Iowa's state auditor says Des Moines Public Schools made more than $200,000 in improper payments to a district maintenance and projects specialist and a maintenance contractor.
The audit report released Wednesday says school funds were used to reimburse contractor Ja-Ra Enterprises for costs of various school repair and construction projects from 2013 to February 2020.
DMPS said in a release they no longer engage in business with Ja-Ra Enterprises, have upgraded work order systems to track assets and materials and will conduct a follow-up review.
"Integrity is really important in government, and you want to see people who are good public servants, many of which we have in the State of Iowa," Auditor of State Rob Sand told Local 5. "But when we see this kind of thing, it can undermine trust in every system and in every piece of government, which at the end of the day is a bad thing."
But auditors determined that many of the purchases included items that were not necessary or reasonable for the projects and personal in nature — including purchases of clothes, snack foods, electronic items, ammunition and cigarettes that went to district project facilitator specialist William Joseph Hinrichs and Ja-Ra contractor Kevin Kurth.
Neither Hinrichs nor Kurth could be reached for comment Wednesday.
"Public employees do not have to worry about retaliation or fear because the truth is that they have an obligation to report any suspected wrongdoing to the auditor's office," Sand added.
Additional details from the report:
- Exhibit B includes a $1,845.97 purchase from Bob’s Tools on December 4, 2015. The purchase was included as job materials on invoice number 2779 from Ja-Ra and dated January 12, 2016. A copy of the Ja-Ra invoice and the receipt from Bob’s Tools is included in Appendix 3. As illustrated by the Appendix, the invoice documents JaRa billed the District 110 hours for installing shelves; removing, building, and installing door frames; and hanging doors at the Central Campus building from December 3, 2015 through December 21, 2015. However, a representative of Bob’s Tools reported the undescribed $1,821.99 item listed on the receipt shown in the Appendix was a special order for concrete and anchors. According to the Facility Services Director, the concrete and anchors would not be needed for this job.
- The contract followed the District’s contract bidding policy, included an hourly rate for laborers, and a material and supplies markup cost of 15% (upcharge).
- Starting in November 2013, the Ja-Ra invoices only included the notation “Job Material” with no additional description of individual items purchased for District projects. The invoices also included the daily amounts of the charges to the Ja-Ra credit cards. Copies of detailed receipts for credit card purchases were not provided to the District. In addition, the invoices also included an upcharge which started at 15% in calendar year 2013 and periodically increased. The upcharge fee was 21% in calendar year 2019.
Read the full audit report below