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Missing funds

11 years 7 months ago #146754 by Mom21
Missing funds was created by Mom21
I'm new to posting here but I enjoy reading and learning from everyone else. I surely hope you can help me with some insight.

I'm in my second year as president of the parents' group at my son's school. We recently held our annual fundraiser and raised over $17,000 in that one night! Amazing to say the least! However, our joy was short-lived as the treasurer has lost $1300. We are not insured and she is not bonded. I tried to get this taken care of last year but everyone said we are a small town ('family') so no need. Well ... here we are. And this is a community-supported fundraiser so if/when word gets into the community that the money is missing this fundraiser is ruined going forward. The cateter is a businesswoman from town and she helps check guests out and helps tally the totals at the end of the night. We have two-year term limits so the caterer and her daughter have been constants at this fundraiser for 15+ years. So she has it down to a science. Well, the treasurer was very rude with all of us the day of and rude to the caterer and was in a hurry to leave that night. She didn't want us to even count or verify anything. However, we did insist on counting mostly because everyone wants to know the total at the end of the night and also the caterer has her protocol she follows. The treasurer gave the caterer a hard time and left with the money before the protocol had been completed. I was cleaning up some things and did not know the treasurer left without following protocol. She left the funds in her home for 4 days and then called to tell me funds are missing. Problem is she is also on the school board so the principal and superintendent are in her corner 10000% to protect that ... and they intimidated my members against calling the authorities to investigate saying it will ruin our school's reputation, etc, despite the fact that police to not release information to the newspapers unless/until there is an arrest. So my group voted for me to not call. Well, 1/2 of them voted; the other half said nothing. Parents in the group want her held accountable but when we get to the meeting and no one supports me it is discouraging. And I feel she should resign ... but all I'm getting from administration is to sweep it under the rug and move along. I'm very discouraged, can't sleep and am working on an ulcer I'm sure. I think the most concerning thing is that the treasurer has not shown any panic. She has not commented at all that she doesn't know what she'll do or how she'll replace the money. It has been only finger-pointing at this and that and how other people messed the totals up and she has the right amount of money. She has been caught in numerous lies in the situation and has changed her story too many times for me to count. I'm concerned to say the least. Can I call the police on my own if I am concened even though I didn't get a vote from the group? The caterer wants it turned over to the police but her mother passed away in the middle of this so she is a bit sidetracked to say the least. I'm certain the caterer will call ... but I do feel that, as president, it is my responsibility. Let me also say that I am not pointing fingers that my treasurer used the money for her own purposes. But we are confident in the amount of money she took despite the fact that she didn't allow the protocol to be finished. The only thing missing was adding the auction receipts and that has since been done and corresponds with the cash totals we have on our tally sheets that we each counted. Don't we have a fiduciary responsibility both to the group and to the community who donated all these items for auction and come and spend every year that the money is accounted for? Even if the police come back and say they cannot find evidence of a crime, isn't that something we need to maintain our reputation and credibility? And I'm concerned about my personal credibility as well. :(
11 years 7 months ago #146755 by dlf
Replied by dlf on topic RE: Missing funds
It's clear from the post you made that you know the right thing to do. The money needs to be accounted for. Either all those who want to "save the reputation" of the school pony up and cover the loss, or the treasurer covers the loss (or perhaps the board has a bite in this too since protocal wasn't followed), then report the loss. You can't take a "vote" to allow someone to steal from you.

I'd suggest that those involved cover the loss in a certain amount of time, or I'd proceed to the authorities and if you can no longer continue in your post so be it. At least you'll be able to look in the mirror.

d
11 years 7 months ago #146756 by gjcoram
Replied by gjcoram on topic RE: Missing funds
How strong is your evidence for the $17k? Are all the people who came up with the numbers that went into it ready to sign, under penalty of perjury, that they are correct?

I'm surprised that the principal and superintendent are backing her so strongly. Have you met with them privately? They may tell you things in person where there's no record. If you bring them signed statements from the counters and point out that the caterer knows there is a problem and won't be satisfied with a cover-up so this will jeopardize the $17k for next year, I'd think they'd change their tune. If you have good evidence that this person "misplaced" the money, I'd think they wouldn't want her in a position of authority.

On the other hand, could it be that someone else stole the money, and the treasurer "just" made the mistake of violating protocol by taking an uncounted amount of cash?

I like dlf's comment that you can't "vote" to allow a crime.
11 years 7 months ago #146758 by LovinDisney4
Replied by LovinDisney4 on topic RE: Missing funds
I'm a little shocked by the "call the police" comments. I think gjcoram is more on track here asking whether the original number was correct. Why would you jump to the conclusion that she took the money and not to the first conculsion that perhaps the count was wrong and she is indeed innocent. Wow, this type of attitude scares me as a parent and I would certainly not jump on the PTO bandwagon after reading this. Are you serious? Call the police on a mother who volunteers her time? Maybe I'm just being naive in thinking that you could be sending a mother thru the legal system without knowing the facts.
11 years 7 months ago #146759 by dlf
Replied by dlf on topic RE: Missing funds
My sense from the original post is that the preliminary research has been done and the money missing is indeed a fact. Of course you would never just call willy nilly to involve the authorities. If the preliminary work hasn't been done, then that is of course that is the first step. You must be absolutely clear that embezzlement has taken place. Unfortunately it isn't the first time we've heard on these boards that a theft has occured at a PTO and it won't be the last. There are moms, more than one, that have embezzeled money. Last year there was a case of 50,000 dollars stolen over a 5 year period by a PTO (or PTA president--I cannot recall) in Fairfax, Virginia.

Mom21--if you haven't done the work to back up your concerns, then that is absolutely the first thing you need to do. This might be much ado about nothing after you get your arms around it.

Excuse me while I relight my torch and head to the castle.

d
11 years 7 months ago #146761 by JHB
Replied by JHB on topic RE: Missing funds
Mom21 - it doesn't sound to me like your group has proof that will stand up in court. Since she did leave without the money being counted, no one can know with absolute certainty how much was there. If the backup is correct and that much cash is truly missing, then the argument will be made that the funds were taken during the event and that multiple people could be responsible.

This was actually the situation when I started with my first PTO. No formal policies or cash controls. Everyone was simply trusted. No double checks. And then suddenly money is missing. Lots of finger pointing. Investigation that indicated this was actually a pattern, not the first attempt. And the person at the center of it acting as if nothing was wrong. There was no proof; nothing we could do except ask that person to step down and implement REAL controls from that moment forward.

One positive thing - surviving a theft like this will fast track you towards formalizing your processes. Suddenly everyone is on board with the idea.
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