Detroit Public Schools' new financial manager plans to employ an inspector general position that will manage the forensic audits in the district, reversing a decision by the school board.
Robert Bobb, in his fourth day on the job, also told staff in a letter Thursday that he also plans to implement a telephone hotline and create other communications mechanisms to allow staff to give him confidential input.
"I can assure you that every communication will be thoroughly reviewed," he wrote in his letter.
The inspector general also will review confidential information and develop internal auditing functions, he said.
W. Howard Morris, the former emergency financial manager of Inkster schools, said Bobb is developing important tools to gain valuable information from staff.
"Your best sources of what's wrong in any organization are anonymous tips," he said. "Folks are happy to tell you what's wrong if they know they are not going to be punished."
Bobb's announcement that he is creating a position for inspector general reverses an earlier decision by the board, which in recent months eliminated an inspector general position. The board instead opted to create an internal audit department.
Bobb's reversal of that decision shows he's exercising his authority and quickly making changes he feels are necessary to clean up the troubled system's finances.
Board President Carla Scott issued a memo to board members today explaining to them that she had her first meeting with Bobb and discussed a change in the way the board operates.
No longer will they approve contracts, she said. Bobb would soon provide details on the procedures on how contracts will be approved, she said. Under state law, the emergency manager has the authority to approve contracts.
Scott said she believes the board needs to continue to monitor contracts and other decisions because the board will be tasked with taking over once Bobb's appointment is over.
"We also have a responsibility to hold him accountable," she said at a finance committee meeting. If the board finds Bobb is not fulfilling his duties, "we would have to take some action and appeal to the governor," she said.
Bobb was appointed to the position by Gov. Jennifer Granholm after the state's top education official declared the school district to have a financial emergency. In his first press conference this week, he revealed that the district's deficit is estimated to be more than $150 million, larger than previously disclosed.
In his letter to employees, Bobb said one of his greatest challenges will be to "marshal and utilize the needed resources to provide the best education for all of our children." He said student achievement will be the centerpiece of his work.
"As I work with DPS employees, clearly there are many employees who care deeply and are extraordinarily talented," he wrote. "As we move forward doing our work we must put aside our adult interests and have only one objective in mind, and that is the objective of putting our children first."