Clerks at two Jefferson Parish public schools stole almost $40,000 in student activity funds during the 2014-15 academic year, and nearly $30,000 more may also be missing, according to a report released Monday by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.
The audit report didn’t identify the schools or the employees, who officials said have resigned. No arrests have been made in either case, which remain under investigation by the authorities.
However, multiple sources said the two schools involved were Washington Montessori, an elementary school in Kenner, and Riverdale Middle School on Jefferson Highway.
The report said the school system’s principals have since taken training classes on how to review monthly bank statements. It said the district’s Finance Department also is revising its internal audit program and hiring an additional internal auditor “to increase the frequency of central office reviews.”
The school system previously lacked the measures needed to “prevent, detect or deter” the two instances of theft alleged in 2014-15, the report said.
In the Washington Montessori case, an account clerk used $27,000 in student activity money to pay off personal bills and buy gift cards between November 2014 and March 2015, the audit report and sources said. The school’s principal discovered the situation while reviewing monthly bank statements.
The audit said district officials recovered all but about $1,900 — less than the system’s insurance deductible — from the vendors who were paid with the stolen school funds. They also notified the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Kenner Police Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
In the case at Riverdale, an account clerk apparently took $11,450 in cash received from school club moderators between July 2014 and June 2015. The clerk was supposed to deposit the money in the school’s bank account but didn’t.
Officials think another $28,450 may have been similarly misappropriated, but auditors could not verify that amount.
The district has not recovered any of the missing money in the Riverdale case, the report said. While the school system could file a claim with its insurer, officials said the known amount of missing money is only slightly above the district’s deductible, making it financially unfeasible to pursue that course for the moment.
The Sheriff’s Office on Monday confirmed it is looking into the allegations in the audit report, but a spokesman said he could not name anyone being investigated.
A previous School Board audit reported that an employee at Helen Cox High School in Harvey stole about $75,000 in student activity funds from late 2012 through December 2013. Nieli Hebert resigned and was arrested; she is due in court in June.
The school district filed insurance claims to recover more than $71,000 of the money Hebert is suspected of stealing.
The accounting firm Carr, Riggs & Ingram prepared the audit released Monday.
In a statement, school system spokeswoman Beth Branley said each of the 80-plus campuses the district oversees is individually responsible for collecting money for its student activity fund.
The school system generates a total of about $16 million a year in student activity funds, and the controls that the district now uses “can and do detect any misappropriation,” Branley said.