BROCKTON — The Brockton School Committee has chosen the audit firm that will lead the investigation into the $14.4 million deficit that sent shockwaves through Brockton Public Schools when it was revealed in August.
On Tuesday, Nov. 28, the committee voted unanimously to hire RSM US to conduct the investigation into the bombshell deficit — on the recommendation of an Audit Advisory Board made up of the entire school committee plus members of the public.
Mayor Robert Sullivan, who doubles as the school board chair, announced the deficit back in August after a marathon closed-door meeting on the same night he announced that Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas was taking an extended medical leave.
Then in September, after receiving major criticism from the public, the school committee voted to bring in three Brockton community members to assist in selecting an independent audit firm to investigate the deficit — a move the school board attorney called unprecedented.
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Why was RSM US selected?
On Nov. 15, the advisory board interviewed three potential audit firms to take on the investigation — PKF O’Connor and Davies, RSM US and Marcum — and voted unanimously to recommend RSM.
The board spent just under two hours interviewing the firms.
The three community members on the advisory board said RSM was their preferred choice based on the low cost of their services and unintimidating presence they would bring inside the school compared to other firms.
The School Committee members agreed.
“I want thorough, and I found that RSM was very thorough and provided a lot of information,” said Ward 6 School Committee member Joyce Asack.
“I thought RSM was top of the line,” said Sullivan. “They left no stones unturned.”
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Who is RSM US?
RSM is a large accounting, tax and consulting firm with offices all over the world, according to its website. The company offers a “wide range” of services in addition to audits, including “restructuring, transaction and business and financial” advising, as well as “specialist services,” such as wealth management, IT consulting, legal advising, forensic accounting and human resources consulting, its website says.
It has offices in 30 states plus Washington D.C., as well as in India and El Salvador, according to its website. Its Massachusetts office is in Boston.
Which members of the public helped select the auditors?
Following the discovery and announcement of the deficit, many members of the public spoke to the Brockton School Committee and requested the public have a say in the investigation to ensure transparency and accuracy in the audit.
In early October, an electronic spinning pinwheel was projected onto the wall above the Brockton School Committee and each slice had a number from one to 31 — each representing a candidate for the audit advisory board.
The wheel spun and landed on a number. If the candidate had worked for Brockton Public Schools or had donated to a committee member’s campaign, they’d be disqualified. The first three candidates the wheel landed on would join the advisory board: Brenda Deane, Rachelle Etienne and Elizabete Pires.
Deane was the first applicant chosen by the wheel of numbers. She’s retired but said she previously served on several parent groups for community organizations where she helped select program directors.
Although she has donated to campaigns in the past, the district’s online donation database showed none of Deane’s donations were current.
Etienne is the parent of a BPS middle school student and, like all applicants, lives in Brockton.
“Just making sure they have no direct ties to the city is huge,” Etienne said at the board’s introductory meeting on Oct. 24. “Make sure the funds are going to the correct places.”
“I have a vested interested in understanding or being aware of how funds were spent,” she said on her application.
Pires, a “longtime Brockton resident” and mother of two Brockton High School students, said she wants to ensure the team conducting the audit “has the bandwidth to make this happen…not just what they say they can do, actually proving it.”