In the wake of the multimillion budget deficit that escaped the attention of Florida's Manatee County school district leadership for months, the community quickly focused on the backgrounds of the district's primary leaders.
How could former Superintendent Tim McGonegal -- who resigned after revealing the $3.4 million deficit in September -- and former Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jim Drake -- who retired before it was discovered -- allow for such a budget disaster with their extensive financial backgrounds?
Unanswered questions remain a week after auditors revealed the results of a forensic investigation into the deficit Monday. The district has yet to release more than 3,000 additional pages of investigation notes and summaries to the public.
Auditors from the consulting firm Navigant, hired by the school board in October, put blame almost solely on Drake. He was responsible for overseeing the budget, they said. He pulled the computer software that tracked salaries and benefits in the district, and eventually replaced it with a manual method that produced errors that led to this year's deficit.
McGonegal and the school board were not given information that would have helped them identify the problem, auditors said.
Some in the community have expressed incredulousness at a report that blames a budget failure on one person. District records lack evidence that administrators were aware of problems ahead of time.
And some audit presentation facts seem to contradict statements publicly made by district officials in the past years.
What is also not clear in the report is why either man would have accepted such methodology in a district the size of Manatee County, and why nothing was done to support the two-person budget staff that told auditors this year they didn't have time to do basic checks and balances.
Drake was hired in 2005 as executive finance director to replace McGonegal, who had been promoted to assistant superintendent of business services. When McGonegal became superintendent in 2009, Drake took over McGonegal's former assistant superintendent position.
Drake started in the district with a salary of $89,600. By the time he was promoted to assistant superintendent of business services in January 2009, his salary jumped from $108,608 to $117,435.
Both Drake and McGonegal had substantial backgrounds in finance. McGonegal became Manatee County's assistant director of finance in 2002, and director in June 2004.
Prior to coming to Manatee County, Drake was the director of finance at Lake County Schools, and was directly responsible for preparing the budget, according to his resume.
Before that, he worked for the auditor general in Orlando for 22 years, supervising multiple audits throughout many counties.
"He did a good job for us; we had no problems when he was here," said former Lake County Assistant Superintendent Jim Polk, who was on the interviewing committee that hired Drake. "We had a good relationship here."
There was no sign of problems with Drake when he abruptly announced a February retirement in January 2012. His email retirement letter to McGonegal was brief, and to the point.
"After working for over 33 years in state and local government I want to step off the treadmill I have been on for so long," Drake wrote.
But forensic auditors said Monday that McGonegal had demanded Drake retire or resign when it became apparent that "too many mistakes had been made." It is not clear what mistakes the report is referring to, because it also states that McGonegal didn't realize the deficit until July.
Drake's participation in the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, a program that allows participants to begin collecting pensions during the last five years of their employment, supports the idea that Drake wasn't ready to go.
Drake entered the five-year program in June 2011 with the intention of retiring in May 2016. His payout was $52,124 after he left the program early. His monthly benefit is $3,950. If McGonegal was unsatisfied with Drake's performance, district records don't show it.