The nonprofit California League of Bond Oversight Committees is accusing numerous school district auditors, including the firm that will audit San Diego Unified, of shirking their responsibilities under a state law meant to hold schools accountable when they issue bonds to repair and replace schools.

Under a state law that lowered the threshold for school districts to pass construction bonds, schools must get annual audits of their bond-funded construction and renovation programs. Anton Jungherr, executive director of CaLBOC, sent a complaint earlier this month to the California Board of Accountancy, arguing that several auditing firms statewide had helped school districts violate the law by doing milder reviews and fraudulently labeling them as the required audits.

One of the firms he named was Nigro, Nigro & White, which was recently hired to audit Proposition S, the $2.1 billion facilities bond passed by voters last fall to renovate San Diego Unified schools. It had already been contracted with San Diego Unified for its financial auditing, a separate task. Partner Christy White said that CaLBOC was “inaccurate in including our firm” in that list and argued that the law is vague, including only two specific duties for bond auditors, to verify that bond money was deposited in the school district’s name and that spending matched what voters approved.

It is not the first time the question of audits and their adequacy has arisen statewide. In June, an independent California commission that investigates state government reported that local school districts have sometimes “skipped the more expensive performance audits — which have the potential to save significant money in the long run — and simply conduct financial audits.”

Citizens on a committee charged with overseeing the San Diego Unified school construction bond will discuss the mandatory audits and the concerns Jungherr raised at a Friday meeting.

EMILY ALPERT

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