McCurdy Charter School Board Labels Finances 'Confidential'

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A list of expenses with the word “confidential” on it is presented during the McCurdy Charter School Governance Board’s public meeting on Sept. 19. McCurdy Director Sarah Tario and Business Manager Deanna Gomez incorrectly argued that school employee salaries were not public information.

Over a month after it was originally due, the McCurdy Charter School Governance Board reviewed its end-of-year financial report on Sept. 18, although it did little to lessen the confusion surrounding the School’s finances.

Business Manager Deanna Gomez presented the report to the Board via computer screen, as she spoke to members over speaker phone.

Members were soon confused by the formatting of Gomez’s report, which contained no names of any of the funds. They were identified by code numbers.

For example, the operational fund was listed as “11000” and the athletics fund was listed as “22000.”

Board Chairperson Deborah Bennett Anderson spent several minutes asking Gomez what each fund was.

Board Member Crystal Espinoza asked if there was a key to translate the name of the funds, since she did not know to which funds the code numbers applied. Bennett Anderson said she had a key and would distribute it to the other Board members.

“I wish I had all the funds memorized,” Gomez said. “I don't.”

Information gleaned from the report only included items Gomez mentioned during her presentation. She said McCurdy would have to use operational funds to cover a deficit in its athletics budget.

She explained about 10 pages worth of information from a report with a total of 209 pages.

Rather than address specific concerns in the budget, most members asked Gomez to explain if there were any problems.

“Anything that stands out to you?” Board Treasurer Nancy O’Bryan asked Gomez.

“Just some account codes that went over a little bit,” Gomez responded, not specifying which accounts had gone over budget.

Some pages of the report had “confidential” superimposed under the information. One example was on a page listing revenues and expenditures for the School in July.

“This part is a little more confidential, because it could include take-home pay of individuals who get paychecks,” Gomez said. “That’s not public information, so please don’t share that part with anybody.”

When a Rio Grande SUN reporter asked for a copy of the financial report, McCurdy Director Sarah Tario said a public records request would need to filed and the request would be reviewed by School attorneys, because confidential information like employee salaries was in the report.

“I’m going to do what I have to do to protect my employees,” she said.

Salaries of public employees in New Mexico are public record under state law.

“If it’s a nickel of the public’s money, the public has a right to know how their money is being spent,” New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Melanie Majors said.

She said any redaction of a public employee’s salary would be against the law.

A records request for the report is pending.

While McCurdy officials submitted their end-of-year finances to the state Public Education Department five weeks after it was due, the School still has not submitted its July financial report, which was due Aug. 30.

The Department placed McCurdy on monthly reporting status for failing to submit any of their quarterly financial reports from Fiscal Year 2019. The School has since submitted all the overdue quarterly reports, but still has not submitted their first monthly report.

Board Member Adán Trujillo, who is also Rio Arriba County attorney, asked Gomez when the July report would be submitted.

“Well hopefully, if everything goes well, by Monday (9/23) morning (the Department) should have that,” she said.

Trujillo then asked if the School would be punished at all for being out of compliance.

“Monthly reporting is the appropriate response,” Bennett Anderson said. Gomez said the School has implemented a corrective action plan to get their financial reporting back on track.

So far, though, School officials have failed to follow this corrective action plan.

It states the end-of-year financials were to be submitted on Sept. 6, which the Department received three days later.

McCurdy’s assigned budget analyst, Vince Vigil, said he has not finalized the report due to a cash discrepancy between him and Gomez.

The plan also states the July report was supposed to be submitted Sept. 9.

Vigil said Gomez never informed him of her plan to submit the report on Sept. 23.

When the SUN attempted to verify the status of the monthly report on the new due date, Vigil wrote in an email he was no longer allowed to speak to media and referred all questions to School Budget and Finance Analysis Director David Craig.

Craig then responded to questions in an email stating he was not allowed to answer questions from the media, writing that all questions should go to Deputy Secretary of Finance and Operations Adan Delgado.

Along with the July monthly report, McCurdy’s August report was due on Sept. 30.

A written statement from Department Public Relations Coordinator Connor Boyle said that, as of late Monday morning, neither the July nor August monthly budget reports had been submitted.

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