2 ex-auditors sue Utah education board

2 ex-auditors sue Utah education board

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two former auditors have sued the Utah State Board of Education, claiming they were wrongfully fired in May for refusing to change the results of a report about school community councils.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in district court, Kent Mohlman and Tim Salazar say the terminations stemmed from their refusal "to carry out directives that they reasonably believed violated the laws and regulations governing their positions."

Mohlman said he and Salazar believe they were fired in part for refusing to change the results of an audit released in December about school community councils. He and Salazar are seeking reinstatement, back pay and other damages.

He said then-Superintendent Patti Harrington threatened their jobs, but they refused to change the audit.

"There needs to be some protection for an auditor," Mohlman told the Salt Lake Tribune. "An auditor is basically a whistle-blower, and any time someone feels like they can manipulate the auditor, you've lost your independence."

Dixie Allen, board vice chairwoman, said Harrington had nothing to do with the board's decision to terminate Mohlman and Salazar.

Allen said legislative auditors were producing many education reports -- including one that found criminals working in Utah schools because of inadequate checks and screening processes -- that the board felt should have come from its own auditors.

Allen said board members told Mohlman and Salazar that they'd like to see more of those types of audits, but the two said they didn't want to produce them.

"They were very, very reluctant to do that," Allen said. "We felt like there were far bigger issues out there we should be finding that we just weren't."


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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