Auditing firm offers ‘comfort,’ experience

By Kendra E. Fish
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The St. Vrain Valley Board of Education agreed to hire the accounting firm Grant Thornton, LLP, as its independent financial auditor Wednesday night during a board meeting.

According to the contract, the firm — with offices in Colorado Springs — will be employed through the completion of the 2005-06 school year audit.

Grant Thornton will be paid $44,300 for the 2002-03 audit.

The district’s recently formed audit committee interviewed four firms this spring and said it felt “most comfortable with Grant Thornton,” said Gary Abbuhl, volunteer committee member and local CPA with 20 years experience in school auditing.

“(The committee) met several times and compiled a list of questions,” Abbuhl told the board Wednesday. “We interviewed the firms a week ago.”

Questions about presentation of the audit, fees and communication between board members and the firm were all asked, Abbuhl said.

“But will they be proactive in coming to the board when problems arise?” asked board Vice President Rick Samson.

“If they saw a problem with the 2003-04 budget, they assured us that they would,” Abbuhl said.

“I guess I would still like someone from Grant Thornton telling me that,” Samson replied. “If they came across the misuse of a credit card or even just $1, I don’t want anything to impede them coming to us.”

Board and audit committee members said they will sit down with representatives from Grant Thornton to ask the firm these questions and go over district auditor requirements at Tuesday’s 7:30 a.m. audit committee meeting.

The district’s former audit agency, Swanhorst & Cutler, LLC, resigned in February.

According to Wendy Swanhorst’s Feb. 12 resignation letter, the firm resigned because “the board (of education) is comprised of certain members who have intentionally and maliciously made statements to the public that are untrue, misleading and designed to harm (the firm).”

Some board members had said publicly that Swanhorst should have been watching the district’s finances more closely throughout the 2001-02 budget year in order to alert them to any red flags regarding spending.

In November, the district revealed it was facing a $13.8 million deficit as a result of financial mismanagement during the 2001-02 budget year.

Currently, Grant Thornton is the independent auditor for Thompson, El Paso, District 12 and Buena Vista school districts.


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