Auditor: Former TES bookkeeper must repay $37K

Published 3:05 pm Friday, September 11, 2020

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A duplicate receipt book helped a former bookkeeper divert more than $37,000 in funds from Troy Elementary School, according to a state auditor’s finding.

According to the report made public Aug. 28, Sherry Tucker kept two separate master receipt books for the school, although only one had been authorized and submitted for annual audits and review. Between Oct. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019, the special audit found $37,189.07 missing from school accounts, including more than $8,500 in proceeds of school fundraisers during those two years.

“We do a private, independent audit each, but we’ve never had anything come up,” said Jonathan Cellon, president of the Troy City Schools Board of Education. “When we learned there were some discrepancies in the spring, we reached out to the state auditor’s office and asked for the investigation.”

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The results were shared with Cellon, board members and former administration prior to the Aug. 28 release. “I think the report speaks for itself,” he said.

In the report, auditors identified a second master receipt book which was being used to issue receipts for funds collected. However, only a portion of the receipts in that book were actually deposited in the school’s accounts. Four separate charges against Tucker were identified:

  • Of the $23,312.95 recorded in the additional master receipt book, only $2,310.75 was recorded in the school’s accounting records and deposited into the school’s bank account; $21,002.20 is unaccounted for in the bank account and charged to the former bookkeeper.
  • Master receipts issued by the former bookkeeper to teachers for monies collected were not recorded on the school’s general ledger or properly deposited in the school’s bank account. The master receipts retained by teachers also were outside the numerical range of the additional receipt book. A total of $5,798 collected by teachers and remitted to the former bookkeeper was not properly receipted and deposited.
  • Alternative receipt forms were used for daily money collections by teachers, such as juice and snack funds. The receipts failed to match master receipts, lacked notation of a form of payment and in some cases were written in pencil. The audit identified $1,798.87 in differences between the alternative receipts and the deposits into school accounts.
  • Discrepancies between receipts and order invoices for 2018 and 2019 case drink fundraisers identified profits of $5380 in 2019 and $3,210 in 2018 which were not deposited in school accounts. The total of $8,590 was charged to the former bookkeeper.

Tucker, who had been a bookkeeper at Troy Elementary for more than six years, transferred to a central office role in October 2019. Superintendent Cynthia Thomas said Tucker is no longer employed with the school system.

“Troy City Schools (TCS) discovered certain irregularities with the handling of school funds allegedly by a Troy City Schools’ employee.  Information was reported to the Alabama State Examiner’s office and others, and the State Examiner’s office confirmed the irregularities.  The employee is no longer employed with Troy City Schools.   The matter remains under investigation and, therefore, no further comments will be made at this time,” said Thomas, who was named interim superintendent in February after the board and Dr. Lee Hicks reached a separation agreement.

Cellon said the situation has prompted to the school district officials to review internal procedures. “Our safeguards leading up to this were relatively sound,” he said. “We’ve not had an audit finding like this in 20-plus years …

“However, this finding indicates that they need to be improved and we’ve taken steps in that regard … Naturally we take this very seriously and are committed to transparency to the public with regards to the use of funds. That’s why our budget hearings are being streamed online live.”

Findings from the audit will be turned over to the state Attorney General Office, which will decide the next step.