Friday, June 23, 2017

IT'S FIVE O'CLOCK SOMEWHERE: If I Were You, I'd Take A Permanent Vacation!

The Grand Traverse Academy board voted today to cut ties with Mark Noss and his Full Spectrum Management firm; fortunate son-in-law collapses in tears.

More updates to follow.

GRAND TRAVERSE ACADEMY BOARD TRIES (AND FAILS) TO SHIRK RESPONSIBILITY FOR MOUNTING FINANCIAL MORASS: What About That $5.0 Million Full Spectrum Management 401(k)...Under Management By Mark Noss' Brother? (Hey, Those $895,000 Florida Condos Don't Grow On Trees!)

“Board members earlier this year collected bids from several management companies as tensions between Noss and the school board continued to grow. 

Werth repeatedly questioned Noss’ competency and noted GTA has for years been overpaying thousands of dollars for his services. Noss’ “self-serving” position paired with his threats to sue the school for past debt inherited by imprisoned school founder Steven Ingersoll raised additional concerns about his financial decisions, Werth previously said. 

Noss repeatedly declined to speak to a Record-Eagle reporter about the accusations.” 

Left out of the public discussion of the purported parting of ways between the Grand Traverse Academy and Mark Noss and his Full Specrtum Management is the 401(K) plan under management by Luke Noss.

Oh, you didn't know that?

The most recent Department of Labor Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Annual Benefit Plan, filed on June 14, 2017 includes audited financial statements — and reveals nearly $80,000 in delinquent participation contributions, with Noss delaying the transmission of employee 401(k) contributions long past the maximum 15 business day period.


Meaningful 401(k) fee data is hard to come by. 

Required publicly available filings – most notably the Form 5500 – provide only snippets of fee data. And 401(k) providers are of little help as few disclose fees online or in published documents. 

Even worse, plan fees are often a tangle of 'direct' fees from employees and sponsors and 'indirect' fees that come from certain investment providers. 

Following the money is a difficult job even for those willing to invest the time and energy to do so. 

The United States Labor Department’s so-called 401(k) fee disclosure rule went into effect five years ago, in July 2012. 

Under that rule, plan administrators are required to mail you a quarterly statement showing your investments’ rates of returns, investment-related fees, and expenses, including any amounts the plan deducted from your account to cover administrative expenses. 

The day-to-day operation of a 401(k) plan involves expenses for basic administrative services--such as plan record keeping, accounting, legal and trustee services. 

In some cases, these plan-administration expenses are covered by investment fees deducted from investment returns. In other cases, these fees are a separate charge borne by the employer or charged directly against the assets of the plan. 

So, at a minimum, plan participants should not be lulled into thinking that all they are paying for their 401(k) is plan administration fees. 

Wall Street is a nice place to work, but why live in lower Manhattan when there's so much cheddar in Northern Michigan?

Naples, Florida...here I come.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

SAFE, LOVED, AND LEARNING? Character Education...Or Education By Characters?

“SNAPPED” IN THE SCHOOLYARD? “A staff member was being accused by a parent of allegedly dragging a student into the school from the playground,” GTA Superintendent Susan Dameron wrote. “The academy is in the process of a thorough investigation into these allegations.”

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff's department is investigating an allegation by the parent of a GTA student that a “staff member” dragged the student, who reportedly refused to leave the playground, back into the Traverse City charter school.

“Hell no, I won’t go?”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO CROSKEY LANNI? Grand Traverse Academy Board Hires Rehmann Group, Accounting Firm That Currently Represents Mark Noss; Another Rehmann Group CPA Part Of Steven Ingersoll's Criminal Tax Fraud Prosecution “Dream Team”

“I think it’s a matter of segregation of duties,” said board Treasurer Samer Bourdkani. “We don’t want to rely (and) put everything on the Rehmann Group. If something happens between us and them, then we’re going to start from scratch all over again. We don’t want to rely heavily on one entity.”

Why not?

It worked so well for Steven Ingersoll and it's working still for teetering Grand Traverse Academy management head Mark Noss.

A couple things not mentioned today's Record-Eagle story (what a surprise!): according to the GTA board's official February 2, 2017 meeting minutes, Mark Noss reported that he'd hired the Rehmann Group to serve as accountant for FSM, not the GTA.

Although Croskey Lanni provided accounting services for the GTA's 2015 and 2016 annual audits, it appears that firm has been replaced by one with close ties to both Ingersoll and Noss. 

More financial hide the salami from the GTA board.

Christ on a crutch, who is writing this script?

Always ready with a newsworthy quote, board member and CPA Samer Bourkani (whose last appearance in this farce as its “misleading” man delivered the memorable “by hook or by crook” remark in a May 17 news story), returns with a another gem: “We don’t want to rely heavily on one entity.” 

It's too late, baby!

The roots of the current GTA management flap can be found in a November 21, 2013 email from Steven Ingersoll to his defense team, which included attorney Jan Geht, forensic accountant David Hammel and Rehmann accountant Dick Cummins.

In that email, Ingersoll writes to the group regarding an initiative planned to respond to what is certainly his impending criminal indictment. Ingersoll hired a criminal defense attorney in July 2012, and had previously been negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

That legal strategy shifted from negotiation to an “I’ll take my chances with a jury” stance, with Ingersoll hiring Rehmann Group as Smart Schools' new accounting firm. The move was formally announced by Ingersoll at the GTA's February 1, 2013 board meeting.

According to IRS Revenue Agent Michael Wisniewski, who testified during Ingersoll’s sentencing hearing, he and fellow IRS Agent Mike Kaza conducted in-person interviews with several Grand Traverse Academy Board members and office staffers in early July 2013. 

All denied ever having seen the page in the audit report that revealed Ingersoll’s $3.58 million dollar prepaid expense/accounts receivable balance. 

Wisniewski and Kaza interviewed board members Larry DeYoung and Leslie Werth, and each denied knowledge of the debt although each one admitted receiving complete financials, including the audit and the Thrun letter.

Except for Mark Noss. 

When initially contacted by phone, Noss denied any knowledge of the missing money. However, when interviewed in person in his office by Wisniewski (who was asked a point-blank question by the prosecution during his October 20, 2015 testimony: Did it ever come to your attention that the information given during that interview was different than the information given over the phone?), Noss admitted that he did know but claimed to Wisniewski that it was legal for Ingersoll to take the money. 

Noss admitted that the State Aid Anticipation Loan borrowing substantially increased during the years Ingersoll was helping himself to millions of taxpayer cash, with the borrowing keeping the Grand Traverse Academy afloat. 

Even as he acknowledged the stepped-up borrowing, Noss stated to Wisniewski that Smart Schools Management was legally under contract and entitled to the funds Ingersoll took. 

When asked why the practice was allowed to answer, Wisniewski testified Noss did not answer. 

In the first of two sworn affidavits Noss submitted for the defense in the Steven Ingersoll case, the former president of the GTA board and now head gravy-sopper at Full Spectrum Management made a number of unreliable statements. 

In additions, many of the assertions Noss made were directly contradicted by the statements — and trial testimony — of other witnesses. 

Here are pertinent statements made by Mark Noss in his September 10, 2015 affidavit

1. From 2009 to 2014, I was the President of the board of education of Grand Traverse Academy (GTA). 

2. During that time, I was aware of the fact that SSM extended financial support to GTA on an annual basis in the form of rebated Management fees and facility lease payments. This financial support was discussed at board meetings many times as evidenced by the documents produced to GTA by Dr. Ingersoll on or about January 22, 2015. 

3. In July 2012, upon my telephonic query, GTA’s auditor, Tony Henning, indicated that GTA’s accounting methodology of booking rebated management fees and lease amounts as related party receivables was proper and acceptable. 

Noss later filed another affidavit on October 20, 2015, where he described the February 1, 2013 GTA board meeting in greater, and more self-serving, detail.

So the GTA board, which has historically marched in lockstep with both Ingersoll and Noss, now expects us to believe that Rehmann, the CPA firm providing accounting services to Mark Noss/Full Spectrum and formerly part of Steven Ingersoll's criminal defense effort, will provide financial consultation and other budget-related services to the school and no one will raise the appearance of a cover-up?

I'll ask again: what happened to Croskey Lanni?