Question: Questionable Accounts, transactions, and the principal.

Our principal has a discretionary fund, but unlike other cases here, she raises her own funds under the name of PTO. She has a seperate account and when a recently revived PTO discussed auditing our accounts the principal made very clear the audit would not include her account. The board or officers do not have any idea of the account number, balance, or anything at all about it. It was only recently discovered because of a "PTO" check given to an aide to pick up a purchase and the appearance of several magazines like People, Fitness, and style and home decorating magazines that appeared in the PTO mail box. The principal claims to know nothing about them, but there are no records from the account we have access to. In addition, because we did not have many parent volunteers in the last few years, basically just a treasurer, the principal was handling all the spending and would just demand that this parent write a check, without a vote, or even a discussion. Several teachers have also expressed concern, but don't know what to do about it because the principal is vindictive. What can be done about these situations and can new officers be liable for her current account and past spending habits.

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
First of all, your officers aren't liable in any way if the principal is misappropriating funds. It's all on her. It's not unusual for a principal to have a discretionary fund to help needy kids. And because of the nature of how the money is being used, the PTO doesn't get a direct accounting. Here's how that typically works: You give the principal a fixed amount, say $100, to be used in a certain way that you define. Usually it's to help children in need, but some schools give the principal more latitude to make small needed purchases for the school. (In your case, I would think you would want to be more strict.) When the money has been spent, the principal gives a general accounting ($20 used to buy lunch for 10 students who forgot their lunch money, for example). At that point the PTO replenishes the account -- or not. Now that the PTO is up and operating, any money raised in the name of the PTO should be placed in the PTO account and be accessible to the PTO only. You need to step up and take control of the process again. And definitely cancel those magazine subscriptions!

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