Provo School District's superintendent is off the hook.
In Tuesday's board of education meeting, Superintendent Jim Bergera announced he has agreed to voluntarily return to the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center all compensation he earned under his consulting contract with the facility.The facility came under fire during the spring after a state audit alleged improper business practices and misuse of public money among the top eight employees at the health center, who reportedly siphoned off more than $3.5 million. Legislative Auditor General Wayne Welsh called the misuse of funds among the most blatant and egregious he'd ever seen. Bergera was not employed by the agency but did consulting work for it.
Bergera's consulting compensation amounts to $97,190 for work he performed during a four-year period, according to a legislative audit report released in April. Bergera said he will pay back the money by deeding real property to the center. The center will then sell the property to provide full reimbursement.
Bergera's response to return the money comes after allegations of possible conflict of interest. The April audit report said contracts between the school district and the center could be considered a conflict of interest for the superintendent because he moonlighted as a Timpanogos consultant.
In a statement from the school board, it says, "The board of education has conducted its own independent investigation into those charges and the handling of funds . . . and has found no impropriety or misuse of any funds under the board's jurisdiction or control."
But Bergera chose to return the money "in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety on his part and to ensure . . . the public of his loyalty and commitment."
David Weight, board vice president, said, "It goes without saying that Dr. Bergera has gone beyond what anyone expected in order to maintain his sense of integrity. Our findings have been totally satisfactory. District funds have not been compromised."
Board President Clarence Robison agreed. "As far as we are concerned, this is the conclusion to this matter and it will be put to rest. There isn't even a shadow left as far as we are concerned. He did it on his own will."
Timp Mental Health officials worked with Bergera to strike the agreement and commended the superintendent for his integrity and cooperation in resolving the matter, a statement issued by the center said.
The board statement also commended the superintendent for his actions of integrity.
"Throughout his service, Dr. Bergera has demonstrated the highest standards of leadership, character and integrity. The board of education finds Superintendent Bergera's decision completely in keeping with his character and integrity.
"We confirm our confidence in Dr. James Bergera as an effective leader with the integrity, compassion and understanding necessary to lead the affairs of this district."
Bergera, recognized as an expert in developing educational programs for handicapped and emotionally disadvantaged students, worked as a consultant because of his background.
According to Kathy Hughes, the district's special education director, no dollars from Provo School District were spent at Timp Mental Health. All programs were administered through a grant from the state for the severely emotionally, disturbed children and youth.
The State Board of Education audit, the Attorney General's audit, and the district's own audit by the independent audit firm of Grant Thornton demonstrate that Provo School District's records are clean and everything is appropriate, Hughes said.