142,000 a year because of the combination of her retirement and part time pay from the college, and that was too much for that position.

Sixth, athletic department employees' salaries were reported as partly grounds keeping employee salaries.

The audit lists recommendations to correct these issues.

Students at the college today were unaware of the audit, but most said they have confidence in school officials.   "They've done me right so far. So I think they'll do the right thing," Brandon Smith said.  

"I really do think they are doing a great job.  Because everybody needs financial and some people don't have jobs," Jeremy Stephens said.

"I hope so.  I don't have financial and so if they can't straighten it I'll take some of it," Tori Alexander said.  

Former Darton College President Dr. Peter Sireno would not go on camera, but said, "I know that the financial aid staff believed that the process they were using was correct.  Oversight by the State Financial Aid Office and the Department of Education did not indicate any different."

Dr. Sireno told me that when state auditors first told him about the student aid problems, they said the total was close to ten million dollars.  He pointed out that number is now down to just under $900,000, and he said he was confident their final determination will be even lower.    

Dr. Sireno was forced to resign while this audit was being finalized, but Thursday he said the audit was never mentioned when regents were forcing him out.  He says their main issue was the death of wrestler Ben Richards, during workouts.  

The Board of Regents plans to discuss the final report next month. Darton State College officials say Interim President Dr. Paul Jones is out of town, but will hold a news conference Friday to discuss the audit.



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