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Official: Murfree ordered overpayment of $250,000

Dougherty County School Board Member Darrell Ealum gestures while discussing a $250,000 overpayment to Alternatives Unlimited at Thursday’s board meeting.

Dougherty County School Board Member Darrell Ealum gestures while discussing a $250,000 overpayment to Alternatives Unlimited at Thursday’s board meeting.

ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County School Board members learned Wednesday that the School System has overpaid the private administrative firm for its Drop Back In Academy by $250,000 after incorrectly labeling students in the program.

Ken Dyer, chief financial officer for Dougherty schools, told board members that he questioned the invoice from Alternatives Unlimited, the program administrator, and initially refused payment.

Dyer informed board members that he was told

by then Supt. Joshua Murfree to “honor the invoice,” which he did, citing a provision he says existed in the contract that allowed for the superintendent to resolve any invoice disputes with the company — a provision board attorney Tommy Coleman and two board members contend does not exist.

The Drop Back In Academy is designed to reach students ages 16-21 who are high school dropouts and works to help them earn credits they need to graduate from high school. The program is free to the student and is paid for by taking 90 percent of the state FTE (full-time enrollment) funding of about $3,500 per student. The school district receives the remaining 10 percent of the FTE funding.

According to Dyer, Murfree and principals from around the district made the conscious decision to categorize the students who were attending the school as traditional students, which changed the level of FTE funding provided by the state. Georgia pays a different FTE rate for alternative students than regular students — $4,500 to $3,500 respectively.

This was done because Murfree thought categorizing the students as alternative students would hurt the four Dougherty County high schools, Dyer said.

"When they sent the invoice, it was for 90 percent of the alternative rate, which we weren't receiving from the state," Dyer told the board. "We were receiving the regular rate."

Board members appeared stunned when Dyer explained the situation during Wednesday's meeting.

"We specifically worded the language in their contract to avoid this kind of thing," Board Member Darrell Ealum said. "I knew this was going to happen," pointing to a provision in the contract that specifically limits the amount the district can pay Alternatives Unlimited to 90 percent of the funds allotted by the state for the students in the program.

Board Member James Bush asked Dyer who authorized payment after he had initially refused payment.

"It was my supervisor," Dyer responded.

"You mean Mr. (Robert) Lloyd (former financial director)?" Bush asked.

"No, Dr. Murfree," Dyer said.

The revelation prompted Board Chair Carol Tharin to question the need to conduct any further business with the group.

"Seems to me that we need to do away with them," Tharin said, to which Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely said that proposal would be researched to see if it could be done in house by the school system.

The School Board is expected to discuss the program and its future at its June 10 board meeting.

Mosely said that he would consider pursuing some level of legal action against Alternatives Unlimited in hopes of getting the money back.

Comments

Amazed2 1 year, 2 months ago

I would terminate Ken Dyer at this point also just simply due to him not bringing this to light before now. Not sure he can totally shield himself with Murfree even though I'm sure Murfree told him to pay the invoice. This is starting to look like it was orchestrated by top level people at DCSS and the company that submitted the elevated invoice. ???

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Support 1 year, 1 month ago

This was brought up in a finance meeting in March. I read this in the Herald. Coleman opinion was sought in January on this based on the article in the Herald. There's no coverup.

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RedEric 1 year, 2 months ago

Where are the other comments? Dingleberry was commenting about a report site that no district in the State paid a bill over $90,000 at one time and that nobody reported a total anywhere close to $250,000 for this program. Now, if this is true there are two explanations 1) the payment was made, but not reported. 2) the money was not paid and maybe shared. If 2) is correct, it is gross incompetence. If 2) is correct that is theft!

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dingleberry 1 year, 2 months ago

All the earlier comments on this articles simply went away, didn't they! This whole affair deserves the utmost scrutiny, something is bad wrong. Is it time for a grand jury investigation of all DCSS past activities? If it was thought to be wrong by Dyer when paid, why did it just resurface again?And why did we commit to such an expensive program to begin with, with what result?

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Amazed2 1 year, 2 months ago

Looks like the Herald updated the story and Cleared all the previously posted concerns and comments

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Amazed2 1 year, 2 months ago

Well the DCSS is soon to be hiring a New Supt. Hopefully , JuneBug. Mr James Bush and his group of ministers and Velvet will not be looking at someone ranked way down at #34 to SIT in the office. Hopefully but no guarantee they see why you should not hire a person ranked way down at #34. Good Luck and Pray for positive outcome.

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alleebrin 1 year, 2 months ago

This $250,000.00 should be charged to Murfree for immediate payment!!

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dickyboy 1 year, 2 months ago

Are we still here? Jim....will our comments put the herald in a position of liability?

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whattheheck 1 year, 2 months ago

"Seems to me that we need to do away with them," Tharin said, to which Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely said that proposal would be researched to see if it could be done in house by the school system."

Seems to me, Carol,and Butch, we need to do some research and analysis while pondering whether we should just do away with the program--period. This whole thing sounds as loosey goosey as Darrell Sabb's program to maybe or maybe not show up on Saturdays and read Dr Suess books. How many students did what with what result at what cost?

If the overpayment was $250,000, obviously there was an amount not accounted for in the article that was paid correctly. The article does not show the number of students but mashing the numbers around indicates the total invoice may have been over $1 million.

There is an old saying in writing that good writers struggle so poor readers won't. In this case, even a good reader will struggle and not come up with answers.

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MRKIA 1 year, 2 months ago

THE DCSS WILL LIKELY EAT THIS ONE ALSO. THEY SHOULD CEASE DOING BUSINESS WITH THIS FIRM AND BRING IT IN-HOUSE AS DR. MOSLEY SUGGESTS. LIKELY A TOTAL BUST/GIVE-AWAY. WHO KNOWS.

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erock 1 year, 2 months ago

Once again another ousted member leaves a mess for someone else to take care of. I agree with Amazed, why are we just now hearing about this. Incompetence all the way around. A bunch of educated people, or so they say, that don't seem to be able to add or subtract, but dole out money like it's their own.

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dickyboy 1 year, 2 months ago

This appears to be racial... Does it not? Are any white folks involved in any of these kick backs? Just saying..

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MRKIA 1 year, 1 month ago

NO,NO, HELL NO. JUST STUPID .

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iko 1 year, 2 months ago

I will restate my original wager: the Greg Edwards' DA's office will not conduct a serious investigation of this scandal. The DA's office is forever tainted and corrupted by having been infected by the Ken Hodges filth. Does anyone wish to take this wager?

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 2 months ago

FYI, this is from a March story I wrote after a DCSS Finance Committee meeting:

"The system’s contract with Alternatives Unlimited (Drop Back In Academy) was also discussed. The academy scours the county for dropouts and gets them back into the system in an alternative school environment.

"The state then pays the system $3,800 per student in FTE (full-time equivalency) money. The system, in turn, pays the academy 90 percent of that money. This is state money the district would not receive if the students were not enrolled in the system.

Dyer said more than 200 former dropouts are currently enrolled in the academy, but the DCSS might suffer a $200,000 loss because of a coding error. The state pays an extra $1,000 in FTE money for alternative students, and this higher figure is what the academy bases its billing upon.

"But according to Dyer, it’s possible that the system coded those students as regular instead of alternative students, leaving the DCSS on the hook for the more than $200,000 difference.

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whattheheck 1 year, 1 month ago

Well I'll be darn! Missed that one completely JD. Thanks for the info to help bridge the gap that while lessened is still there.

"But according to Dyer, it’s possible that the system coded those students as regular instead of alternative students, leaving the DCSS on the hook for the more than $200,000 difference."

So it sounds like the "coding error" was no error, it was intentional, a decision made by Murfree et al. And at least some on the BOE knew about it earlier yet one can almost hear gasps as the confirmation of the faux pass was discussed yesterday. Who are the finance committee members? In Apr, Murfree was gone so Dyer's comment about "might suffer a $200,000 loss" makes it sound as tho the payment was pending, not made at that time. If so, how can it be said that the payment was directed by Murfree? Are britches on fire? There is more to be done with this matter since it seems DCSS and the BOE don't know whattheheck is going on, even now!

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whattheheck 1 year, 1 month ago

I stand naked before the court, shame on me! Sorry Terry, the original article was JD's and I didn't look at other than the wording of your post. But then you and JD do look a lot alike so perhaps a glance at the picture fooled me! lol

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saveourcity 1 year, 1 month ago

Terry, Of the 200 former dropout enrolled how many completed completed the course and received a GED? what happens if a student enrolled, but did not complete the course? How is that money accounted for?

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southwestga 1 year, 1 month ago

Just who runs this facility? Another Murfree friend? Who would have been responsible for the 'miscoding'?

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Amazed2 1 year, 1 month ago

Boy this story is just getting more confusing. The more I read the more total incompetence I perceive. Amazing!!!

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dingleberry 1 year, 1 month ago

It's really simple, Amazed2. A "fool proof contract" was written to have things done correctly. But in the process, the ability of our fools to overcome was underestimated. Stupidity and incompetence are not crimes but perhaps it's time to consider making them one in the Good Life!

We pay people good money to do their jobs yet when it comes to DCSS, I always feel violated by the result. I am amazed, too!

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MRKIA 1 year, 1 month ago

YES IT WAS FOOL PROOF. MURFREE IS THE FOOL AND THE PROOF!!!

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LuLu 1 year, 1 month ago

Where IS he, anyway? Is he still in Albany? Is he back at ASU?

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bennydawg 1 year, 1 month ago

Seriously, what in the h*ll do you all expect? This is Dougherty County. This is where the county's black leadership (for the most part) has repeatedly robbed and scraped any hope of from the good citizens in this county. All efforts are made to advance people of color regardless of qualifications or legal consideration. Just as long as the right people get to the top, dont worry about the taxpayers, students, or being held accountable.

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jglass 1 year, 1 month ago

Why would one person be allowed to give the ok to spend that money? I hope Mr. Mosely puts a lot of guidelines into place and a lot of checks and balances and if anyone tries to go around them...........................fire them. If this was a coding error, who coded the invoice wrong? It appears that the right hand never knows what the left hand does and obviously does not care.

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saveourcity 1 year, 1 month ago

How long has this program been in place? What are success rates? How much has DCSS paid them over the term of the contract?

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Sister_Ruby_Two 1 year, 1 month ago

You should be a reporter for the Albany Herald.

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dingleberry 1 year, 1 month ago

Best I can tell, no payments were made to this Maryland company in FY2012 or prior so it may be their first year here. Payments can be seen at open.georgia.gov. Data for FY2013 has not been posted. My estimate is perhaps over $1 million was paid. The largest visible amount paid to this company by any county was about $90,000 and all payments by all counties from FY2009-2012 won't near total the amount we overpaid in error. .

Success rates? Don't think you will find any statistics. I wonder why and how we got this company in the first place.

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Amazed2 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds like this is a very lucrative deal and all they have to do is finds a couple hundred dropouts and Ka! pow!!! We are talking major $$$$. I wonder if the so called students receive compensation for allowing themselves to be in the so called program?? I betting the candidate is paid a sign up fee then rarely attends actual school? Surely somebody can investigate??

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whattheheck 1 year, 1 month ago

Surely you jest! Who do you suggest?

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Amazed2 1 year, 1 month ago

In business and in government there is what is called limits of authority that include maximum spending limits. I think w City its like a dept head $5,000 then City Manager $50,000. Above $50k requires approval of City Commission. Hard to believe one man in DCSS can authorize a million dollars and the DCSS Board is in the frigin dark and clueless?? I know Ken Dyer knew about the deal surely others did. My property taxes about $2500. So it would take my total tax times 100 others just like mine to cover what Murfree authorized. Crazy

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whattheheck 1 year, 1 month ago

If you look at the March article indicating the voucher was unpaid and could be wrong, and consider the fact that Murfree was no longer in the Super's chair, I don't see him getting the blame on this one unless some of what has been reported is not correct. timing or content considered. Further, I would think the BOE did approve the contract which Ealum's comment indicates happened. And the comment about contract/voucher disputes in yesterday's article is still unsettled. Frankly, I don't think we have all the info yet.

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spookj6 1 year, 1 month ago

Let's do Dr. Joshua Murphee the same way Dr Sally Whatley was treated when she left, but I guess the fine citizen of Albany forgot about her.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 1 month ago

To be fair, Whatley accepted full responsibility for the CRCT fiasco because it occurred "on my watch."
In my three years on the education beat I don't recall Murfree ever assuming responsibility for anything ... and I doubt if he'd start now.
But I'll ask him ...

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

What does it matter that Whatley accepted the responsibility for the CRCT fiasco? She met no consequences. She had a great capacity but no character. With all of her legitimate education she could effectuate no gain. In fact she was along for the ride. Her only merit is she didn't steal the ash trays and towels.

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Amazed2 1 year, 1 month ago

Yea Whattgeheck, I am seeing mixed signals here. Good chance Murphree has first hand knowledge of but somehow I am getting the feeling there is more to the story as bits and pieces come out. I kind if think Dyer knows more than what's been reported yet. The Board needs to ask for a complete audit if that office. I don't know Robert Lloyd but he apparently fell out of favor with Murfree so maybe his demotion to pencil manager was due to him questioning expenditures. I'm sure the top office liked a yes man.

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whattheheck 1 year, 1 month ago

If anyone questioned expenditures perhaps we would not be in as much of a mess now and I really don't think that was an issue. From all I have heard over the years, Lloyd would never win a Mr Congeniality contest and this likely was much more of an issue than him wanting to say "no" to #34.

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ittybittyme 1 year, 1 month ago

Dyer needs to go. Murfee needs to held accountable.

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bfreeman42 1 year, 1 month ago

Link to the original with original comments: http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2013...

And here's the comment: 1 w0nder when this was paid. If you search for payments to this company in FYs 2009-2012 in all counties in the state,the highest payment during that time by any county was less than $90,000 and total payments for all years are well less than $250,000. No payments were shown for DCSS (open.georgia.gov) There aren't many payments statewide and most are relatively insignificant. Secretary of State's Office has listing on a Maryland company with this name. Is there a signed contract for work with this company? How did we get hooked for $250,000 in the first place. Need more details on this one.

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bfreeman42 1 year, 1 month ago

And here's the comment: I wonder when this was paid. If you search for payments to this company in FYs 2009-2012 in all counties in the state,the highest payment during that time by any county was less than $90,000 and total payments for all years are well less than $250,000. No payments were shown for DCSS (open.georgia.gov) There aren't many payments statewide and most are relatively insignificant. Secretary of State's Office has listing on a Maryland company with this name. Is there a signed contract for work with this company? How did we get hooked for $250,000 in the first place. Need more details on this one.

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iko 1 year, 1 month ago

Anyone want to take my wager on the DA's office? P.S. I just flushed a Hodges.

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Amazed2 1 year, 1 month ago

Yea ittybittyme something about the timeline just look off. If Murpfree was a Lame Duck and I can't tell from all this then Dyer should not have followed orders? Even if Murphree told him to pay it he should have at a minimum called the chairman of the DCSS and said hey I was told to pay this?? Help what should I do. Story lines are fuzzy that's why there needs to be official investigation. Make sure Dyer is not dumping the blame. Just too much crap was going on then. All the reason when you cut a person loose you say goodbye Now!

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MRKIA 1 year, 1 month ago

DROP IN, ACRI, RIVERQUARIUM, ALBANY HEIGHTS, L'JUA'S, AUNT FANNIES, SHOPS BY THE AIRPORT, SABBS AND ASSOC., FIRST TEE, HERITAGE HOUSE, ...WHEN WILL END? GOOD THING ALBANY HAS MR. TAYLOR.

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MRKIA 1 year, 1 month ago

I LOVE THE PART WHERE DR,MOSLEY PLANS TO PERSUE A.U. AND RECOVER THE OVERPAYMENT.

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