A Columbus City Schools internal investigation has concluded that WCBE’s former general manager concealed the amount of the station’s debt, and falsified invoices to protect the station. Alison Holm reports.
Following a four and a half month investigation, the internal auditor’s office released their report on debt at the district-owned radio station. Investigator Kevin Saionzkowski told the Audit and Accountability committee that a significant debt to national Public Radio had begun to accumulate in 2015, but that the district was not advised until this January, when the debt had grown to $870,000.
Saionzkowski said that then-General Manager Dan Mushalko had falsified invoices, submitting bills that were lower than actual expenses, but within the station’s budget. He said that there was no indication Mushalko had modified invoices for his own benefit, and no indication that anyone else was involved.
The investigation also showed that Mushalko had used personal funds and undeposited cash receipts to pay some station operating expenses.
It also concluded that the district’s operating model, which called for the station to be self-sustaining after general fund subsidies were eliminated in 2004, posed a risk for the district, in that it “created significant pressure on revenue generation for WCBE’s continued existence” Scott Varner, director of Strategic Communications and Public Relations told the committee that WCBE operated differently than other departments within the district.
“As you know WCBE relies upon direct donations, memberships, underwriting – which is the form of advertising in public radio – that all comes from listeners. They’re not unique for a radio station, but they are unique for Columbus City Schools. And that, I think is a significant difference here.”
Among the recommendation included in the report are reviewing the districts procedures for payment support documentation, and designing internal control procedures that address the risks. And an examination of how WCBE aligns with district goals. After hearing the conclusions of the report, Committee Chair and school board vice president Michael Cole said the district remains committed to the station.
“There’s going to be on-going discussion about re-imagining WCBE. Understanding that initially there is value in our licensing and there is value, inherently, in the operation itself.”
Mushalko submitted his resignation on Tuesday but declined to comment pending resolution of that resignation. District spokesperson Scott Wortman said there will be no criminal charges and the school system considers the matter closed.