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TDSB refusing to hand over forensic evaluation, audit committee chair says

Donna Quan, far left, top, is shown inside the boardroom of the TDSB at the beginning of their meeting in Toronto on Jan. 16, 2013. The board is trying to decide upon a successor to Chris Spence, and Quan's is one name being suggested as a real possibility.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto District School Board is refusing to give its audit committee a forensic audit of a summer youth program that is now part of a wider provincial investigation into the board's finances and procedures, the chair of that committee says.

The chair of the board's audit committee said the committee has asked staff at least five times for the results of the audit of Focus on Youth, an employment program for at-risk students, but has never received it. Trustee Elizabeth Moyer wrote to the Ministry of Education at the end of May requesting an investigation. Acting TDSB director Donna Quan made a similar request to the education minister in June.

Ms. Moyer has come under fire for her role as audit committee chair. She is facing conflict-of-interest allegations because Focus on Youth hired her two daughters last summer, even though the program is often discussed at audit committee meetings.

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More recently, she faces a harassment complaint from a senior staff member that includes allegations she pressured him to hire her children for the program.

Ms. Moyer called the allegations against her a distraction. "At the end of the day, this can easily be stopped by the director sending all trustees and the external members of the committee the audit report that has been withheld for months," she said. "I don't know how an audit is a personnel issue."

The Globe and Mail asked for a copy of the forensic audit and received the following response from a TDSB spokeswoman: "As this audit relates to confidential personnel information, it cannot be released publicly."

The Ontario government said last week that it will investigate the "financial management practices" of Canada's largest board. The period being investigated is between September, 2009, and June, 2013, and covers the director of education's office, salary increases, expense reviews and Focus on Youth.

Jim Spyropoulos, executive superintendent of equity and inclusive schools and who has accused Ms. Moyer of harassment, said in an interview that he does not believe the province will find any mismanagement of funds in Focus on Youth.

He described the program as a "difference maker." With a $3-million budget, Focus on Youth will hire nearly 600 at-risk students this summer, he said.

"I have treated every cent of that money with the dignity, the respect and the transparency that it deserves. And I have always welcomed and I will continue to welcome anyone to examine those books, to critique them, to analyze them and report back to us on how we did," Mr. Spyropoulos said.

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