Drake reported directly to McGonegal, who in April 2011 -- less than a year before he supposedly requested Drake's resignation -- rated Drake "highly effective," in categories such as accountability and assessment, decision-making strategies and work environment. Drake was deemed "exemplary" in technology and ethical leadership.
He earned the exact same marks in these categories in 2010, and in 2009, the year Drake and a committee of administrators decided to pull the position control software that tracked employee salaries and benefits and replace it with a new program that "could not add or subtract, and could not be relied upon for budget preparation."
The failure of this new program reportedly led to the use of a manual process using Excel worksheets, a decision that seems to have been prompted by Drake and the Technology and Information Services Department.
And by 2011-12, only Drake and two staff members were responsible for developing the budget, the audit report states.
Polk balks when he hears that three people were responsible for the budget in Manatee County.
"I don't see how that could fall on one person in the district," Polk said. "It's gotta be everyone involved because it's so complicated. If he was doing it all, that shouldn't happen -- that's a system problem."
Polk says Drake didn't control the allocations of positions when he worked in Lake County; Drake was more involved in assigning finances. Position control was the combined responsibility of Human Resources and the curriculum department, Polk said.
Auditors have also said that part of the problem was that the budget process was short-staffed.
"Drake was not the hands-on manager that Dr. McGonegal was," said Navigant investigator Al Robinson last Monday. "He was straightforward with us -- budget was not his strong point."
District organizational charts do show that Drake took on more responsibilities over the years, as the district experienced cuts or chose not to replace positions. When Drake became assistant superintendent in 2009, he oversaw five departments. In 2011-12, he was responsible for eight.
But the report offers no insight as to why such important tasks were primarily on the backs of three people.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Boyer and Interim Superintendent David Gayler have not specifically cited lack of staff as a significant problem in the budget-creating process. Boyer was hired last May, a few months before administration realized the budget deficit.
But what is clear is that there are no longer three people working on the upcoming school year's budget. For the past six months, 12 people meet every week to plan how to put position control and payroll encumbrances back into the process, Boyer said.
Polk said in his county, every department collaborated on the budget.
"The burden of building the budget wasn't solely on the finance department -- it was a group effort," Polk said. "And then we used to send it out to the departments and say 'This is what we got, does this sound reasonable?'"
Drake told auditors that he didn't have time to do checks and balances that might have caught mistakes sooner. The report reveals no oversight process that would have held him to doing that.
Boyer doesn't like the word incompetence to describe the past budget fiasco -- almost all the budget issues come down to the decision to remove position control software, he said Wednesday.
"The fundamental problem with the budget is a process problem," he said. "But the decision to unplug position control was a conscious decision."
That decision -- to use a manual methodology for the calculations of a school district of Manatee County's size -- Boyer calls "insane."
"I was in shock," Boyer said of coming into the district in May and observing the district's budget process. "Because I know what it's like to manually work with a couple hundred employees. To magnify that to 5,200 is insane."
The report provides no evidence that this decision was questioned, and does not specifically state that McGonegal or others ever found the methodology potentially problematic when it was enacted.