Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Woman pleads guilty to PTA embezzlement in Missouri

With the outcome of a PTA embezzlement case finally decided, Blue Hills PTA president Chris Ford is ready to move forward.
“It has been a long and drawn-out process,” he said. “But I am glad it is over. I am glad for us, and I am glad for her. It is time to move forward and learn from this.”
Mary A. Ward, 32, of Independence, pleaded guilty Monday to theft of funds from the Blue Hills PTA account. She agreed to five years probation, with a suspended imposition of sentence (which means that if she successfully completes her probation she will not be imprisoned), 120 days of electronic home detention, 100 hours of community service and a letter of apology to the Blue Hills PTA.
Ward also agreed to not become involved in the handling of funds for any civic organization and agreed to repay Blue Hills the $22,000 she took from the account. The repayment included $15,000 that was paid on Monday, with the remaining balance to be paid at a rate of $120 per month.
Ward was treasurer for the Blue Hills PTA, which is in the Fort Osage School District, during the 2010-11 school year. When she left the position in summer 2011, the new treasurer reported that there was approximately a $22,000 discrepancy in the account. According to the Jackson County investigator’s report, Ward kept her own spreadsheet of the PTA finances, which she reported to the PTA board. However, the board members did not have access to the actual Bank of America statements.
It was also discovered that here was a check/debit card for the PTA account with Ward’s name on it. The executive board members were unaware of the card’s existence, which was not authorized.
Ford said the PTA has learned a lot since they were made aware of the bank account discrepancies. He said since that discovery, new safeguards have been put in place so that something like this cannot happen in the future.
“We definitely learned that you cannot be safe enough when dealing with money,” he said. “You have to have safeguards or a check and balance system in place to protect yourself. If we had done that from the beginning, this never would have happened in the first place.”
The PTA unit had been raising funds to implement a four-year plan to purchase an iPad cart for the school. However, since this incident occurred, the Fort Osage School District has started implementing its 1:1 program, which has the goal of putting a piece of technology such as a tablet or laptop in the hands of every student. Next year, every elementary school as well as Fire Prairie Middle School will have carts with Goggle Chromebooks available for teachers and students.
Ford said he is meeting with Blue Hills principal Monica Shane later this week to discuss what to do with the money that Ward has already paid back to the PTA.
“It is a large influx of money,” he said. “I am meeting with the principal to discuss what to do as we move forward. This is the school’s money, so it will be spent on something for the kids.”

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