He is no longer superintendent, but Romain Dallemand has left Bibb County Schools with a financial mess to clean up.
Dallemand served as Rochester superintendent for three-and-half years before leaving in 2011 for Bibb County, Ga. There, a recent audit revealed that Dallemand repeatedly violated Bibb County School Board policy by ordering more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without approval from the school board, according to the Telegraph newspaper in Macon, Ga.
One of the largest purchases: a $3.8 million purchase of 15,000 "virtual" desktop devices that now sit unused in a Bibb County warehouse. The purchase was made, the audit says, without competitive bids or board approval. The audit was for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.
Dallemand "authorized, directed and coerced staff to make transactions that were in violation" of board polices, the audit reported. The purchases were made in "apparent disregard by the former Superintendent for existing School District procurement policies established by the Board of Education."
Dallemand left Bibb County early last year after the board bought out his contract for $350,000.
The scale of the alleged abuse of power in Georgia left current and former Rochester board members both surprised and grateful that the Dallemand era in Rochester is a distant memory.
"I'm glad he doesn't work here anymore," said Rochester School Board Chairwoman Anne Becker, who joined the board just before Dallemand left for Bibb County.
Sandra Soltis, a former Rochester School Board member and a fierce critic of Dallemand, said she was not surprised by the Bibb County report, but she is convinced that no similar financial improprieties occurred in Rochester during Dallemand's tenure. The things that did rankle Soltis, such as a $500 credit card charge for dinner at the Olive Garden to treat teachers, were small potatoes by comparison.
One current board member noted that Rochester is still seeking funding for its one-to-one tablet program.
"I know a place where we can get cheap computers," said the board member, who asked to remain anonymous since he wasn't board chairperson.
Audits of Rochester Public Schools finances during the years that Dallemand served as Rochester superintendent uncovered no financial improprieties, said Larry Smith, the district's executive director of business and operations.
"There wasn't anything that was going on," Smith said.
Dallemand was unavailable for comment on the Bibb County audit.
Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, a former Rochester district administrator who became part of Dallemand's cabinet in Macon, Ga,. and later served as interim superintendent after Dallemand left Bibb County, did not respond to an email. She now is employed by Minneapolis Public Schools. Wanda West, Bibb County School Board president, did not return a call seeking comment.
Dallemand authorized nine contracts or purchase orders from July to December 2012. Most did not receive board approval, and three were not put up for competitive bidding as required, the audit says. Two of the orders were for more than $6 million, and two others were for more than $3 million.
The audit suggested the total value of unauthorized contracts and purchase orders was much higher than $26 million. It identified $51 million in contracts and purchases that didn't comply with school district polices, but that figure covered items such as "matching resources" associated with the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative.
The audit goes on to say all the violations happened during Dallemand's tenure. Since Dallemand's departure from Bibb County, policies have been put in place to prevent a repeat of such irregular practices. Those changes include a $100,000 cap on purchases by a superintendent without board approval.