Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PTO treasurer arrested after cash vanishes in New Hampshire

A member of North Canton Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization was recently charged with fraud and embezzlement after nearly $8,000 was discovered missing from a PTO account.

Susan Rider, 38, of Clyde, was serving as treasurer of the North Canton PTO when other officials noticed a “drastic change in the balance of the account,” said Dr. Bill Nolte, associate superintendent of Haywood County Schools.
The case was referred to Canton Det. Brad Shirley, who initiated an investigation that ultimately led to Rider’s arrest. She is charged with embezzlement and two counts of fraud, forging and uttering.
Rider is accused of misusing a PTO credit card to withdraw cash and make unauthorized purchases on a number of occasions between Jan. 19 and Feb. 28, totaling approximately $7,851, Canton Police Chief Brian Whitner said. She is also accused of forging signatures on at least two checks.
Nolte explained that Parent Teacher Organizations and their accounts are totally separate from school accounts.
“PTO’s are separate organizations and have their own board, their own accounts and own signatures,” he said. “But we were given a tip that an account had gone from a really hefty balance down to zero, and what we did was notify the principal who asked the president of the PTO to please to freeze the account and give the information to law enforcement.”
School officials have no governing authority over PTOs, said Nolte. The objective of parent teacher organizations is to drive fundraising efforts for respective schools. Typically, members include volunteers who work closely with school officials to raise funding for specific needs – often needy students and/or needed school equipment.
“The vast majority of the time these are dedicated hardworking volunteers who want to make more resources available to students,” he said. “Perspective wise, we want folks to understand that we are very supportive of all the work that volunteers do to help our students. This is not our account, and not a group of people that we govern. …It’s really unfortunate any time funds get misused. In this particular case, we’re thankful it wasn’t taxpayer dollars, that it was funds raised by that school’s PTO but it still doesn’t make it that much better.”
Ultimately, school officials would just like to see the PTO get their money back, Nolte said.
“The sad thing is that those funds were raised in that community by people who cared about that school. And typically, they raise money in pretty small amounts, like a quarter or dollar at a time… that’s the part that is really, really sad,” he said. “That community and PTO leadership worked with school officials to raise funds for that school and it wasn’t like some wealthy contributor dropped that money on the school. People worked really hard to raise that money. It’s more personal than someone taking $50 from a business.”
Rider turned herself in to police to be charged, was released from police custody under $10,000 bond. She will make her first court appearance April 4

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