Timpview football coach suspended amid financial investigations

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Coach Louis Wong gets a soaking as his team wins the 2008 4A football championship over Cottonwood at Rice Eccles Stadium Nov. 21, 2008. Wong was suspended Tuesday and may be fired after 30 days following financial investigations at the school.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Read: Review of Student Activity & Club Accounts in Provo City School District (Timpview High School) Fiscal Years 2010-2012

PROVO — The Provo School District suspended Timpview High head football coach Louis Wong without pay late Tuesday pending termination.

Wong has the right to a hearing appealing the decision within 15 days. Otherwise, he'll be fired from his teaching position and coaching position in 30 days.

Wong met with Timpview High School Principal Todd McKee and interim human resources director Cindy Wright Tuesday at the Provo School District offices. In that meeting he had an opportunity to respond to issues that were raised by financial investigations conducted by the Provo School District and the Utah State Office of Education.

Wong left that meeting without commenting.

The action comes after months of investigations at the state and district level. Questions about financial practices by the coach and the school's administration arose last year during fundraising efforts for a state-of-the-art weight room on the school's campus.

Further questions arose after McKee was hired to replace George Bayles as principal last summer. Bayles retired at the end of the 2011 school year.

Those questions spawned a number of investigations, including an audit conducted by the State Office of Education, which was requested by former Provo Superintendent Randy Merrill in October.

While that audit was completed at the end of February, State Superintendent Larry Shumway refused to make the findings public citing GRAMA exceptions that allowed officials to protect any documents that might interfere with ongoing investigations.

The state auditors did share their findings with district officials and Provo School Board members. After learning of the state's findings, the board conducted its own investigation of Timpview's financial records, especially its football program. That investigation is still in progress, according to district officials.

Because the investigation is ongoing, district officials said there could be disciplinary actions taken against other school employees.

The Deseret News obtained a number of financial records that were not part of the audit, but show that the district was concerned about finances in the Timpview football program. Those include reimbursement requests for personal expenses, reimbursement requests for unapproved purchases and an alleged failure to follow the district's purchasing policy and the state's procurement act.

All of the documents examined by the Deseret News were approved by administrators, including Bayles, assistant principal Brad Monks, and assistant principal Rene Cunningham. The signatures on more than a dozen of the reimbursement requests or expenditure authorizations were illegible.

Wong's supporters were disturbed that only certain documents were released to the media, while the state's audit remained protected. Those who work with him and support the program said they believe its an effort to influence public opinion.

"They planned to dismiss him and in preparation for that, they leaked certain parts of the picture that don't tell the whole story," said assistant coach Todd Cusick, "in the hopes they will diffuse the reaction to the suspension or firing. It's a very unfair approach and meant to make him look bad."

The documents obtained by the Deseret News were public documents detailing the financial dealings at Timpview High and not part of the states official audit report. That is scheduled to be released at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday by the Utah State Office of Education.

The investigation examined $141,926.46, but focused on $114,567 of that total that officials found troublesome.

Some of the transactions being questioned, according to the documents and district officials, include: