Columbus – Public money deposited into the superintendent’s personal bank account and overall terrible bookkeeping at the Greater Achievement Community School led to $578,357 in findings for recovery in the closeout audit (fiscal years 2004-2010) released today by Auditor of State Dave Yost. The Greater Achievement Community School was sponsored by Ashe Culture Center, Inc., a charter school sponsor known for its questionable bookkeeping throughout schools in northeast Ohio.
“Continuous improvement is for schools, not your personal bank account,” Auditor Yost said. “When public dollars go into a personal account, it looks like you have your hand in the cash register.”
During fiscal years 2004 through 2010, Elijah Scott, Developer/Title Program Coordinator/ Superintendent, made withdrawals with checks and debit memos from the school’s bank accounts to the St. Coleman’s Credit Union in the total amount of $73,214. Of that amount, further testing by auditors found that $45,997 was directly deposited into Scott’s personal account. The location of the remaining $27,219 could not be verified. A finding for recovery of $73,214 was issued against Scott.
Throughout the audit period, Scott also made $228,652 in withdrawals of cash from ATM machines, checks to cash, counter checks, mutual fund payments, intra-bank debit and debit memos. There was no supporting documentation on file to explain the withdrawals and their purpose or necessity. Findings for recovery were issued in this total amount against Scott, in favor of the Ohio Department of Education.
Throughout the audit period, a variety of debit card and debit memo purchases were made from the school’s bank account. The $125,620 in purchases made was for items such as OnStar service, dry cleaning, videos, lodging, amongst other items. Without appropriate documentation of the expenditures, it was impossible for auditors to determine if the expenditures were made for a proper public purpose. Findings for recovery in the total amount were issued against several school officials, including Scott.
During the audit period, Scott made withdrawals of cash and drafts from the school’s St. Coleman’s Credit Union Account in the total amount of $12,500. Once again, no supporting documentation was provided to prove the public purpose for the withdrawals. A finding for recovery in the amount was issued against Scott.
From July 2004 through April 2007, the school paid for $187 of alcohol that was purchased with meals. Alcohol does not fall under the category of what expenditure is considered to be for “proper public purpose,” and a finding for recovery was issued against Scott, who is liable as the official who authorized the illegal expenditure and/or supervises the account.
On November 6, 2009, Ashe Culture Center, Inc. suspended operation of the Greater Achievement Community School and the school was closed by the Ohio Department of Education on June 30, 2010 due to poor academic performance and other contractual non-compliance.
The findings in this audit have been forwarded to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.
A full copy of this audit may be accessed online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.