Wednesday, August 30, 2017

PTO Treasurer stealing from children in the Lebanon Community Schools

We have all heard the proverbial "it's like stealing candy from a baby". It can be just as easy to steal from teachers, parents, and children when there is no oversight or questioning. Getting away with it may be another thing.

According to a Probable Cause Affidavit filed in the Boone Superior Court I on 25 August 2017 the Harney Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization [PTO] was fleeced of about $15,000 during the past year. The police report names the former treasurer of the PTO, Rosella K Sutherland, 1101 Helena Drive, Lebanon, Indiana, as the Defendant. Mrs. Sutherland was arrested and taken into custody on Friday 25 August 2017. She posted a cash bond and was released that evening. The following information is taken from the police report.

Mrs. Sutherland was appointed to act as Treasurer for the PTO by her daughter, Kelley Davis who lives at the same address, in August 2016. On 06 August 2016 Mrs. Sutherland's name was added to the bank account. On 26 September 2016 a debit card was issued to the account which only had the name of Mrs. Sutherland on it.

Subsequent to the May 2017 PTO election of officers a new treasurer assumed duties in June 2017. A new PTO president simultaneously assumed duties. Upon reviewing bank records the current treasurer found numerous inconsistencies and questionable expenses. When she approached Mrs. Sutherland to obtain missing financial records she was continually put off and was unable to get the requested accounting records.

When the current treasurer was able to get the existing PTO account closed it had a balance of seven cents. The accounting of the missing funds was divided into three categories; 1] Personal Expenses $4340.99, 2] Questionable Expenses $6775.82, and 3] Missing Deposits $4680.60.

The PTO sponsors a few fundraisers throughout the school year. The first for the 2016-17 school year was with Paragon in September. Records held by Paragon indicate that $16,979 was collected which included $4555 in currency. However only $3305 in cash was deposited -- a shortfall of $1250. In November the PTO sponsored a Chili Supper which included a pizza night. Leftover pizzas were sold for $5 each. However, there was no cash deposit from this event nor were any accounting records kept. In December the PTO hosted the Santa Shop which is where items are purchased from Dollar Tree and then made available for the children to purchase at the school. Expenses for this event totaled $3188.60. However, this event apparently generated no revenue as there were no deposits made.

At the end of January 2017 the account balance was $6645.87 which was reported by Mrs. Sutherland as $3712.39.

In March 2017 the PTO sponsored the Harney Carnival. From this event a deposit of $3900 was made of which $3371 was cash and $529 was checks. You should try holding an event like this and having the revenue total exactly $3900. There were no other fund-raising events for the year.

The PTO sponsored two events in May, a teacher lunch and a fifth grade picnic, which were expenses. Expensive expenses they must have been because the PTO account plunged from what Ms Sutherland reported at the 27 April 2017 PTO meeting as being $3794.00 to ($100.93) on 30 June 2017. Although no longer treasurer at this point Mrs. Sutherland made a cash deposit of $171 into the account during July 2017.

During questioning at the Lebanon City Police Department, Mrs. Sutherland admitted that she had used the PTO debit card erroneously ONE time. What she considered to be intentional debits for the benefit of the PTO included two payments to Lebanon Utilities for the residence at 1101 Helena Drive, Nintendo digital, five ATM cash withdrawals totaling $1611, Tingles (flowers) in Kentucky, and 16 other debits mostly for pizzas, Wal-Mart, and Western Union transfers to a family member.

The investigating detective stated that he was unable to determine the full amount stolen by Mrs. Sutherland as there was a lack of record keeping pertaining to cash revenue. He did feel that $4439.72 was expended from the PTO by Mrs. Sutherland for her personal benefit.

On 02 August 2017 Mrs. Sutherland attempted to deposit "a large amount of cash" into the PTO account but was informed that the account had been closed. She then obtained a cashier's check in the amount of $6261.36 which she dropped off at Harney Elementary that day.

This is not the desperate act of a downtrodden individual. Rather, this theft was the result of deliberate, intentional, and calculated acts by someone with a highly egocentric personality. To have done this she must hold a firm belief that she is entitled to an opulent lifestyle and the conveniences afforded to her as demonstrated by the list of expenses unrelated to PTO activities without recompense. Further, it must be her conviction that the teachers and children for whom the monies were raised to benefit are not entitled to those benefits in lieu of accommodation to her laziness. That is the root of such a scheme – pure laziness. This theft was easily detected. Anyone close to her or the organization would have been able to detect such an ill-conceived plan unless wholly incompetent, mentally defective, or engaged in facilitating the scheme. Her slothfulness is manifest in her lack of ingenuity or diversity in illegal schemes which is apparent by one other fact.

Mrs. Sutherland has a prior criminal conviction for a similar offense.

The presidency of any organization carries with it an obligation to secure responsible officers to serve its operations. As President Harry Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” Well, in this case the buck and 15,000 of its equivalents made their way into her household through her neglect to provide adequate oversight or observation. She should have been able to notice the change in lifestyle of her mother which this massive theft afforded. I never took issue with Bill Clinton for smoking marijuana. The problem I had with it was his failure to engage one of the basic elementary steps to achieving the desired outcome – he didn't inhale.

Kelley Davis's failure to provide a minimal degree of proper oversight for the operations of an organization she was entrusted to run costs the teachers and students of Harney Elementary more than just money. A critical bond was violated. I my opinion she as equally as culpable in the theft as her mother.

To this day Kelley Davis is trying to stay involved in the Harney PTO.

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