Question: Petty crimes included in bylaws?

We are rewriting our bylaws right now. An incident involving a parent stealing from a local grocery store has been written about in the paper. It has been questioned whether we should have a statement in our bylaws regarding this incident. The person in question has been a committee chair. We are not sure whether we need to cover ourselves in the future in case of a parent-student situation. Do we ask our parents whether they have been involved in similar incidents?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Elly has never been fond of turning away people who want to help. The problem is figuring out where to draw the line. Sure, you don’t want someone who’s been convicted of robbing the local convenience store to count the cash after the fall fair. But what about someone who once passed a bad check? And do you ban people who have had a speeding ticket or two from driving for the field trip?

People do make mistakes and learn from them. You still might not want your check-kiter handling funds, but she might be the perfect person for the landscape committee. Building involvement is tough enough. Why make hard-and-fast rules for situations that can be dealt with using common sense?

On the other hand, you absolutely should protect your group’s finances. That means making sure that you have safeguards in place. Elly recommends adding these rules to your bylaws:

  1. The PTO will maintain bond insurance in the amount of [X dollars] or more at all times.
  2. An audit will be conducted annually by a committee of no fewer than three members, not to include the outgoing or incoming treasurer.

Other key safeguards include making sure at least two people are present whenever cash is counted and having the bank statement reviewed and reconciled every month by someone other than the treasurer.

The key to financial security is to put checks and balances in place. When people steal money, it’s not because they are inherently evil or immoral. It’s because need meets opportunity and they take advantage of it. You can take opportunity out of the equation and dramatically reduce your risk.

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