PTO President Accused Of Stealing Thousands


UPDATED: Thursday March 14, 2013 6:27 PM

Thousands of dollars are missing from a Columbus charter school's parent-teacher organization bank account.

Police are investigating an alleged case of embezzlement at the Eastland Performance Academy on South Hamilton Rd. on Columbus' eastside.

School officials say the PTO had raised $2,500 through bake sales and various activities to be used for field trips and 8th grade graduation ceremonies.
 
But the PTO's account was wiped out and overdrawn by more than $1,600 according to a police report obtained by 10TV. The report also accuses the PTO president of embezzlement. 10TV is not naming her because she has not been formally charged. A 10TV crew did go to her address to see if she would comment, but nobody was home at the time.
 
The Ohio Parent Teacher Association says it occasionally gets reports of embezzlement involving school groups.
 
"Unfortunately, because of the economic times, it does have a tendency to happen more frequently than anybody wants,” said Sue Owen, executive director of the Ohio PTA.
 
Owen emphasized the fact that Eastland Performance Academy's PTO is a separate entity from the school and is also not affiliated with the statewide PTA.

She said one of the biggest differences between a PTO and PTA is that a PTA is supported by a state and national PTA. A PTO is stand-alone and does not pay dues or other fees to a statewide or national organization.

Owen says that both PTOs and PTAs can try to prevent cases of embezzlement by having a two-person system handling their checks.

"Two people are signing it to verify that the funds are being spent where they should be spent,” Owen said.
 
Eastland Performance Academy officials say the school’s PTO did have a two-person system with the PTO president and treasurer handling money. They say the president somehow managed to misuse the money at various clothing stores before the treasurer could find out.

School officials say the PTO board voted Wednesday to remove both its president and treasurer.
 
They also tell 10TV the charter school's management company will cover the losses so the students don't miss out on any planned activities.

Columbus police continue to investigate.

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