(ABP) — Auditors have made “a number of constructive suggestions for improvements” to financial procedures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
The recommendations came after reports surfaced about a car given to an aide to former president Paige Patterson in 2003. The car was initially considered a gift, but the school later received a $6,500 check — half the value of the six-month-old vehicle — from the aide’s father-in-law. That money had been considered a donation, but the school later said it would not qualify as a tax-deductible gift.
The auditors’ suggestions were mentioned in a letter from Colby Daughtry, a partner in the accounting firm of McGladrey & Pullen, to SEBTS president Danny Akin and Phillip Mercer, the chair of the trustee’s audit committee. The letter, which was provided to reporters by school officials, did not list specific recommendations. School officials did not elaborate.
The letter said the suggestions did not include changing the school’s financial statements or cause the firm to adjust its “unqualified opinion” of the school’s financial fitness.
During a regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 25-26, Mercer told trustees that the opinion was the firm’s highest rating.
He said the school had asked auditors to take a closer look at the seminary’s financial procedures, in part due to the controversy surrounding the car. The more extensive investigation “found nothing untoward in any areas,” Mercer said.
In a statement released by SEBTS officials Oct. 27, Akin said the auditors’ report had resolved the questions raised. “We asked the auditors to review our actions, and they found no concerns,” he said. “We have instituted some new procedures to guard against making the same mistakes again.”
The release also quoted Mercer, who said the auditors’ report chastened the school’s administrators, but also vindicated them. “There were some issues in procedures but there was no criminality whatsoever,” he said. “There were no signs of anything fraudulent or illegal. Our procedures need to be tightened up and we need to be more thorough. We have to do a better job of tracking acquisition of fixed assets, like a car.”
He also told trustees that some of the changes in Southeastern’s financial processes were needed because the school is growing so fast.
Two seminary employees who inquired about the transaction have been dismissed, though the administration says for other reasons.
Akin said that Stephen Prescott, a professor in the seminary’s undergraduate college, will not have his contract renewed after this semester.
C. B. Scott, former director of special projects and housing, was fired in March. Some charged that he was terminated for exposing the role of seminary officers in the transaction.
Akin declined to comment on both dismissals, saying they were private personnel matters.
In other action at the meeting, trustees adopted changes to the school’s master plan. The new plan calls for renovations to the school’s library. The former plan called for a new library. Akin said the new plan will allow the school to grow to between 3,000 and 4,000 students. “I feel very good about it,” he said. “I feel it will meet our needs through the next decade.”
Steven DeVane is managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.