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`WE THE PEOPLE' DIRECTOR ASKED TO REIMBURSE STATE

The state Office of Education will take over the "We The People" program and has asked the current director to reimburse the state for expenditures that were questioned in a state audit.

In a letter to Rulon Garfield, Provo, who had run the program for seven years, State Superintendent Scott W. Bean said that the state office "intends to have no future interaction with you regarding the future operation of the `We the People' program."The program offers instruction in the workings of government and involves high school students in competition each year. One team goes to Washington, D.C., to participate on a national level. It began as a federal bicentennial project in 1987 and has been financed with a mix of federal, private and state money.

For several years the office and Garfield have been at odds over the state funding for the program. The superintendent objected to having money put into his budget to cover the program costs without his sanction. Utah County legislators successfully sought $25,000 for the program each year over Bean's objections.

The state audit, released in mid-August, said record-keeping for We the People had been so inadequate it was impossible to determine how the state money had been spent. The audit questioned what appeared to be duplicate billing for some items, spending of state money to furnish an at-home office for Garfield and mingling of his personal and program funds.

Garfield has consistently defended his direction of the program and said the state auditors did not consider all of the documentation he provided for their assessment of the program.

In his recent letter to Garfield, Bean asked for the return of $1,592 for airline tickets that were improperly charged to the state and said the office furniture purchased with state money should be returned to the state's surplus property division.

He also suggested that Garfield repay the Center for Civic Education for a $7,500 loan Garfield received on July 22, 1993, including $397 in interest the state office estimates that Garfield has earned on the loan proceeds. Garfield told auditors he has kept the money in an interest-bearing account because of differences of opinion with the center, which took over the federal government's interest in the program after the initial Bicentennial period.

Bean asked Garfield to respond to his requests by Sept. 30.