Petitioners, Superintendent react to findings in 2020 Williston Public Schools audit report

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:14 PM CST
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - The financials of the Williston School District have been under scrutiny for years as members of the public expressed concern over how accounts were settled before the merger in 2021. On Wednesday, a report from the state auditor details several issues prior to the reorganization.

This report has been a long time coming for petitioners who felt Williston Public Schools District #1 hasn’t been transparent with their financials. According to State Auditor Josh Gallion, their concerns were justified.

In a 96-page report, Gallion highlighted 21 areas of concern for the 2020-21 school year. Some of those issues include having $377 million in unsupported adjusted journal entries, inaccurate bank reconciliations, $6 million in debt not included in financial statements, and having a budget that was not prepared in compliance with state law.

Dawn Hollingsworth, one of the lead petitioners, said this audit was necessary.

“We were called liars. We were called all sorts of things. Here we are now looking at this and just in the bullet points, we’re close to half a billion dollars in questions. That’s not easy to swallow,” said Hollingsworth.

Business Manager Jodi Germundson and Superintendent Jeff Thake were in charge of District 1 during the 2020-21 school year. Neither of them are currently employed in District 7. Current Superintendent Richard Faidley called the report extremely concerning but promises those issues will remain in the past.

“To the community, I am committed to fixing all of the audit violations that occurred in the past so that they do not happen in the future,” said Faidley.

The Auditor’s Office will be presenting its findings to the school board on February 6 during their regular meeting.

This report is just the beginning of the office’s dive into the district’s finances. Hollingsworth said people petitioned to get a “full scope” of the books during reorganization, meaning a look at the first year of District 7 may be next.