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Audit: School administrators misused $700K for personal gain

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An audit of an Alabama school district shows administrators misused over $700,000 in funds on items such as alcohol, payments to a strip club, a fictitious vendor and scholarships for an administrator’s children.

Six former and current Montgomery Public Schools employees were named in the audit concerning finances between October 2017 and September 2018, news outlets reported Monday.

The release of the audit comes after the administrators were given the opportunity to dispute the findings with the Chief Examiner of Public Accounts. Two of the six met with the examiner.

Some of the examples of misused or missing money included over $40,000 that former Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School athletic director Chauncey Shines was accused of using for payments to a strip club, purchases at a local bar, a gentleman’s club, online gaming and more. Shines is no longer employed at the school, also known as Brewtech, and did not attend a meeting to dispute the findings.

Former Brewtech teacher Marsha Baugh was ordered to repay over $177,000. She’s accused of establishing a scholarship and then awarding funds to two of her children. The audit said there’s no record of her children applying for the scholarship. Baugh no longer works for the district.

Some of the missing money has been repaid. Carver High School Principal Gary Hall used just over $2,000 to help cover the cost of state basketball championship rings and pendants. The audit states the funds used were not “an allowable use of public money.” Hall met with officials and paid back the money, the audit states.

The other administrators listed in the audit include former Jefferson Davis High School Assistant Principal Walter James, who was accused of taking more than $300,000 through payments to a fictitious vendor; former Carver High School basketball coach James Jackson who was accused of nearly $77,000 in unauthorized purchases; and former Carver High JROTC instructor Michael Walker who pleaded guilty in January to stealing school funds.

The district has hired a chief school financial officer. Arthur Watts took the position in July 2018, toward the end of the year covered in the audit.

“This financial administrative department wasn’t in place at the time” of the misuse of funds, Watts told The Montgomery Advertiser.

“We were brought in to help make things right,” Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said, WSFA-TV reported. “And so we’re trying to right the ship.”

The district gave mandatory training to all employees who handle money, and will now offer the training to everyone, Moore said.

“Despite the findings already uncovered, we remain cautiously optimistic about the future of MPS finances,” State Superintendent Eric Mackey said, WAKA-TVreported. He added that the district is still under state intervention.

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