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Schools’ internal auditor Andrea Niehaus said today that her independence has been hampered by San Diego Unified attorneys, airing the charge to a school committee that oversees audits.

“They don’t seem to understand that they can’t tell me what to look at,” Niehaus said this morning. She added she had never had such problems getting documents before in her 31-year career at the district.

Niehaus told members of the school district audit committee, which serves as an outside financial watchdog for San Diego Unified, that in one instance, she had had to wait for a school attorney’s approval before she could examine payments to a school health trust.

Chief schools attorney Andra Donovan, who recently stepped in to replace Mark Bresee on an interim basis after he took another job, said she didn’t believe legal staffers had ever interfered with the auditors. Donovan stopped short of saying more, telling the committee, “It’s not appropriately addressed here.”

The allegation comes at the same time that Niehaus and her department are being investigated by outside attorneys. San Diego Unified started the investigation after school employees complained about an audit on grade changing at their alternative school, arguing that interviews with faculty and staff were “inconsistent and/or nonexistent.”

The investigation has held up the grade-changing audit. It has also highlighted tensions between the school district auditors and its legal department, which manages the auditors.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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