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Editorial: Finance post a key one

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By The Staff

Ruben Cordova, the West Las Vegas school district’s new superintendent, made a good decision when he hired an outside person to take a look at the district’s business office.

Larry Binkley, who has served as a business manager for a number of New Mexico school districts, interviewed business office employees and took a look at the district’s finances.

He reported finding a department full of backbiting and gossip. And he said the employees weren’t happy with their supervisor, Dawn Biagianti, the business manager.

Biagianti, who had been with the district less than a year, announced her resignation soon after the superintendent received the report. But Cordova said he was unaware of any connection between the report and Biagianti’s exit. (The former business manager, for her part, couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Three years ago, Naomi Vicenti left as the longtime business manager. From the report, it appeared as if Vicenti had the support of her staff. Since her departure, the business office has had three managers and went six months without having one.

That turnover likely hurts the district. Consistency is probably more important in a business office than any other department in a governmental entity.

What makes matters worse is that the state has given West extra financial scrutiny since the Optic reported in 2006 about a $10,000 adults-only party the district held — spending that ultimately resulted in a conviction.

The good news is that Binkley didn’t find any major problems with West’s finances, although he noted that it was difficult to say where things stood because the books hadn’t closed for the previous fiscal year.

While it appears that Binkley did a good job with his report, we must  question one of his findings: He said employees in the business office have been making unauthorized releases of confidential information. But virtually all of the district’s financial information is public information, so what’s the problem?

The report also noted that employees considered Biagianti too blunt. However, we would prefer a plain-spoken business manager rather than one who beats around the bush. If the manager finds that spending is inappropriate, we appreciate that she says so — in defense of taxpayer dollars.

Now, Cordova must find a new business manager. He should consider this decision one of the most important of his administration.