What Does it Take to Get Fired?

Sometimes, Not Much

copyright: zazzle.com

copyright: zazzle.com

The article Fatal IT Distractions lists mistakes that will lead to immediate dismissal in the IT world: things like forgetting to back up data nightly or not testing your disaster recovery plan prior to a disaster.

This made me ponder.  What will get you fired in the world of school finance?

I am not talking about obvious offenses that show you aren’t fit to hold the position.  I mean those things that you might neglect, or one-time mistakes you might make from which you can’t recover.

Wrong revenue forecasts that are then used to give raises.   There is no retreating from this action.  Once a contract is signed there are no “Oopsies!” allowed.  I am not talking about disagreements over assumptions.  Unions will argue assumptions and attempt to convince you to use more optimistic ones.  I am talking about calculation errors from using bad spreadsheets and not having a verification system in place.  Yes, you can lose your job over a decimal point.

Wrong tax rate calculations.  In California (post Proposition 13) there is no mechanism for obtaining additional ad valorem taxes.  However, many districts have General Obligation bonds. Annually, the county assessor will send over a form to sign that basically says – here’s the required rate we calculated, please sign off.  Do not just blindly sign this.  Forward it to your bond’s financial advisor and have them verify the calculation.  If a wrong calculation is signed off, then the district is on the hook to make up the difference, which could be in the millions.  The thing is that the calculation is rarely wrong, and so some chief business officials have been lulled into a false sense of security.  If you sign off on a wrong calculation, you are probably out the door.

Getting confused about who you work for.  If you are asked to provide accounting or other services to another entity, be clear about who is being asked to do the job.  Is it you, as an individual, on your own time?  If the school district gets the check for the services, you cannot then use this money to pay yourself an additional stipend for your extra efforts.  This should be pretty clear.  Nevertheless at least one career has been ended by not understanding the difference.  A district provided ongoing services to an outside entity.  The fees received by the district were then used to pay several management staff members an extra stipend for doing the extra work.  The CBO was asked to resign.

Eeww!   I am told that years ago there was a prop suit of armor outside the CBO’s office.  (Um, what?).  One day a certain director put a note on the suit of armor that was lewd, gross, tasteless.  You know.  Eeww!  Both the armor and the offender – gone.

Threats.   Even in jest or speaking metaphorically, never combine the concepts of “death” and “your boss”, especially to his face. The repercussions are going to be very swift.

Creative Finance.  Need more money for your department or school?  Just sell something.  I have seen things like old desks, old computers, and scrap metal sold for cash that was then (ostensibly) used for “good” purposes. Even if you can demonstrate that you did not personally gain from the sale, your career is going to be seriously impacted.

Conflict of Interest.  Do you own stock in the company that is supplying copiers to your district?  Does your cousin own the company that just won a major construction bid?  Is your wife a partner in the district’s preferred law firm?  Unless you disclose these connections and remove yourself from the decision-making process you can end up jobless.  Sometimes you’ll find that you are prosecuted as well.

There is a common theme in most of these transgressions.  If any reach your local newspaper, the school board and superintendent are going to look pretty stupid.  They don’t like that.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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