Provo School Superintendent Jim Bergera may find himself in hot water since the release of a legislative audit report on Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center, but the Provo Board of Education still stands behind him.
The report, released Tuesday, says contracts between the center and the Provo School District could be viewed as a conflict of interest for the superintendent, who also doubles as a consultant for the center. According to the audit, Bergera made $97,190 over a four-year period working as a consultant at the center."I don't know how serious it is, but I know the board feels very strongly about the capacity and great service rendered by Dr. Bergera," said board President Clarence Robison. "We have unlimited faith in his integrity and honesty. In my opinion, what was done was done with that type of service in mind."
Robison said he hopes the board can find the answers everyone is asking about so necessary steps can be taken to clear up the situation. "We have a lot of questions that we need to have answered, not only in our own minds but in other people's minds."
Lynn Smith, school district business administrator, also has come under fire from the audit report. In the report, state auditors criticized Smith's CPA firm of Timothy, Smith & Associates for its 1986 and 1987 audits of Timpanogos Mental Health.
Officials, including county commissioners, question why irregular financial dealings weren't apparent to the independent auditing firm when the problem was readily obvious to state auditors. Smith refused comment on the audit by his CPA firm, which has since been dissolved.
According to Robison, the district selected Smith as business administrator last fall upon recommendations from several auditors in the community. "He was hired through the proper channels and was highly qualified. There was nothing inappropriate."
Smith had no obligation whatsoever in his position with the school board that would relate to the audit, Robison said. "His work at the firm prior to coming on board is completely unrelated as far as I can tell."
Robison said Smith had started his audit at the mental health center before he was hired and was given permission by the board to complete his work.
The report says Timpanogos Mental Health received money and personnel support for a program sponsored through Provo School District. The arrangement appears to create a conflict of interest for the center and Bergera because Bergera, while supervising the school district's contract with the Timpanogos Mental Health Center, was a Timp employee working on the same program.
Bergera's superintendent salary was supplemented by the following payments from Timpanogos Mental Health: 1987 $36,935; 1986 $22,670; 1985 $18,985; 1984 $18,600.
Robison said he is aware of Bergera's consulting work but didn't know he was a consultant with Timp Mental Health until "a short time ago."
Before any action is taken, the board will review the audit report to determine if any conflict of interest existed, Robison said. "After we sift through it (the audit), we will prepare a statement, if necessary."
Shelden Carter, Bergera's attorney, said the superintendent has spent many hours working with special education during his 31 years with the school district.
"He has special abilities in that area and did render services to the Timp Center at their request," he said. "He did get compensated, but it wasn't an overcompensation. It was not an abuse situation or anything in excess of what would be a normal payment within reasonable standards."
Robison said when Bergera was hired as superintendent, board of education members were aware he was acting as a consultant for special-education programs, but they weren't given details.
Robison said he didn't know who Bergera's outside contracts were with because, "I had no reason to look it up. I knew of his expertise in the mental-health area. I don't think anything there is inappropriate."
Before becoming superintendent, Bergera was employed as the special- education director for Provo School District for 12 years and helped develop model programs involving handicapped children. Since 1978, he has continued his work in developing several programs for the handicapped.
"My concern all along has been to improve services for handicapped individuals," Bergera said. "I certainly hope that we can keep the focus on the quality of the programs we have developed and take every effort to ensure that they continue."
According to the report, "Dr. Bergera said that most of his consulting was done verbally with Carl Smith (former youth program director for the center) on several different matters, including special education and curriculum development. "However, Dr. Bergera had no available supporting documentation showing hours worked, reports generated, recommendations made or services rendered under this contract."
Carter said because "the auditor was under stress to get the report out," Bergera was unable to give any documentation of the work he provided.