Palm Beach high school sports programs cited for poor internal controls

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Some Palm Beach County high schools seem to be running far afield when it comes to how they manage their sports programs.

The district's Inspector General's office visited 12 of 22 high schools that regularly host ticketed sporting events, according to a report discussed by the Audit Committee on Friday.

Auditors found several issues that could make the programs vulnerable to fraud, such as failing to deface tickets and letting people through the gates with previously used ticket stubs.

Schools were also cited for failing to have adequate separation of duties for those handling money, failing to turn in money in a timely manner and operating concessions stands without the required Health Department permits. The audit did not cite any evidence of criminal behavior.

Many coaches have been under the impression they're "their own animal" because they raise funds and get little financial assistance from the district, said Terri Matthews, an Audit Committee member who works as a treasurer at Palm Beach Gardens High.

"Coaches sometimes feel overwhelmed and say, 'I'm supposed to be coaching. I shouldn't have to worry about paperwork," Matthews said. "The athletic directors are also overwhelmed and they get help from parents who are not always knowledgeable about what's required."

Auditors monitored football, baseball, softball and volleyball games at Lake Worth High, Palm Beach Lakes High, Santaluces High, Atlantic High, Royal Palm Beach High, Forest Hill High, Spanish River High, Suncoast High, Pahokee Middle-Senior High, Boca Raton High, Jupiter High and Palm Beach Central High. The audit didn't say which schools were responsible for each specific violation.

The district will now require athletic staff to go through training. Tickets will have to be defaced and not re-used, and hand stamps must be used for re-entry.

"Strict adherence to these procedures reduces possible fraudulent practices,'' the audit states.

They'll also have to make sure any concessionaires selling prepared food get the proper health license. The Inspector General's Office plans to do follow-up visits during the next year.

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