Monday, September 17, 2018

Dental Board Gets a Root Canal

Update: State Auditor Shad White issued a statement that is posted below. 

The Executive Director of the Mississippi Board of Dental Examiners had a good ole time during her reign until the Board fired her in August.  State Auditor Shad White blasted Diane Howell  in a scathing audit that told the story of an Executive Director who treated a state agency as her own personal fiefdom for 24 years. State Auditor Shad White said "What we found at the Dental Board is an example of particularly bad management." 

The audit lists a plethora of problems at the dental board. Cash payments received for license fees weren't recorded - and were deposited months later.  Comp time wasn't deducted when used as she and the Deputy Director  regularly "rode the clock."   The Board admitted it didn't oversee the Executive Director as it left her in charge of literally everything.  Ms. Howell regularly traveled out-of-state without the required board approval as she ran up the hotel and airplane bills. In short, the Executive Director, and to some extent her right hand woman Deputy Director, Karen Wilson, ran roughshod over the Board as well as the agency.

The first page of the audit opened with a statement that rivaled the British in their capacity for understatement:

Our procedures and tests cannot and do  not  provide absolute  assurance  that all state  legal  requirements have  been  met.
 The audit cited the agency for the following problems:

*The Board of Trustees "replied they had no active role or oversight of management."  In other words, the Executive Director ran both the agency and the board.

*MDSDE "does not maintain a receipt log documenting the details of when cash and checks are received."  The agency received $839,017 in cash in 2017.  The cash was held for an average of one to three months while several receipts were held more than 90 days.  State law requires such funds to be deposited within two days of receipt.  (KF Note: If no log was kept, then how does one know how much cash was actually received? Just a thought.  Of course, that begs the question of whether all of the cash received actually made it into the agency's bank accounts.)

*The Executive Director and Deputy Director abused the use of sick and personal leave time.  The report states:

Review of compensatory time earned by employees revealed the Executive Director and Deputy Director appeared to have accumulated excessive compensatory leave during fiscal year 2017 as compared to other MSBDE personnel. The Executive Director earned 405 hours of compensatory leave and the Deputy Director earned 212.50 hours of compensatory leave. A review of compensatory time earned by employees revealed that Executive Director took 332.50 hours of compensatory leave and the Deputy Director took 219.75 of compensatory leave during fiscal year 2017. The auditor noted that neither the Executive Director nor the Deputy Director had recorded personal or sick leave during fiscal year 2017 or through the date of completion of testwork. Auditor also noted no evidence of independent review and approval of Executive Director's leave requests. Agency maintained monthly calendar sheets for employees requesting to take leave, where the employees wrote down intended leave to be taken. Every employee's calendar sheet for the month was then reviewed and approved by the Executive Director.
 In other words, actual hours used for comp time were not recorded.   

*Board minutes in 2017 were not signed nor were they properly recorded and posted within thirty days, but were instead approved every quarter, thus in violation of state law.

*One standard existed for Ms. Howell while another one existed for the serfs, er, employees.  The agency paid her reimbursements rather quickly (within 13 days) while it took its sweet time to pay expenses for the employees (average of 35 days). 

*The agency treated purchases and invoices in a very sloppy manner.  Goods were purchased despite the existence of purchase orders.  Computers were purchased with a personal credit card.  The number of meals purchased for board meetings often exceeded the number of people present at said meetings.  The Executive Director made it a regular practice to require staff to personally purchase "commodity items" with their own money and reimburse them later - much later.

Ms. Howell approved all spending, recorded transactions, and reconciled the bank statements.  So much for separation of duties. 

*The agency "shorted" employees on their health insurance coverage.  One employee enrolled herself and her child but only the employee received coverage.  One employee received health insurance coverage for a year after employment ended.

*Ms. Howell allowed the consumption of alcoholic beverages to take place during an event.  The report states:

auditor noted emails from Executive Director to staff discussing arrangements for an Administrative Professionals Day event, occurring during normal working hours, which included plans of consuming alcoholic beverages during the event. The Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners provided and paid for meals of employees in attendance of the Administrative Professionals Day Event. The event was noted to begin at one in the afternoon until three in the afternoon. MSBDE has posted office hours from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon per state law.
The Mississippi State Employee handbook decrees that use or possession of alcoholic beverages while on the job or on the employer's premises is a fire-able offense.

*Abuse of travel expenses.  The agency didn't keep a list of employees who were authorized to use credit or travel cards.  Board members received their travel reimbursements a month after Ms. Howell received her reimbursements. Flights were routinely purchased without the use of a contract travel agency, thus pushing up costs.  Travel expenses were paid without prior approval from the Board as required by law.   Numerous travel vouchers were not signed by employees but that proved to be no problem for the agency.  Ms. Howell would simply use editing software to "apply" the employee's electronic signature without her consent. 

Karen Wilson, the former Deputy Director, currently serves as interim Executive Director.  However, she recently submitted her resignation and will leave the agency on September 30.  The Board is searching for a new Executive Director.

State Auditor Shad White's Statement

The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor has conducted a compliance audit and released a management report for the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners. The report details findings related to the current board members, former executive director, and several other employees.

The audit revealed many alarming management practices. Below is a list of the findings:

· The executive director of the agency operates with nearly complete autonomy due to effectively no oversight being exercised by the board of directors.

· Many instances of noncompliance with state law related to travel card purchases and reimbursements for travel were found.

· Board meeting minutes were not properly approved, signed, or posted in several instances.

· Payments for contracted services and commodities were processed incorrectly.

· Cash and check payments received for licenses were not deposited in a timely fashion, which could lead to fraud and abuse. A log of cash receipts was not kept, which allowed cash to remain unattended in the office for three months.

· Several instances of unauthorized and excessive amounts of compensatory leave were awarded to the former executive director and deputy executive director.

· Multiple employees received insurance coverage which differed from the coverage plan indicated in Statewide Personnel and Human Resource System filings.

“What we found at the Dental Board is an example of particularly bad management. The staff at the board failed the follow proper procedures when making purchases, failed to separate purchasing duties (which can lead to fraud), held cash that should have been deposited for too long, failed to follow proper bookkeeping procedures, and accumulated excessive comp time. We also found some evidence that the staff was allowed to consume alcohol during work hours. This is not acceptable. My understanding is that the Dental Board is searching for new leadership, as the previous two executive directors have been fired or resigned. Going forward, the board needs to choose its director carefully and then engage in closer oversight of the staff. The taxpayers and licensees funding the board deserve better. I also hope this audit reminds the boards of other small agencies to take a closer look at how those agencies are being run and to engage in closer oversight if necessary.”

The audit report suggested that board members act to strengthen oversight over the agency and improve procedures to increase accountability and ensure compliance with state law. The full report can be found online at the Auditor’s website.

Kingfish note: Hmm..... it's now pretty obvious why the Deputy Director suddenly submitted her resignation a few weeks ago  The agency received this report several weeks ago so it could respond to the findings.  The Deputy Director thus knew these findings would be released pretty soon.


Anonymous said...

Looks like it was sanctioned as she was allowed to do it until retirement kicked in. I also like that she is fairly anonymous as Ms Howell. I bet she moves on just fine with a fat ol retirement check. Sure would like to see what these two look like but that would be too much. This will blow over in about a few days and all will be well.

Flavor Flav! said...

I got a mouthful of gold teeth and the clock around my neck means TIME UP BITCHES! and YA'LL FIXIN' TO DO SOME TIME!

Anonymous said...

The purpose of an annual audit and review of an agency is to catch problems as soon as possible. Why was this not caught many years ago? All public organization are required to have rules and regulations that they must live by.It takes less than a day to review this. Also the Board should have to reach into their pockets and cover the bad spending they did not oversee properly.

Anonymous said...

This is an agency that an inspector general could get his teeth into, and maybe take a bite out of any crimes.

Anonymous said...

Leah Diane Howell

Anonymous said...

Fairly irregular behavior from women who run things. In my business dealings, it is always the women who make the administrative items work. I can do many things with outstanding results, my paperwork abilities would land me in prison but for the saving grace of women.

Anonymous said...

I smell Embezzlement and Fraud!!!! I watch a lot of crime tv and I am ready to pop some popcorn. Can't wait till they put the handcuffs on Director Diane Howell. She is a thief and a liar. This report says she claimed 405 hours in Comp time and used 332.50 Comp hours in 2017. She never used personal or sick leave. RED FLAG. Padding that retirement. They better come in and take all her retirement. JJ when will we know just how much was not deposited since she had total control over all accounting???? I'm sure a lot went Straight in her pocket and elsewhere. So glad they yanked her off her throne. Corrupt witch...I agree with @8:25 Fixin to do some time...…
Hope she reads all the comments to this post and realizes kharma is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

Hey KF check this out:

There is probably some additional documentation on this earlier encounter the Dental Board with the OSA.

A prior trip to the OSA for the same issues?

On the face of it, Phil gets credit for a fumble at best.

Anonymous said...

Well would you look at this, truth will set you free. I knew with all these articles something else was going to come out about government CORRUPTION. The sad part is, no matter how much information is given, the government probably wont hold LEAH DIANE HOWELL accountable and make her pay back what she has taken. This woman (LEAH DIANE HOWELL) is going to be living the high life with a wonderful retirement at the cost of the tax payers dollars. When does justice occur? When do we hold people accountable for their misdoings. Meanwhile, the AGs office wants Hinds County DA to go to prison. Seems like there is more going on than a domestic violence case with Robert. LEAH Diane Howell's reign was 24 years, in that amount of time, who knows how much time was stolen or fluffed for her retirement and who knows how much of that money was stolen and put into her pocket for personal use. WHO ALLOWS CASH PAYMENTS FOR 840,000 DOLLARS IN 2017???? I pay all my bills online, by check, etc, who in their right mind would pay cash and not get a receipt? The fact that she was accepting that many cash payments is a problem. Someone HAS TO START PROTECTING THE PUBLIC and making agencies return tax payers dollars, starting with LEAH Diane Howell and Karen Wilson. Have to start now! They were sanctioned in 2003 for similar offenses, ball dropped by the government and Board Member oversight???? Previous articles had commentators mentioned placing blame on others- EXAMPLE: employees and staff under these two in authority ("drama queens"), seems to me that the common denominator is Leah and Karen. With that being said, when someone is guilty, ITS FIGHT OR FLIGHT- GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION!

Anonymous said...

If she has been doing this for 24 years and gets caught by the Bryant administration, just how is this Phil Bryant's fault?

Anonymous said...

Ms Howell's situation seems to be a cleansing of the books by the governor to ensure a fresh start for a new director. And with Mississippi being the most corrupt state in the nation every department must do its part to keep up traditions. A FRESH start will allow Howell's replacement the freedom to make their own mark on the graft and corruption.

BTW, I wonder if the Hospital Board's budget is larger than the Dental Board. When was the Hospital Board last audited?

Anonymous said...

"A person with a high school diploma or GED and related experience could be considered for the new executive director of the Mississippi Board of Dental Examiners, at a maximum salary of $90,000 a year.

So far, about 20 applicants have applied for the open position, said Board President Dr. Frank Conaway Jr., a Bay St. Louis dentist.

Conaway said the board hopes to hire a new executive director as soon as possible to replace former longtime executive director Diane Howell, who left the job in July. No reason has been given as to why Howell left.

Howell, reached Wednesday via phone, said she resigned July 2, but said she would provide no further comment. A local blogger has reported that Howell was fired after a lengthy executive meeting of the board.

Anonymous said...

>>>If she has been doing this for 24 years and gets caught by the Bryant administration, just how is this Phil Bryant's fault?<<<

Try to keep up Sparky!

Meantime, if that keeping up isn't working so well for you, then just stay tuned to this jambalaya while KF cogitates on how to best respond to the latest developments in all this governmental jackassery.

Anonymous said...

This is a homerun for new state auditor Shad White. I hope he DEMANDS the return of this time- freeze her retirement! The tax payers deserve better than this and the government needs to remember that the tax payers are who vote them into their positions. Thank you Shad White for making it known that you expect more from government agencies and DEMAND they take you seriously. Let us not forget that many state employees opt to have a deffered comp account and pay in generous amounts to supplement their retirement checks from PERS. Wonder if Leah and Karen have large sums hidden away in those state savings accounts. Be interesting to see how much they get to live off of and if they are enjoy a luxurious lifestyle at the costs of the hard working middle class. Someone needs to make sure these monies are allocated back to the tax payers.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:23

800 thousand plus dollars in "cash" payments does not mean that people paid that money with green hard currency. They could probably pay online or via credit card or whatever means they wanted to use. That number simply indicates what the agency was paid by folks who owed them money.

Anonymous said...

Only a matter of time before the dying on the vine Sam R Hall-led POS Clarion Ledger rips JJ off again.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like her credo was, "Rob the jewelry store and tell 'em to make me some grillz!"

Anonymous said...

11:19, Shad White never heard of the Dental Board until two weeks ago. Pickering agreed to save some low hanging fruit as a courtesy to help the new auditor get off to a good start and kick off a re-election campaign. The findings were made via the hard work of the auditors in the OSA, not by the State Auditor. I'm not sure he even has keys to his office yet.

Anonymous said...

There is such a thing as "state approved travel agencies"?

Anonymous said...

The board should be held liable. Some of these boards only exist as resume builders and an excuse to travel on the tax payer dime. Heck, the CPA board thought it was a good idea to fly to Hawaii a few years ago. Why not? Its free.

Anonymous said...

Very bad stuff. This should not have gone on so long. Where have the Auditors been before now? Will Board members be held accountable? They and the executive are required to be bonded. The pay is too high for that job. The dentists on the state should be furious since their license payments pay her salary. Not unusual for executive directors to control boards. Board members are there for the prestige and the perks.

Anonymous said...

The only thing this board did that was effective and protected patients was shutting down that misrepresenting liar Dr. Eli Arrington of Fondren dental!!! Screwed over many people with expensive implants and it still took the board too long to act. Finally pulled his licence... the board told me there are loads of patients looking for him and filed lawsuits against him recently. I guess the board can't locate him either. Rude mean deceitful person!!! Treated his staff like crap!!!

PittPanther said...

Sounds like Howell played her cards just on the right side of legal, or at least can't prove anything illegal without a detailed and expensive forensic audit, which ain't gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

I bet all it would take is a few dentists calling and questioning what happened to the money they paid in disciplinary actions and or applying for licenses and I bet somebody will start looking into misuse of funds..... public outcry does it every time....

Anonymous said...

The biggest public outcry should be from the Attorney General but he's a limp noodle.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they didn't take any sick or personal leave is not suspicious in itself. You always take comp time first before taking personal and I always took comp or personal before sick because sick can (and should) be carried over from FY to FY and in some cases comp and personal can not.
The suspicious, very suspicious, thing is that they were earning that kind of comp time at all. Why? What required them to work such long hours? I can understand if there was something that happened at certain times of the year. (Fair Commission employees earn lots during the State Fair, obviously.) But what does the Dental Board do? Are all licenses renewed at the same time? Are exams given on weekends or at night?
I think the answers will be that it was fraudulently earned. The members of the Board are responsible for overseeing the agency and obviously they didn't.

Anonymous said...

I bet all those long term employees are dropping like flies now!!!! If there’s only 8 employees how many are left now? Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

After contacting the dental board, I learned that three employees are remaining with this agency, all others are resigning, retiring, or have been fired. So 3 employees out of 8 are sticking with it. Seems fitting.

Neck Deep Doo Doo & Sinking.. said...

You're wrong on all counts, 3:12. First, all non-exempt state employees can earn comp time if allowed by the agency and all agencies allow it. (Comp time is not legal in the private sector under FLSA regulations).

Next, one does NOT take comp time in lieu of sick time. Next, one must fully document the accumulation of and taking of comp time and another person must have access to those records. (they're not kept on toilet paper in the bottom desk drawer). Next, accumulated leave time for employees covered by PERS is indeed carried over one year to the next and is used in the computation of creditable years of service in the retirement calculations. 205 days equals one year of service. Comp time cannot be used in these calculations toward retirement.

I'd challenge you to name a state agency that requires comp time to be taken during the year in which 'earned' and to name an agency which doesn't allow the 'taking over from year to year' of personal leave since personal leave falls under State Personnel Board Regs....not simply agency whims.

What this woman (and her lieutenant) were obviously doing was fraudulently documenting hours of comp time that could not be proved or dis-proved (down the road) and they are up to their necks in shit, if an investigation follows.

Lastly, not that you made this claim, but nobody has the authority to 'freeze' or 'take' from an employee his or her PERS account. Maybe that ought to be changed, but it's a fact.

Anonymous said...

Is a common theme starting to surface.....DMR, Innovate MS, Dental Board, Singing River, Jackson better think twice before volunteering your precious time and putting your hard earned savings at risk by serving on any board that is supposed to be over seeing real money! These are just the high profile ones, there are close to 100 regulatory boards that over see various licensing bodies. You don't think some money is unaccounted for by the barber shop licensing board or the hair braiding regulators? And just think how much money flows through the real estate commission or the CPA state board. Those are entities created under state law to regulate these industries (i.e. keep out competition). Once they are set up and appointees are in place, state officials cash the campaign contribution checks and never look back.

And yes, 12:45, the CPA state board flew to Hawaii a few years ago at our expense.

Anonymous said...

The real machine operating behind the scenes is the one that is promoting all of this Shad White a bunch of press releases for stuff Shad never heard about until last week and then all the media outlets promote it and interview Shad because guess what?....his campaign crew will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the outlets that carry the pro Shad commentary prior to election year.

And the common Joe has no idea that every guest appearance on Gallo was bought and paid for by the top 3 campaign advisory firms.

Waitin' on Schmoe said...

... there are close to 100 regulatory boards that over see various licensing bodies.

Various Mississippi Republicans of the RINO persuasion have over the years made lots of noise about reducing the number of state licensing and regulatory boards.

They've made about the same progress as they have on their other made-for-election-year feelgood goal of reducing the number of school districts in the state.

Anonymous said...

5:10 PM You are not supposed to reveal how things work in Mississippi.

It sounds like she ran the agency like every other agency and office in Mississippi. Nothing unusual about that.

Anonymous said...

@ September 17, 2018 at 4:49 PM....You do know the NAR is one of the most powerful lobby groups in the US...

Anonymous said...

Supertalk's agenda has become outrageously flagrant. But then all of talk radio and the television Noooz channels have devolved down to championship wrestling belligerence. I understand McDaniel was an alt right radio celebrity but his program never showed up on my dial. Maybe I should be thankful it didn't. J.T. and Paul quickly wear out their welcome quickly with me most days.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, all these comments are merely a pissing contest between those who believe they have more inside knowledge or personal experience in such agencies. The back and forth bullshit (some of which could possibly be Diane Howell who was fired and is a disgruntled employee seeking justification of her actions) is irrelevant. The debate of what wrong doings occurred is unimportant. The fact is that Diane Howell held a place of authority. She misused that power and took advantage of the system. To what extent she took advantage is not for the common reader to determine. Instead, it is up to an investigative branch to determine the extent and seek justice in regards for reallocating any resource owed to the state. Karen Wilson also held a supervisor position in which there is a reasonable expectation that a person in that type of position of authority would posses good moral and ethical traits. Apparently these two employees took advantage of the system and ramifications and sanctions should be alotted to the degree or depth of the offense. At this point, all the public can do is wait and see if the Auditors office issues a demand letter outlining what is owed to the state that Diane and Karen will be held liable to reimburse.

Anonymous said...

"5:10 PM You are not supposed to reveal how things work in Mississippi.

It sounds like she ran the agency like every other agency and office in Mississippi. Nothing unusual about that."

Agreed. Shad White is rapidly appearing to be selectively throwing some bones out there without truly going after some of the really big fish. Just preparing to be a part of the Oxford machine that milks the fields hands that all of Mississippi's citizens now are.

Anonymous said...

"Lastly, not that you made this claim, but nobody has the authority to 'freeze' or 'take' from an employee his or her PERS account. Maybe that ought to be changed, but it's a fact." That was attempted a few years back, but voted down by the corrupt legislators who have no intention of being accountable to the taxpayers. They even voted their records to remain secret.

Anonymous said...

I listen to once a month to make sure I am boycotting the right businesses.

Supertalk Truthism said...

J.T. panders to the 'Under-84 IQ Niknar crowd'. Not sure about Paul - maybe the number is 88.

Anonymous said...

Time can be taken from a state employee. If the time is fraudulent it can be subtracted from the overall time.

Anonymous said...

I saw where someone commented wanting to know what The fired employee looks like, all you have to do is come to a board meeting. She has her picture plastered everywhere for all to see as if she’s proud of herself and feels accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said 'time' cannot be 'taken' or corrected if proven to be fraudulent or in error. It's a fact that the courts nor anybody else can't freeze or seize a person's PERS account or benefits. Well, other than perhaps the IRS and I'm not sure about that.

11:07 admonishes us all to simply shut up, stop opining, cease with the speculations and withdraw from the discussion...then he launches off into his speculations and discussions in the same vein. He tells us our comments and notions are irrelevant and then proceeds to shovel his own. That's cute.

Anonymous said...

How in the world did the board members turn a blind eye to the directors actions? I mean this woman probably has a purse full of stolen cash and some even buried in her yard. Then all that comp time. It said her deputy had a ton of comp time then resigns when the report came out. I bet they were laughing all the way to the bank until this report came out

Anonymous said...

Apparently none of the board members had any responsibility for checking her time or verifying her taking of leave. On another note, when an employee leaves a position for any reason, comp time is out the window, not convertible, useless (other than a decent record of fraud).

Anonymous said...

The alcohol rule is dumb and should be changed. Sure, nobody needs to be tippling in their offices, but a state entity should be able to hold a reception during business hours with beer or wine at the least.

As for the rest, hang her.

Anonymous said...

Instead of all these different state board offices, why not create a Mississippi Licensing Clearinghouse, to provide staff support to the boards of directors for each professional entity that currently operate with separate offices?

It seems to me this type of organizational structure would be more efficient and easier to oversee (to hopefully minimize opportunities for misuse, fraud, fiefdom creation, etc.).

(This idea probably makes too much sense to be implemented.)

Anonymous said...

These “Compliance Audits” were common ground to be talked about a good bit among boards and smaller state agencies for a while. My suspicion is that JJ will have a lot more to report in days to come...medical board....we’ve all seen this happen several times already (cosmetology and auctioneers).

And while as a tax payer I hope we do not continue to see fraud in government, those rose colored glasses shattered many potholes ago.

Happy to see Shad has shown up to work.

Anonymous said...

Called their office, and they've already hired a new director. Sounds like they already someone in mind.

Drunk Dentist.. said...

Hey Kingfish... remember the good old days when the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners under the leadership of Ms. Dianne Howell failed to properly verify the credentials of Dr. Billy Asemani ? He was the fake dentist that had attended a year of dental school in Iran... Never graduated... then was able to convince Dumb Dianne to give him a dental license with no proof of graduation from a dental school.
After he had fraudulently practiced dentistry in Mississippi for several years, the board "finally" got around to checking his credentials.. He fled the state, strangled his wife, and is now in prison.

also.. Dianne Howell is fat.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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